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DES MOINES — As Joe Slaton looks out across the mats scattered around Wells Fargo Arena during the start of the Saturday morning consolation matches, his eyes dart back and fourth.
Cedar Rapids Kennedy — his alma mater and the place where he won two state titles — has two wrestlers coming up soon, but those aren’t the only athletes he’s watching. Slaton has over 30 student-athletes from the Eastern Iowa Wrestling Club he helps to coach in the state tournament.
He’d probably be here regardless, but this year he’s being inducted into the IHSAA Wrestling Hall of Fame. A special thing, though Slaton isn’t one for blowing anything out of proportion.
“Yeah, I mean my career was pretty good,” Slaton said. “My school had to nominate me, the committee had to vote on it, it’s pretty cool.”
A four-time state finalist, Slaton calling his career “pretty good” is a little on the humble side. He won a state title each of his final two years (2004 and 2005) before moving on to wrestle for Virginia Tech under Tom Brands.
He red-shirted the 2005-06 season for the Hokies before transferring to Iowa with Brands, losing a year of eligibility in the process. Finally able to wrestle, he proceeded to finish runner-up at the 2008 national championships.
Though his remaining two years didn’t pan out quite the way he might have hoped, Slaton still was part of three national and Big Ten championship teams. He’s also remembered quite fondly by his former coaches.
“He could have every good reason not to stay after practice and work extra on things, because he was so successful,” said Dennis Hynek, his coach during his first two season at Kennedy. “He’d always go above and beyond. A hundred shots every day after practice. Every single day.”
After not pushing through any wrestlers to the state finals, it’s understandable that there’s a tinge of disappointment for Alburnett.
It’s a team that came in with six qualifiers and several athletes that had a good chance to win the whole thing. The Pirates are, however, currently sitting in fourth place as a team and have done well in the consolation bracket.
Jaymus Wilson (106) and Tanner Sloan (170) both battled back after tough semifinal losses to finish third.
“I was down for a while, thinking about the match, thinking about what could have happened,” Wilson said. “But I just took that and put that energy toward today.”
Ben Moyer, who wrestles at 126 pounds, nearly joined them, narrowly dropping a 7-4 decision in the third place match. After losing in the first round, he managed to battle all the way back through the consolation bracket.
“What he did shows a lot of guts,” Alburnett head coach Clayton Rush said. “He didn’t get what he wanted, but he should be proud of himself.”
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