116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Battered, slightly broken, but still unbeaten.
Nothing was going to deny Center Point-Urbana's Brock Rathbun from a shot at another state crown. He wouldn't be derailed by a knee injury and certainly not by a 10th-ranked opponent.
With a heavily taped left knee and a brace from an earlier injury, Rathbun dropped Perry's Gisaveri Niyibizi, 2-0, to advance to the finals at the Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 2A state wrestling tournament Friday night at Wells Fargo Arena. Rathbun became the 54th four-time state finalist and will look to capture a third state title.
He hurt a knee ligament, driving out of bounds, during his 11-3 quarterfinal win over New Hampton's Tyler Shatek. Rathbun focused on trying to get his knee better for the semifinals.
'It hit me that was going to be my last time,' Rathbun said. 'I'm never going to get this back. Why go out there and lose when I know I can win?'
Rathbun and coaches worked with medical staff during the break, icing his knee and walking to prevent stiffness and swelling. He has made a habit of overcoming obstacles, avenging a loss en route to his first title, battling diabetes and a bum leg. The semifinal was another example of his toughness.
'He can wrestle with one leg,' CPU Coach Scott Slifka said. 'It showed out on the mat it didn't bother him. It was all mental.'
Rathbun did alter his approach on the mat. He said he had to be looser and lead with his right leg. He kept moving forward which led to the first-period score. Getting an early edge was key.
'I knew I had to get up in the first period or he was going to stall out,' Rathbun said. 'I thought I was going to get back points there but couldn't quite get them.'
Making the final is not the goal. He has dreamed of state titles since he was a kid and has one left to claim.
'Just being there doesn't really matter,' Rathbun said, 'but when I get my hand raised at the end that's going to pull it all together.'
Rathbun (47-0) has won 143 straight bouts, giving him a career mark of 184-3. He hasn't fallen since the championship match his freshman year. Slifka could only describe it one way.
'Something special,' Slifka said. 'It makes me feel proud to be a part of his life.'
Solon's Trevor Nelson made of his second trip to the state meet. He was disappointed in a winless showing here last year. Now, he stands a win away from the top of the podium.
Nelson posted a 5-4 win over East Marshall's Nick Long in the 160-pound semifinal. He led 3-0, falling down one when he was taken down to his back in the third. Nelson responded with a decisive reversal and ride out for more than a minute.
He has focused on being more confident.
'This year is more of a mentality thing for me,' said Nelson. 'It's paid off.'
Solon Coach Blake Williams said they entered the tournament believing this was a possible result.
'He's a talented kid,' Williams said. 'We knew coming in he could put himself in position for a state title.'
West Liberty's Joe Kelly reached the 152-pound final. He pinned Albia's Blake Lawless in 4:24. He said he has worked for this moment since he started in third grade.
'It's amazing,' Kelly said. 'It's been my goal since I stepped out on the mat. I always wanted to be on the mat Saturday night.'
He erased a four-point deficit, putting Lawless on his back to tie it, 7-7. He built his own four-point lead. Lawless shot in and Kelly hipped into him until he came out on top, catching Lawless on his back.
'I like to get in scrambles,' Kelly said. 'I like to push the pace.'
Independence's Nick Holt used some last-second heroics to give the Wamac another state finalist. Fourth-ranked Holt trailed Garner-Hayfield/Ventura's No. 5 Conner Shaw, scoring a reversal with 22 seconds left for a 2-1 victory at 170.
Mid-Prairie's Levi Duwa advanced in impressive fashion. The sixth-ranked junior pinned No. 3 Kadon Hulett with three seconds left in a 220-pound semifinal.
North Fayette Valley's Nick Baumler (182) returned to the finals after a runner-up finish. The top-ranked senior improved to 41-0 with a 10-7 win over Clarinda's J.J. Clark. Baumler limped from the mat and was assisted by the trainer after the bout.
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