STATE WRESTLING: Blocker reigns supreme
DES MOINES – Top-ranked Kyle Blocker said he has trained so hard, put his body through so much and his parents have spent a lot of money with the hopes of him one day winning a state title.
A lifetime dream came true Saturday night when the West Marshall senior got his hand raised in the final match of the Class 1A 138-pound weight class at the Iowa High School State Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Arena.
Blocker used a quick first-period takedown and two escapes to beat No. 5 Jason Crosby of Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, 4-2, and claimed his first-ever state championship and third state tournament medal.
“It’s an indescribable feeling for me,” said Blocker, who was seventh as a freshman and fourth as a sophomore at East Marshall/GMG. “To do what you have to do be good at this sport and finally come out on top is a great feeling.”
Blocker led 3-2 entering the second period and rode out Crosby for the entire 2 minutes to preserve the advantage. He got a quick escape to start period three and held on for his 54th win of the season. He finished the year 54-0.
“I have become a lot tougher on top this year,” Blocker said of the ride out. “It is essential to do that though. If you can escape and keep them from escaping that takes away a valuable piece of offense from the opponent.”
Blocker is the first Trojan to win a state wrestling championship since Jason Keller (119) and Eric Eggers (167) both accomplished that feat in 1986. Keller also won the state title at 105 pounds in 1985.
Blocker was the seventh champion in West Marshall school history.
“It means a lot to me because this is a very special place to me,” Blocker said of winning a state title for West Marshall.
The Trojans were impressive all week at Wells Fargo Arena. All five Trojan state qualifiers found their way on to the podium. That is the most place winners in school history. The previous high was three back in 1985.
“We’ve worked really hard for what we have gotten this year,” West Marshall senior Tanner Arnold said. “It feels good. We are hoping for a third-place finish in the team standings as well.”
The Trojans came up just a little bit short of that third-place finish but ended up in the top five when the final championship matches were complete.
Top-ranked Alburnett ran away with the team title with 138 points, while second-ranked Emmetsburg was second at 76 points. Seventh-ranked Eddyville-Blakesburg (68.5) edged third-ranked Woodbury Central (66.5) for third and the Trojans were fifth with 63.
Besides Blocker winning a state title, sophomore Dale Hilleman also took fourth at 160 and Arnold was fifth at 152. Junior Devin Chesler placed seventh at 170 and freshman Cole Needham was eighth at 113.
Hilleman beat No. 10 Wyatt Lewis of Council Bluffs St. Albert 9-3 in the consolation semifinals.
Hilleman led 2-0 early and then grabbed a 3-1 lead after two periods with an escape. Lewis rallied to tie it at three, but Hilleman used an escape, a takedown and two near-fall points to pull away.
The Trojan sophomore lost his third-place to No. 8 Cole Cook of Tipton. Cook led 4-3 after two periods, and Hilleman could not escape in the final frame. Hilleman went 0-2 last year as a freshman and is the first West Marshall sophomore to win a match at state this millennium.
Arnold was pushed to the fifth-place match after getting pinned by No. 2 Grant Henderson of Alburnett in the consolation semifinals.
In the fifth-place match, Arnold jumped out to a 4-1 lead against No. 8 Kain Queck of Nodaway Valley. The lead was 6-2 after one period and another takedown in the second made it 8-3. Queck scored two early in the third but Arnold put the match away with two more takedowns and won 12-7.
Arnold went 0-2 at the state tournament last year as a junior. He fared much better in 2013.
“The nerves got to me last year,” said Arnold, whose dad Jeff was a runner-up back at the 1985 state tournament. “I was used to the atmosphere this year and was ready to go. I am just upset that I lost my semifinal by one point and that point was a penalty point. I could have been in the (consolation) championship match.”
Chesler faced a familiar opponent in the seventh-place match at 170. He beat Alburnett’s Zach Hoyle, who is ranked No. 8, by fall in his opening-round bout and faced him again for the final placing match at their weight.
And just like in the first meeting, Chesler dominated from the start, winning a 13-4 major decision.
Needham also wrestled in a seventh-place match but came out on the short end of an 8-6 decision against Tri-County’s Christian Polley, who is ranked No. 8.
Needham led 2-0 following a late takedown at the end of the first period and then pushed the advantage to 4-1 in the second before Polley scored a five-point move to take advantage.
Polley (44-10) got three near-fall points as the clock was winding down and only triple zeros on the clock saved Needham from getting pinned.
Needham (45-9) scored a takedown in the third to get within 7-6 but a late escape gave Polley a two-point advantage and he held on for the win. The West Marshall freshman was the first such freshman to place at the school this millennium.