ALBURNETT — Tanner Sloan has earned a place in the fraternity of farm kids who are accomplished wrestlers.
The Alburnett three-time state medalist has handled the dual role, balancing the demands of tending to 65 sheep and eight cows on the family homestead and training to be one of the state’s top wrestlers.
Wrestling and agriculture have been married for decades in Iowa and the senior 195-pounder understands how to prosper in both.
“If you don’t put any work in, you’re not going to get any money return,” Sloan said about farming. “It is similar to wrestling where if you put in the hard work you’re going to win and succeed.”
Sloan’s hard work has led to a 20-1 record to start the 2017-18 season and a spot atop the Class 1A rankings in addition to raising award-winning livestock. The 2016 170-pound state champion will attempt to return to the top of the state podium after placing third last season.
Sloan devotes numerous hours to both responsibilities. His parents, younger sister, cousins and uncles have pitched in to help when he has a conflict with competition.
“Usually, I get up pretty early in the mornings to go do the chores,” said Sloan, a 4-H and National FFA Organization member. “Then I’ll go lift or to morning practice. In the afternoon, after practice is when I usually get them, but if it’s a meet day or a tournament, they really step in and help me out.”
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The holiday break precedes two crucial times of year for Sloan. Not only does January mark the meat of the prep wrestling season that leads to sectionals the first Saturday in February, but it also is the start of lambing and calving season.
“A lot of work will be taking place, so it’s early morning and late nights,” Sloan said. “Sometimes it’s the middle of the night in the barn, keeping things going.
“It becomes a never-ending process.”
Alburnett Coach Clayton Rush said Sloan has been a regular lifting weights over the entire year, missing one week to take animals to the State Fair. Despite the heavy workload, Rush said Sloan exudes a good attitude, gets up early, and always works hard. Something the family has instilled in him.
“He pushes his body and mind to the point where he can really grow,” Rush said. “He does that daily. He’s a really good example of work ethic and a good leader to have in the program.”
Some days Sloan still manages to be the first one in the Pirates’ practice room and the last one to leave. He is willing to do what it takes to learn and improve.
“He soaks everything in that you’re saying,” Rush said. “He’s very coachable. He puts time in on off days.
“He’s putting in the extra time to put himself in the best position to reach his goals of winning state.”
Before Sloan rushed for 1,694 yards and 28 touchdowns this fall, ranking third in Class A, he represented Team Iowa in a national dual tournament in Florida. He went 12-1, facing unfamiliar foes with different styles.
Rush said the experience has helped him become a well-rounded wrestler.
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“It’s a combination of strength and being technically sound,” Rush said. “He wrestled a lot in his wrestling career. … In that you gain a lot of mat sense, so he has a lot of awareness.”
Sloan produced a dominant first half of the season. He reached the finals of the Independence invitational, finishing second to a highly-ranked Minnesota prep. Sloan beat Waterloo East’s 3A second-ranked Tyrell Gordon, 6-0, in the semifinal in that tournament. All other wins have been bonus-point victories, distancing himself from opponents.
He surpassed 150 career wins last weekend at the Battle of Waterloo, improving to 152-21 overall.
“It’s been fun,” Sloan said. “It’s gone fast. Every day I’ve come in wanting to be there, wishing it wouldn’t end as soon.”
Sloan has been motivated by last year’s finish, missing a second straight state final berth. He has put it behind him, but he’s determined to wrestle Saturday night in Des Moines.
“It’s like a rock sitting in your stomach,” Sloan said. “It just hurts, so I look past it and say it’s not going to happen again.
“I have to stay focused. Keep training.”
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