DES MOINES — In dual-meet wrestling, many times the match-up comes down to the final bout.
Wednesday’s Class 3A state duals tournament championship was one of those times.
With No. 2 Southeast Polk leading top-ranked Waverly-Shell Rock 20-8 heading into 160 pounds, the Go-Hawks won five of the last six bouts, including a pin at heavyweight by top 220-pounder Layne McDonald, to win their second straight duals title, 30-26, in Wells Fargo Arena.
McDonald said it was the same situation as a year ago, when the Go-Hawks defeated the Rams 59-12 on Feb. 17, 2021.
“You’ve got to be prepared for anything,” McDonald told media members after the match. “(Head coach Eric) Whitcome tells us day in, day out you’ve got to be ready for any situation when it comes to this. That situation came to me, and I made the most of it.”
Whitcome said that the Go-Hawks have been in this type of situation over the last several years.
“That’s why we have the schedule that we do, that’s why we put them through the training that we do,” Whitcome said. “We rely on them to be able to perform under pressure. And they certainly did (Wednesday).
“From top to bottom, we understand what it’s going to take, the effort. I asked the kids, ‘Whether you have your best stuff tonight, just give everything you possibly can to this dual. All of the energy you have tonight for this team, for your brothers on this team,’ and I thought all of our guys competed crazy hard tonight. That’s what it’s about.”
The dual started at 106 pounds, and it got off on the right foot for W-SR, as Alex Hornyak earned a 7-4 decision over Ryker Graff. But then the Rams rattled off the next four match victories, with decisions by Carter Pearson (113), Logan Trenary (120) and Cooper Hanson (132) and a technical fall by Nathaniel Jesuroga over Sam Hornyak at 126.
Ryder Block stopped the string at 138 with a pin against Trevor Oberbroekling in 4 minutes, 55 seconds. However, referees docked the Go-Hawks a point for unsportsmanlike conduct following that match, making the score 14-8.
Joel Jesuroga (145) and Carter Martinson (152) then scored close decision victories over Bas Diaz and Cayden Langreck, respectively.
And then the tide turned to the defending champs.
The nation’s best 160-pounder Aiden Riggins started the comeback when he picked up a major decision against Carson Martinson, 18-7. Then Sean Mwangi earned a 5-1 victory over Holden Hansen at 170. While Harrison Gibson stopped Tyler Gast at the 3-minute mark of the 182-pound bout, McCrae Hagarty wrested momentum back for W-SR with a pin in 1:58 over Thaden Abbas at 195.
Then the two heavies on the Go-Hawk roster flip-flopped in the order. No. 1 heavyweight Jake Walker went down to 220 and took a 5-3 win over Andrew Reed, which set up the final bout of the night.
With all of the remaining top four teams in each of the three classes surrounding Mat 6, they watched the battle between McDonald and Ram heavyweight Cooper Martinson.
The Go-Hawk senior got ahead early with a takedown against Martinson and led 4-1 after two periods. Then in the third, with the wrestlers in the neutral position after an escape, McDonald bull-rushed Martinson and put him back onto the mat, immediately exposing his back, and moments later recorded the pin. The W-SR bench and supporters erupted, sending Rams fans into stunned silence.
Whitcome said McDonald has come a long way in his wrestling career.
“He wrestled a lot when he was young and went away from the sport for a number of years,” Whitcome said. “He came back seventh and eighth grade part-time. I got him convinced as a freshman to come out. He missed his entire freshman year with a shoulder injury.
“The progress he has made in a short amount of time is just a tribute to the way that he works and his focus and his commitment to being better and being a part of the team is unbelievable.”
He saw the scenario where he needed to have Walker go down to 220 and McDonald up to heavyweight. He figured SEP would move Reed to 220 to try to get another win. Reed normally wrestles 195.
“Walker’s weighted more than 220, he’s made it once this year,” Whitcome said. “Looking at it, we said, ‘Hey, you need to go back down.
“I fell great about it right now. It worked out. We were able to come away and win a couple of matches and win that dual, obviously with (McDonald) finishing it out with a fall. Up until that point he was just managing the match. He was doing a great job of it.”
Whitcome added that they took a philosophy that recently retired Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady said in the ESPN+ series “Man in the Arena” about being a game manager.
“He thought they (the New England Patriots, Brady’s team at the time) were really schooled well in tactics and so forth,” Whitcome said, “We took on that. We need more time to talk about match management, and (McDonald) was doing it.”
McDonald said the dual could have gone down to his match.
“When you look at it from pretty much any angle, we could win by 10, they could win by 10, or it could be close like it was,” he said. “I was just prepared for anything that came to me. I know they were going to junk some stuff up in the mid-weights, upper weights. All of us were prepared for that, and it worked out for us.”
He said that guys like Riggins, Block and Hagarty are the “heartbeat of this team.”
“They make this team what it is,” McDonald said. “We’re all just role players on their team. I’m proud to be part of it.”
CLASS 3A STATE DUALS
WAVERLY-SHELL ROCK 30, SOUTHEAST POLK 26
106: Alex Hornyak (WSR) dec. Ryker Graff (SEP), 7-4
113: Carter Pearson (SEP) dec. Zane Behrends (WSR), 8-1
120: Logan Trenary (SEP) dec. Braxten Westendorf (WSR), 5-2
126: Nathaniel Jesuroga (SEP) tech fall Sam Hornyak (WSR), 27-11
132: Cooper Hanson (SEP) dec. Carter Fecht (WSR) 5-2
138: Ryder Block (WSR) pinned Trevor Oberbroeckling (SEP), 4:55
145: Joel Jesuroga (SEP) dec. Bas Diaz (WSR), 3-2
152: Carter Martinson (SEP) dec. Cayden Langreck (WSR), 5-2
160: Aiden Riggins (WSR) major dec. Carson Martinson (SEP), 18-7
170: Sean Mwangi (WSR) dec. Holden Hansen (SEP), 5-1
182: Harrison Gibson (SEP) pinned Tyler Gast (WSR), 3:00
195: McCrae Hagarty (WSR) pinned Thaden Abbas (SEP), 1:58
220: Jake Walker (WSR) dec. Andrew Reed (SEP), 5-3
285: Layne McDonald (WSR) pinned Cooper Martinson (SEP), 5:18
WSR penalized one point for unsportsmanlike conduct after the 138 match