Bulldogs qualify for state dual tournament for first time

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The MFL MarMac wrestling team has qualified for the state dual tournament for the first time ever. Pictured (front, left to right) are cheerleaders Avery Ihde and Jordyn Jones, managers Emily Troester and Savannah Schaller, Karter Decker, Holden Mathis, Konnor Barat-Klimesh, managers Emma Keehner and Rose Koehn, cheerleaders Amara Buchheit and Alexis Ross; (middle) Logan Brown, coaches Chet Bachman, Collin Stubbs and Tracy Decker, Tristen Koehn, Gabe McGeough, Andrew Heins, Bryce Radloff, Kadence Pape, Koal Klenk, coach Brent Pape, Mason Overton; (back) coach Chip McGeough, Jacob Trudo, Taylor Herzmann, Austin Nickolai, Kashton Mathis, Michael Knickerbocker, Collin Henkels, Tyler Zuercher, Austin Schlee and coaches Travis Johnson and Mike Meyer. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Junior Andrew Heins had one of the biggest moments for MFL MarMac. He trailed throughout his 126-pound match to Wilton’s Trae Hagen, before picking up a fall with only 10 seconds remaining.

MFL MarMac’s strong freshman group was a big part of the team’s success this season. 120-pound Holden Mathis (right) won a 13-0 major decision in the regional dual against Wilton.

At 170 pounds, sophomore Austin Schlee pinned his Wilton opponent.

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

 

The MFL MarMac wrestling team has qualified for the state dual tournament for the first time ever. The Bulldogs punched their ticket with a 40-38 win over Wilton in the regional duals at Monona on Feb. 9.

 

“I’ve worked a lot of years for this,” said head coach Chet Bachman afterward, his voice choked with emotion. “This has been a dream of mine, for this program, for 21 years. This is the ninth time [we’ve been to regionals]. I’ve had some damn good teams.”

 

The Bulldogs, who were ranked eighth in the state in Class 1A and 22-0 in duals heading into regionals, didn’t actually expect to face Wilton in the regional finals. The Beavers, who were ranked 16th, upset ninth-ranked Nashua-Plainfield in the opening round.

 

“Wilton did a very nice job of mixing up their lineup and moving their guys around. That’s what won them that dual,” Bachman said. “I knew we didn’t have a lot of bumping around to do—we don’t have a lot of depth. You can’t throw guys in here and guys in there. So, if they switched it up, then our guy had to wrestle.”

 

Freshman Konnor Barat-Klimesh kicked off the night for MFL MarMac at 113 pounds, eventually getting pinned by Garrett Burkle. 120-pound freshman Holden Mathis followed that up with a 13-0 major decision victory over Lucas Dora that left the Bulldogs down just 6-4. 

 

Then came junior Andrew Heins, who trailed throughout his 126-pound match to Wilton’s Trae Hagen, before picking up a fall with only 10 seconds remaining. Heins leapt into his teammates’ arms following the emotional victory, as the MFL MarMac crowd erupted with cheers.

 

“He set the tone,” noted Bachman. “You’ve got to have that in a good team.”

 

Heins said he never lost confidence.

 

“We had a couple blood breaks, and my coaches just urged me to keep going,” he shared. “That final move, they told me to hit it, to cross step and hit the Granby [roll]. It was kind of a last resort shot, and I hit it. That’s all that was going through my mind.”

 

The Bulldogs rode that momentum into the 132-pound match, as freshman Bryce Radloff pinned Maxwell Yohe to put the team up 16-6.

 

Sophomore Karter Decker lost by 13-7 decision to Kael Brisker at 138 pounds, but junior Kashton Mathis got MFL MarMac into the win column again with a fall over Cody McDonald at 145 pounds. Tristen Koehn was then pinned by Colton Cruse halfway through his 152-pound match. That brought Wilton closer, 22-15.

 

Although junior Gabe McGeough and sophomore Austin Schlee created some separation by pinning their respective 160- and 170-pound opponents, Wilton made up that ground quickly. The Beavers won by fall over sophomore Michael Knickerbocker (182 pounds) and seniors Austin Nickolai (195 pounds) and Logan Brown (220 pounds)—a stretch that left MFL MarMac clinging to a 34-33 lead.

 

However, senior heavyweight Jacob Trudo got the dual back on track for the Bulldogs, pinning Colten Weaver in just 25 seconds to increase the lead to 40-33.

 

“He was moving pretty quick and, honestly, I don’t think I could’ve kept up with it, so I was just trying to close the gap. When I did, I was able to get a cow catcher on him and then I just kicked up the leg and was able to throw him,” Trudo explained.

 

Senior Koal Klenk lost the final match of the night, at 106 pounds, by 18-3 technical fall. But, by then, the Bulldogs knew they’d achieved their goal.

 

“As soon as Jacob Trudo pinned his kid, we knew it was over,” Heins said. “It was a great feeling—something that was so well deserved for this wrestling program. I’m so happy to see Chet Bachman get his first ever state dual appearance.”

 

The win was a true team effort, said Trudo.

 

“There were the guys out there who just did the job, got the six when we needed. But people kind of forget about the people who don’t give up the pin, even if they’re against a really good opponent,” he said. “I like seeing that the kids who did lose didn’t just put their heads down and give up and sit on the bench. They really took the initiative to help the other kids who were coming up. There were kids constantly doing the math to see, if this kid loses, how many more do we have to win.” 

 

Looking back to the start of the season, Bachman admitted he didn’t see this success coming.

 

“I had no idea,” he reflected. “We just came from nowhere. We didn’t talk about it and had no expectations. It’s so unreal.”

 

“Maybe that’s the way it should be,” he added.

 

Bachman acknowledged some good fortune was involved. MFL MarMac got to host the regional dual because of a big win over a highly-ranked Denver team in December.

 

“That night, some of our kids like Austin Nickolai, Koal Klenk and Logan Brown stepped up,” he explained. “They might’ve gotten pinned tonight, but they got us here. Without them, we wouldn’t have beaten Denver to get the ranking we had to get to this.”

 

What makes this year’s team special, though, is the wrestlers’ approach: no nonsense, all business and hard work.

 

“They come to practice and I can work them for an hour, but it’s like a two-hour practice, probably, for most teams,” Bachman said. “I didn’t tell these kids hardly anything this year. I didn’t need to. Maybe that’s what made it so special. I didn’t talk a lot. Showed up, had notes, watched film and they all knew what kind of techniques to work on. Simple.”

 

Heins agreed that it all came down to work ethic in the wrestling room.

 

“Anybody can be good,” he said. “You’ve just got to earn it. And we earned it.”

 

MFL MarMac will compete in the Iowa High School Athletic Association State Dual Team Wrestling Tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 17, at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. The Bulldogs’ first match will be at 11 a.m. against top-ranked Don Bosco. Follow the North Iowa Times Facebook page for updates.

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