DES MOINES —
One day after losing three teammates with two straight losses at state, four remaining Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont grapplers turned the tables back on the rest of the state.
By the time the mid-afternoon semifinal sessions rolled around, the Rockets were literally the center of attention with Blake Marolf, Jason Crosby and Tucker Black all wrestling for state final berths at the exact same time.
“It’s pretty stressful as a head coach. You get a little too spread out,” EBF head coach Brett Little said. “You try and focus on something that’s going on in one of their matches and all of a sudden, something big happens for one of the other guys.”
Indeed, something big happened for two of the Rockets. Just minutes after Marolf capped a thrilling 2-1 overtime win over second-ranked Don Bosco senior Dylon Rhoads, ensuring at least one Rocket would be in a Saturday night final, senior Jason Crosby made it two-for-two for EBF with a 5-3 win over second-ranked Manson-Northwest Webster junior Payton Rice.
“That’s pretty awesome,” Crosby said after being told the results, and the situation that developed, from a semifinal session that suddenly became a showcase for the highly successful Rocket wrestling squad. “That’s a great win for Blake and for me, I knew this was my last chance to get to the finals.”
“I believe I can win whenever I’m on the mat. I pushed hard and I just believed. That was enough to push me through.”
Both Crosby and Marolf will be wrestling in their first state championship matches Saturday night after scoring a pair of decision wins on Friday. For Marolf, the third-ranked 138-pound 1A grappler took down the two wrestlers rated ahead of him by the Predicament.
After struggling to a comeback win in the opening round, Marolf made an early statement by shutting out top-ranked Alburnett freshman Connor Schulista, 7-0, in the quarterfinal round.
“He totally dominated that kid,” Little said of Marolf’s first win on Friday. “Everything we heard about Schulista is he was going to be wrestling for the championship. Now, he’s on the backend of the bracket trying to stay alive. That’s how good Blake Marolf is.”
Crosby followed up Marolf’s victory with another tough win, beating Sumner-Fredericksburg’s third-ranked senior Brady Meyer 3-1, making a first-period takedown hold up.
After jumping out two a 2-0 lead again in the semifinals, Crosby found his hopes of making the state finals hanging on the final period after Rice rallied to tie the match at 2-2. Once again, Crosby made just his third takedown of the entire day hold up as the final two points held up.
“This is my last year and I really want to win it,” Crosby said. “I’ve gave it everything I could to get to this point and I plan on giving everything I can (tonight).”
“There’s just something about Jason Crosby,” Little said of the senior. “He’s a kid with a 4.0 grade-point average and the first kid I can remember in EBF history to never miss a practice. That says something about that kid’s character. He deserves everything he earned (Friday).”
Marolf was also forced to give plenty to make it to the finals as his battle with Rhoads pushed beyond regulation with both wrestlers exchanging escapes and searching for five full periods for one more decisive tally.
The EBF sophomore used a smart strategy to make sure he had that extra energy in the end. Rather than going in aggressively from the start, Marolf wrestled a more defensive, tactical match before exploding out at the start of the second 30-second overtime session for the winning escape.
“I didn’t get as tired as the match went on,” Marolf, who is wearing plenty of bruises on his face from his three state tournament wins. “I didn’t go for as many shots. I made sure to make it count when I went for the move.”
After beating the top two ranked wrestlers in his weight class, Marolf will wrestle for his first state title against unranked senior Logan Loftus. The Iowa Valley grappler edged Marolf less than two weeks ago in the regional duals.
For Crosby, the challenge of winning a state championship in his final match at EBF will not be an easy one. The fifth-ranked Rocket senior will take on top-ranked West Marshall senior Kyle Blocker, whose 50-0 season nearly suffered a blemish at the hands of Crosby at the Rich Gray Classic Tournament in Truro.
As a team, EBF is in line to finish off its finest season in program history. The Rockets currently stand in third place in the team standings.
Besides the two finalists, Tucker Black will join fifth-ranked sophomore Jeren Glosser in the consolation rounds today. The ninth-ranked Rocket junior won an incredible 8-7 decision over second-ranked West Central Valley junior Ryan Joint that exhausted all four overtime sessions.
That grueling battle, along with an illness Black has been fighting recently, proved to be too much for the first-time placewinner to overcome in the semifinal round. North Butler sophomore Caleb Wedeking overcame an early takedown to beat Black 8-2 in the 145-pound semifinals.
“It took all I had to get to the semifinals. I really feel tried to fight through it, but it’s over now,” said Black. “Hopefully Jeren and I can finish third.”