DES MOINES — Tri-Center’s Loren Williams lost the first match of his freshman year at the Iowa state wrestling tournament.
He never lost again.
Williams rattled off five straight wins in 2010 to finish third in Class 1-A at 135 pounds. On Saturday night, he extended that winning streak at the traditional state tourney to 17 — one more than four-time champions Jake Marlin of Creston/O-M and Brandon Sorensen of Denver-Tripoli — to become the 78th Iowan to win three straight championships.
In the finals, the top-rated Iowa State recruit (49-1) ended his high school career in storybook fashion, pinning No. 3 Cody Nelson (48-1) of North Butler in 4:51 in the 152-pound finals at sold-out Wells Fargo Arena.
“It just got to me, that first year losing,” Williams said. “It kind of puts a little fire under you.”
Also from western Iowa, unrated and unheralded Exira-EHK sophomore Evan Hansen (47-1) completed a magical run through the 145-pound bracket with a 7-1 win over unrated Caleb Wedeking of North Butler.
At 182, sixth-rated Audubon senior Jesse Svoboda lost a hard-fought 5-2 decision to No. 2 Dalton Ciavarelli of Clarksville.
Tri-Center’s Williams said he’s not known as a pinner and therefore wasn’t expecting that against the highly regarded Nelson.
“I don’t pin anybody, but when it happened, it was just amazing,” he said.
While other champions play to the crowd or soar into their coaches’ arms after victory is earned, Williams strode over in typical understated fashion and gave head coach Andy Hensley and assistant Heath Lamp heartfelt embraces.
“Loren’s a great kid and we’re going to miss him,” Hensley said. “Obviously Sorensen and Marlin did what they did. Loren’s right there with those guys. Three titles is a lot to be proud of.”
Williams won at 145 as a sophomore and 152 last year. He tried to describe the final seconds of the pin.
“I just closed my eyes as soon as I hit the mat and I just freaked out,” he said.
Exira-EHK’s Hansen earned the program’s first-ever individual wrestling title. Nursing a 2-1 advantage into the final period, he tacked on a takedown and three back points in an action-packed finish.
“I out-conditioned everybody, worked harder and thought to myself, ‘I’m not going to lose this match because I want that state title,’ ” Hansen said. “It’s what I’ve been waiting for my whole life.”
Hansen spent much of the past year working out with past and present state champions like Creston/Orient-Macksburg’s Jake Marlin, Tri-Center’s Williams and Robert and David Walker of Martensdale-St. Marys’.
Their advice stuck with him. Stay calm. Don’t get nervous. And always keep those feet moving.
“They got in his head and they said, ‘Hey, you can do this,’” Exira-EHK coach Rick Andersen said. “They were pretty much instrumental.”
Part of a team with just six wrestlers, Hansen routinely beat Andersen — and everybody else — to school early in the morning, going through an assortment of workouts. Anything to get better.
Hansen wasn’t a starter in his first year out for the football team last fall. But he closes his winter sport with a 47-1 record and state title.
“He’s always there, he’s always doing what he needs to and he’s had this goal since he was a small kid,” Andersen said. “Last year I don’t think he really believed it, but this year he believed it and it was a whole different tournament for him.”
At 182, Svoboda was tied 2-2 with Ciavarelli entering the third period. The Clarksville senior escaped with 1:21 left to lead by one, then moved ahead 5-2 on a takedown with 59 seconds left.
“He just had a wonderful tournament,” Audubon coach Blane Kerkhoff said. “About a week or two before the sectional tournament, he just really started coming on fire, really lighting it up. He came in here and was relaxed the whole tournament. He had a good run. Proud of him.”
Of the 36 qualifiers from The World-Herald’s western Iowa coverage area, 14 earned medals.
Exira-EHK junior Trey Sander placed third at 195, while West Monona junior Logan Moore ended fourth at 152.
Woodbine senior Josh Matusik finished fifth after pinning sixth-place Wyatt Lewis of Council Bluffs St. Albert at 160. Nodaway Valley senior Kain Queck grabbed sixth.
Sevenths went to Tri-Center sophomore Christian Polley (113) and Carroll Kuemper junior Jared Eischeid (126), while Audubon sophomore Brad Kerkhoff (120) and Underwood sophomore Cody Kingery (145) placed eighth.
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