STATE WRESTLING: Country strong
DES MOINES – West Marshall junior Dale Hilleman wakes up every morning on a pig farm in State Center. He is tough as nails and his country-strong ways came in handy Saturday night during the Class 1A 170-pound championship match at the Iowa High School State Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Arena.
Hilleman trailed top-ranked and defending state champion Dylan Windfield of Alburnett 3-2 in the second period but reversed his fortune when Windfield (50-2) tried to throw the Trojan grappler to the mat.
“All he wanted to do was throw me,” said Hilleman. “He had a hold of my head, and I had the half (nelson) right there so I just put it to him and stuck him.”
He certainly did.
Hilleman’s half nelson on Windfield set up a win by fall 42 seconds into the second period and the referee’s slap of the floor sent the West Marshall Trojan into celebration mode.
It was the second year in a row for a West Marshall wrestler to be crowned champion, as Hilleman matched Kyle Blocker’s 2013 run to the top of the podium. Hilleman is the eighth individual state champion in West Marshall history.
“That’s not what went through my head. I was planning on a six-minute, hard-fought match,” said Hilleman of the pin. “I tried to use that farm-boy strength. It’s the best feeling you can have.”
The goal from the start of the year was to don the gold medal around his neck. And one year after claiming fourth place, he did just that. And in frantic fashion, nonetheless.
“He had one goal in mind the entire season and he reached that goal tonight,” said West Marshall coach Lonnie Ferguson. “He had it in his head that no one was going to stop him. He has a drive in him that is not stopping.
“It all goes back to him. Losing to (Windfield) in the semifinals has driven Dale to what we have today.”
Windfield pinned Hilleman (51-3) with 19 seconds to go in the match during last year’s semifinals on his way to the 160-pound state championship.
Hilleman didn’t forget that loss. And he won’t have to deal with that feeling this season.
“That is all I wanted to do this year, was to climb to the top, and I did it,” said Hilleman.
It was the 19th straight victory for the Trojan junior. Hilleman, who expects to defend his 170-pound title next year instead of moving up to 182, is now 36-1 in his last 37 matches.
The only loss was to South Hardin-BCLUW senior Tyler Lutes, who lost his Class 2A 170-pound title match Saturday. Hilleman also lost to Union Community’s Jacob Holschlag, who won the 2A 160-pound championship. South Tama County’s Kolton Smith and Jesup’s Ryan Even also qualified for the state tournament at 170 and Hudson’s Luke Huber claimed an individual title at 182.
All six grapplers compete in the North Iowa Cedar League.
“It’s awesome that two people from our conference were in the finals at 170,” said Hilleman. “It’s a dominant conference. We have had multiple champions in a lot of years.”
Hilleman was joined at the state tournament by three other Trojans, two of which were eliminated on Friday.
Tenth-ranked freshman Cooper White and sophomore Jared Johnson both went 1-2, while freshman Ross Randall clinched a spot on the medal stand Friday and then lost his seventh-place match by fall on Saturday morning.
Randall (36-14) was leading 2-0 over fifth-ranked Kody Berg of Westwood Sloan before being put on his back with just more than a minute gone in the second period.
“It’s a big deal to be down here, especially as a freshman,” said the unranked Randall. “I planned on getting down here, and if I got a medal then that was even better. I just wanted to win some matches and have some fun.”
Randall was 2-3 in his Des Moines debut. The experience he got as a first-year varsity wrestler will be crucial moving forward as the Trojans pursue their third straight state champion next season.
“The atmosphere is crazy. I had a lot of jitters that first match,” said Randall. “I need to put in as much time as possible and work hard every minute you get.
“(Hilleman) has put in an unbelievable amount of time this year. And he pushes the whole team to get better.”
Hilleman has already made a goal for next year. And nothing less than another trip to the top of the podium will be satisfying.
“This will be the first time since I have been here that I will have a state champion returning to the room,” said Ferguson, who has been at West Marshall for 14 years. “He has a work ethic that is incredible. If you want to be a state champion, you have to work hard. I would like to see him not even have a single close match next year.”
Hilleman’s three losses this year came to Lutes, Holschlag and 3A state qualifier Kane Springis of Boone. Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont won the Class 1A team title with 111 points, edging out defending champion Alburnett by five. Clarion-Goldfield was third with 90 points, while Highland (72) was fourth and Wilton (69) ended up fifth. Before Hilleman this year and Blocker last season, Jason Kelber won the 119-pound title and Eric Eggers took the 167-pound crown in 1986. Kelber was a three-time state champion and Mike Nason also won back-to-back titles at 133 pounds in 1967-68.