By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor
The first ever.
Logan McQuillen brought a state wrestling championship to Monticello – the first in school history - in a dramatic series of events during the State Class 2A Wrestling Tournament Feb. 14-16 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
The senior, who entered the tournament with a 39-5 record but was unranked, dominated three straight opponents to reach the championship match, becoming the third Panther wrestler ever to achieve that pinnacle and the first since 1999.
Then he took it a step further. Tied 2-2 with top-ranked Trey Ryan of Mount Vernon, McQuillen scored a takedown with eight seconds left, then held on for the 4-2 victory – and the championship.
The wrestlers were tied with 15 seconds left, with both on their feet.
“I looked at the clock, and looked at (coaches) Ryan and Chuck (Luensman), and they’re both like, ‘hit the high crotch,’ ” McQuillen said, describing the winning move.
“All year we work on our fakes,” the senior said. “I faked the outside single, and there it was, and I hit it.”
Ryan Luensman, the head coach, said: “Coming into the last 15 seconds, Logan had hit two nice single legs and almost scored. We yelled for him to look for High C, and he hit it perfect. The kid tried to slide out of bounds, but Logan did a great job of making adjustments and got the winning takedown.”
When the final whistle blew, McQuillen pumped both fists, then tearfully ran and leaped into the arms of head coach Ryan Luensman.
The tears of joy were still flowing under the stands after the match.
“I can’t put it in words,” McQuillen said of his feelings about winning the title. “(I had) a lot of disappointment leading up to it, but this makes it all worth it.”
McQuillen started the season ranked 10th in the state, but had fallen out of the rankings. He proved he should have been in them all along, by beating each of the top three ranked wrestlers this post-season, including two at the state tournament.
“Logan has always been this good, and he finally put it all together,” Ryan Luensman said.
McQuillen had plenty of big moments in this state tournament. Showing none of the jitters many first-time State participants have, he began Thursday evening with a dominating, 7-1 decision over Dylon French of Bedford/Lenox.
“I’ve been waiting to come out here since freshman year,” McQuillen said after that match. “I’ve been ready.”
Coach Luensman agreed: “He’s wrestled in many things that are big events like this, so he was ready.”
On Friday afternoon, McQuillen faced second-ranked Brett Leshen of Albia, and again controlled the match, winning 8-2.
“Logan did a nice job of keeping to his game plan and staying controlled in all areas of the match,” Luensman said. “The second period was huge, when he rode the kid for the entire time and then got a turn at the end. From that point on, his opponent was broke, and Logan completely took over.”
McQuillen was even more dominant in Friday night’s state semifinals, scoring an 18-1 technical fall over Jacob Van Ginkel of Western Christian/Unity Christian.
“Going into the semifinals, with him (having beaten) the number three and number two-ranked kids in the state earlier, Logan was very confident and ready to go,” the coach said. “He kept to the same routine for every match and took it one match at a time.”
Then came Saturday night’s finals, in which McQuillen participated in the Grand March, then waited for his title match. Asked about his thoughts just before the match, he said, “I’m going to win, no matter what.”
McQuillen and Ryan were both on their feet the entire first period, and neither scored.
McQuillen started the second period on top, and Ryan was credited with a questionable reversal with about a minute left, giving the Mount Vernon wrestler a 2-0 lead over McQuillen.
“I was on my feet, so I don’t know,” McQuillen said.
Within seconds, McQuillen got away and was credited with an escape point, cutting the margin to 2-1.
McQuillen chose the down position to start the third period, and escaped just four seconds into it, tying the score 2-2. The whistle blew when the wrestlers were in a stalemate and McQuillen’s chin strap came loose with 15 seconds left.
Then came McQuillen’s move, the title, and a spot atop the awards podium several minutes later.
“He knew this was his last chance, and he kept 100 percent focus,” Luensman said. “His drive, work ethic and passion for excellence throughout his entire life prepared him for this moment.”
State Class 2A
(at Wells Fargo Arena,
160 – Logan McQuillen (state champion) dec. Dylon French, Bedford/Lenox, 7-1; dec. Brett Leshen, Albia, 8-2; won by tech. fall over Jacob Van Ginkel, Western Christian/Unity Christian; dec. Trey Ryan, Mount Vernon, 4-2.
PHOTO: Logan McQuillen of Monticello is all smiles as he poses on the awards podium at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, after winning the Class 2A, 160-pound state championship. (Photo by Pete Temple)