DES MOINES — The last two minutes on the mat Saturday night felt like a life time for Matthew Lewis.
History isn't accomplished easily, after all.
Lewis held on to second-ranked Osage sophomore Nick Fox throughout the final period of a tense 145-pound Class 2A state championship match on the final night of the 2021 Iowa High School State Wrestling Tournament. Lewis held on for a 3-2 win, becoming the 29th wrestler to win four Iowa High School state championships, joining an exclusive club that includes former Centerville wrestler T.J. Sebolt who accomplished the feat from 2003-06.
"There are no slouches up here. When you make this far, you've passed some incredible tests," Lewis said. "I have a lot of confidence in myself. It's still kind of a daze right now. It's hard to let it out. I just want to smile so much. It's awesome."
Lewis and Nathaniel Genobana completed four consecutive years competing in championship matches at four straight state wrestling tournaments. Genobana, however, became just the second wrestler in the history of the tournament to suffer four straight championship losses as Independence junior Isaiah Weber held on for a 2-0 win in a thrilling 138-pound 2A title match.
"I was down. He was up. I just didn't wrestle my match," Genobana said. "I've made a lot of memories coming up and making it to the finals all four years. It's been an up-and-down career, I guess. I've learned a lot. I've learned about adversity and how to overcome it."
Lucas Henderson added a sixth-place finish to the tally for the Centerville wrestling program in 2021, falling to 48-1 West Burlington-Notre Dame/Danville sophomore C.J. Walrath 9-0 in Saturday's consolation semifinal round before suffering a loss by fall in the second period to 37-2 West Delaware senior Jared Voss in the fiftth-place match at 170 pounds. The Big Reds finished with 51.5 points, placing fifth in Class 2A after finishing third a season earlier.
"That team scores doesn't happen without Lucas turning it on after a tough opening loss and scoring 30 points in his next two matches against guys who been consistently ranked ahead of him all year," Centerville head wrestling coach Jared Bevins said. "Hopefully our young guys are watching this. I hope they realize that this could be them. We're peaking at the right time of the year and we're going to make sure they feel as good as they can. If they can come in with the confidence and swagger some of these seniors currently have, they can do some good things."
For Lewis, becoming the 29th wrestler to win state titles in all four years of high school took everything right down to the final two matches of his high school career. In both his semifinal win over Decorah senior Jackson Rolfs and Saturday's much-anticipated state title match with Fox, Lewis had to overcome an early 2-0 deficit as both Rolfs and Fox were able to take down the three-time state champion in the first period of both matches.
Lewis was able to reverse Rolfs on Friday night before escaping with 12 seconds left in the second period before riding out Rolfs in the third. On Saturday, Lewis could not escape in the first and could not find a reversal in the second, escaping 20 seconds in to the second period to pull within 2-1.
The two wrestlers grappled near the edge of the mat in the final minute of the second period. This time, Lewis would get the advantage getting on top of Fox and completing a go-ahead takedown with 15 seconds left to take a 3-2 lead.
Suddenly, history was just two minutes away. Two very long minutes as Lewis again had to ride out an opponent to preserve a slim third period lead.
"I had confidence in myself, but it still felt like a lifetime," Lewis said of the final period. "It was intense. Every muscle in my body was burning, but I was not going to let him up. I was going to keep him down no matter what it took."
Fox nearly broke free early in the third, getting all but one leg free. Lewis clutched on to Fox's foot even as the Osage sophomore continued to try and kick free around the mat before finally grabbing both feet, bringing Fox back down to the mat.
Fox continued to attempt to get back to his feet. Each time, Lewis was able to hold on and bring the match back to the mat. Finally, with eight seconds left, Fox's last gasp at a tying escape was thwarted as Lewis regaining control on his ride, lifting Bevins out of his seat in celebration of the history about to be achieved.
"When he started sucking Fox to his back and got out of that funky position, the joy started to ramp up a little bit," Bevins said. "I've been fortunate enough to be with him most of the way. His sophomore year was my first year coaching at Centerville. The credit goes to Matt Johnson, Scott Sebolt and Matthew's entire family. I've never been around a student or an athlete that handles pressure the way he has and continues to come through when it matters.
"I'm extremely happy for Matthew now that all that pressure is off his shoulders. He can live life not having to worry about becoming a four-time state champion. He is a four-time state champion. He's got it done."