Senior wrestlers all place at state

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MFL MarMac seniors Michael Egan (left), Nathan Johanningmeier and Garret Keehner all placed at last week's state wrestling tournament in Des Moines.

In his last state match, Egan tied the MFL MarMac record for 171 career victories.

Michael Egan earned a fifth-place finish in Class 1A at 145 pounds.

“It means a lot to look back on it, to say you won all these matches, all these big things,” said Egan of his time wrestling for MFL MarMac. “It’s a testament to the hard work you had to put in. It takes a lot of work to get to where we got this year.”

Johanningmeier finished his career with over 150 wins.

Nathan Johanningmeier wrestled into sixth place at 182 pounds in Class 1A.

Johanningmeier felt he wrestled best after his second-round loss. “I felt like I wrestled my best, just coming off that loss and knowing I had to win again to be able to place,” he said.

In addition to his superb season record, Keehner also finished with over 140 career victories. He broke MFL MarMac’s season record for pins, with 37.

Garret Keehner placed third at 220 pounds in Class 1A.

Keehner went to the tournament a perfect 44-0—the first time any Bulldog has gone to state without a single loss. But he tried to keep that out of his mind as he competed. “I didn’t want to jinx myself right away and end up going home with two losses and no medal. So I went in open-minded,” Keehner remarked

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

Three MFL MarMac wrestlers came away from last week’s state wrestling tournament in Des Moines with medals. A Class 1A third-place finish for Garret Keehner at 220 pounds, along with fifth for Michael Egan at 145 and sixth for Nathan Johanningmeier at 182, represents the first time since 2010 the school has boasted multiple place winners, estimated head coach Chet Bachman.

“These three kids represented our school very well,” he said of the seniors. “I was very proud of them.”

2019 marked Egan’s fourth trip to state. He’s one of only a few Bulldog wrestlers to ever accomplish the feat. After failing to win a state match as an underclassman, Egan finished sixth last year, and said he used that experience this time around.

“I was a lot more relaxed,” he shared. “I was like, ‘I’ve been here before. I can do this.’”

Egan kicked off the tournament on a high note, pinning Blake McAlister, from South Central-Calhoun, in his first match Thursday afternoon. He followed that up Friday morning by pinning Missouri Valley’s Duke Kyle in just 42 seconds. 

“Michael’s got a Granby roll, and if you get caught in it, you’re done,” Bachman explained. 

According to Egan, that was the most important match of the tournament for him.

“There was a lot of confidence and excitement that set me up for the semi-finals,” he said.

Bachman could see that Friday night, when Egan faced off against Woodbury Central’s Wade Mitchell. 

“I knew he was in a zone,” Bachman said. “He believed and didn’t care who he was against.”

Egan stayed in good position and kept fighting throughout the close match, which went into overtime. 

“In overtime, that kid was worried. Michael clapped his hands and went ‘woo,’ like let’s bring it, this is where we want to be,” Bachman said. “But the kid was slick at the end, caught us on the edge of the mat and got a takedown,” eventually beating Egan 6-4.

“That was pretty devastating,” admitted Bachman, “but we didn’t lay down. We battled.”

Saturday morning, now wrestling on the backside of the bracket, Egan lost a close 13-10 decision to Underwood’s Blake Thomsen. That sent him to the fifth-place match against Brady Hahn, from Highland.

Before that final match, Bachman said Egan expressed regret that the loss to Thomsen would put him short of breaking MFL MarMac’s school record for all-time wins.

“I said, ‘If you beat this next kid, at least you tied it. Unless you want to say you were one short,’” Bachman recalled. “Well, that made him mad.”

Egan defeated Hahn 7-3, clinching fifth place. He also tied the school record with 171 career wins.

“It was pretty cool,” said Bachman. “All season long, he wanted that so bad.”

The accomplishment was even more impressive considering Egan’s health. He recovered from ACL surgery after last season, only to have his other knee act up this year. A doctor discovered  torn cartilage was getting caught in his joints, causing Egan’s knee to occasionally lock up.

“He just wrestled through it,” Bachman said. “He got a goal in mind and he didn’t care what was standing in his way; he was going to go get it. He believed in himself.”

Like Egan, Johanningmeier was also a returning state qualifier, having made the trip as a sophomore. Now, as a senior, he was searching for redemption.

“My sophomore year I didn’t even win a match, and last year I got third at districts and was too heartbroken to even go down to the state tournament,” Johanningmeier said. “I was so nervous Thursday, but as soon as I wrestled my first match, all the jitters went away and it became a normal match.”

Johanningmeier’s first match was a close 3-1 victory over Wilton’s Coy Baker. In the second, he was pinned by Thomas Even, from Don Bosco, an eventual finalist. Johanningmeier didn’t let it get him down, though. 

“Coming off the mat, I knew what I had to do to win the next match on the backside,” he said. 

That was a 9-8 win over Trevor Schuller, of West Sioux.

“I felt like I wrestled my best, just coming off that loss and knowing I had to win again to be able to place,” Johanningmeier said.

Later that night, he faced off against Sumner-Fredericksburg’s Weiland Steffen, in a rematch from the previous weekend’s district final when Johanningmeier came back from a 7-1 deficit to get a pin.

“He wrestled a better match and dominated him this time,” winning 7-2, Bachman shared.

On Saturday, Johanningmeier was pinned by GT/RA’s Carter Murray, putting him in the fifth-place match. There, he lost a 14-4 major decision to Lisbon’s Cole Clark, and finished sixth.

“I’m really happy for Nathan to get into the top six. It’s just an incredible feat,” Bachman said. “He ended up with 150 wins as well.”

For Keehner, this was his first trip to the state tournament. He went in a perfect 44-0—the first time any Bulldog has gone to state without a single loss. But he tried to keep that out of his mind as he competed.

“I didn’t want to jinx myself right away and end up going home with two losses and no medal. So I went in open-minded,” Keehner remarked. “I hadn’t been there before, so it was really nerve racking for the first match. Once I got that one out of the way, I just went out there to wrestle.”

Keehner won his first match with a fall over Pleasantville’s Cale Anthony. In the next round, he narrowly beat Eagle Grove’s Joel Mendoza 9-8. 

“He had to wrestle the full six minutes,” said Bachman, which is unusual for Keehner. “If you watch Garret wrestle, I think he likes to get out and take care of his business and get off the mat. But that kid pushed us all the way to the end. It was a really good win. He showed heart and determination.”

In the Friday night semi-finals, with a shot at the championship on the line, Keehner was pinned by Nick Gaes, from Alta-Aurelia. He rebounded from that loss Saturday morning, pinning Chance Strough, of Bedford-Lenox, to wrestle for third place.

Bachman said a cowboy hat, of all things, offered Keehner an incentive to win his final match. The hat came from one of the assistant coaches, Collin Stubbs.

“I don’t how we got it in our [wrestling] room. But they started wearing it, and I thought, ‘Well, let ‘em go with it. They have fun,’” Bachman recounted. “So when Garret wrestled his last match, he goes, ‘Can I wear that cowboy hat when I’m done wrestling?’ I said, ‘Only if you win. You got it.’ I knew he was going to win because he wanted to wear that cowboy hat.”

And win Keehner did, with a 9-5 decision over Midland’s Brett Schoenherr. It was the second time Keehner faced him this season. 

“I think my last match was the match I wrestled the best. I’d wrestled him earlier in the season and I only beat him by two. I just wanted to put it away earlier so I didn’t have to go into the last 30 seconds of the match real antsy and give some people a heart attack in the stands,” he said with a smile.

Keehner did get to wear the cowboy hat. Said Bachman, “He’s standing out in the middle of the auditorium, and is the only person wearing a cowboy hat. What a way to end. I thought that was pretty neat.”

In addition to his superb season record, Keehner also finished with over 140 career victories. He broke MFL MarMac’s season record for pins, with 37. Bachman credited the strength Keehner gained over the summer for some of that success. 

“His hands got stronger, his body got stronger,” Bachman explained. “When that happens, I think your mind gets stronger.”

The wrestlers are proud of the success they had this season.

“I wanted to break a record of some sort so I could put my name up on the wall, so when future wrestlers come through they can be like, ‘I want to be like that guy,’” Keehner stated. “Knowing that my name is going to be around made it worthwhile.”

“It means a lot to look back on it, to say you won all these matches, all these big things,” added Egan. “It’s a testament to the hard work you had to put in. It takes a lot of work to get to where we got this year.”

For Johanningmeier, earning a medal was the ultimate goal.

“You can have as many wins, as many losses, as you want, but if you don’t have a state medal to show for it, I didn’t feel like I really accomplished anything,” he said. “I had a goal of placing top five. It hurt knowing I didn’t make that, but I was still up on the podium, so it was a great way to go out as a senior.”

Finishing third, said Keehner, “helped me have closure with the whole wrestling season.”

Egan had hoped for a state championship, and admitted it’s painful not to realize that goal. 

“But I think that will push me to be a better wrestler,” he said, indicating his intent to wrestle in college. 

Bachman said it’s not necessarily the wins and losses that will stick with the wrestlers.

“It’s the lessons you learn along the road that are going to make you who you are—the lessons of learning to come back and fight through adversity,” he reflected. “I put a saying on the beam in our wrestling room this year: ‘You get what you earn.’ These kids definitely got what they earned, and it’s been a fun ride.” 

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