Jake Marlin has never lost an Iowa postseason match.
But when a certain workout partner walks into the Creston/Orient-Macksburg wrestling room, Marlin’s eyes light up. And it’s not because Marlin dominates him. Quite the opposite.
Marlin has never beaten 29-year-old Mario Galanakis, the former Nodaway Valley and Iowa standout.
“A freak of nature,” Marlin calls him.
Marlin knows that Galanakis will push him like no one else. Every time he shows up, Marlin tosses his ego out the door and gets to work.
“Every day when I’m in there, he won’t let me wrestle with anybody else,” said Galanakis, now a Creston resident who works for BNSF Railway. “He’s the type of kid that won’t back down. He’ll come back for more and more and more, because he knows he’s getting better. And that’s what it takes.”
It’s a glimpse into why Marlin (49-1) will attempt to become the 22nd Iowan to win four individual state championships. He’s rated first at 138 pounds in Class 2-A, and will meet Humboldt’s Thaylan Bowman (19-16) in the first round Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Fifth-rated Creston/OM joins No. 10 Sergeant Bluff-Luton and Clarinda with a western Iowa-leading five qualifiers for the 2-A portion of the traditional tournament. The Panthers (15-1) also are 2-A’s fifth seed for the state duals tournament, and will meet No. 4 Charles City (19-4) at 9 a.m. Wednesday in quarterfinal action at the same venue.
There will be hundreds of athletes on the mats this week. Marlin’s combination of talent and drive sets him apart. Creston coach Darrell Frain watched as Marlin dominated the youth ranks. His first indication that Marlin’s uncommon determination would translate to the high school level came his freshman year at state.
Facing unbeaten senior Tyler Endres of Independence in the quarterfinals, Marlin was taken down three times early in the first period and trailed 6-2.
“Something just took off,” Frain said. “He dominated the last 212 periods. After that, I thought it was going to take somebody pretty special to beat him.”
With 144 career pins, Marlin is two from tying the state record of Williamsburg’s Austin Blythe from 2008-11. Marlin, 197-6 in his career, wants that record, because he lives to dominate.
In fact, he calls it “embarrassing” to win a match by hanging on. The only exception, he said, is when he’s wrestling one of the nation’s top kids in the offseason.
But if he feels he’s better than an opponent, he’s not OK with just any victory. Even this week.
“I’m not really thinking about winning state,” he said. “Honestly, it’s about getting all my pins and pinning my way through state, rather than just winning it.”
That’s just part of Marlin’s insatiable desire to improve, Galanakis said, something that will serve him well when he goes to Iowa next year.
“When he steps up to the big leagues into that Iowa room, I’m sure he’s going to take a licking,” Galanakis said. “But he’ll be used to that environment, hopefully. He’ll step in there and not necessarily beat guys in there, but he’s not going to back down.
“The only way to prepare for that is to have another room like it. And I don’t think there’s any other room like that in the country or in the world. There’s just so many good kids in there, day in and day out. You’re going to get pushed, whether it’s by another wrestler or a coach or a Hawkeye Wrestling Club member. I try to break him in the room just so he’s used to it. Because it’s going to happen.”
Marlin said he’s wanted to become a four-time champion since watching on TV in 2006 when Centerville’s TJ Sebolt became the 17th Iowan to complete the grind.
“I knew right then that I wanted to witness that standing ovation,” he said.
Even if Marlin makes history Saturday night, there will still be some unfinished business to take care of — someday.
The freak of nature.
“I think if I come back next year and I were to wrestle with him, I think I would get the better of him,” Marlin said, pausing. “I could be wrong there.”
Galanakis knows that day is coming. He agrees it likely will happen sometime during Marlin’s college career.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I know he’ll get there because I don’t think he’s even close to his potential, what he can reach.”
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