SALINA — Ulysses’ Aysten Perez was the No. 1 ranked heavyweight entering the KSHSAA state wrestling tournament. Iola High’s Logan Brown, didn’t care.
On Friday, Brown cemented his spot in the championship match with a win over Santa Fe Trail’s undefeated 43-0 Evan Dean. Dean was inches from pinning Brown before the Mustang grappler escaped, then flipped the brawny wrestler onto his back. The round was seconds away from ending when Brown was able to get the pin.
The win gave Brown the confidence he needed entering his title bout on Saturday against Perez.
It’s the best feeling ever,” Brown said breathlessly Friday night. “I just can’t wait to stand at the top of the podium.”
The energy in the Tony’s Pizza Event Center built up slowly as Brown and Perez paced the mat for nearly 10 minutes before the match commenced. When the two wrestlers finally got underway, Perez took early control.
Perez held a 9-2 lead on the scoreboard, and was inches away from pinning Brown in the second round. Brown was able to get a reversal midway through the round, and then seized the upper hand and was able to pin Perez at the 3-minute, 52-second mark.
“It took all I had,” Brown said. “It’s the best moment of my life.”
Upon winning the match, a visibly exhausted Brown lay prone on the mat for several seconds afterward before being congratulated by a jubilant crowd of coaches, teammates and other supporters. The win makes Brown the first IHS state wrestling champion.
“First thing we had to do was stay focused, and that is exactly what Logan did,” Iola head wrestling coach Jason Bates said. “He had a plan going out there, and knew the kid couldn’t make it into the third period. So, he took his time, didn’t rush anything, and did exactly what he needed to do.”
Brown was not the only Iola wrestler that stepped foot onto the podium Saturday in Salina. Sophomore Trent Jones earned a nifty escape in the final seconds of the third round in the consolation semifinals to earn a spot in the 145-pound third-place match.
In the bout for bronze, Jones lost by a slim 1-0 decision to Gabriel Bailey of Tonganoxie. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic tournament for the two-time state qualifier, who will eye a state title of his own next season.
“I had a similar situation like this in the past in 2019,” Jones said. “I was 1-1 enterring the second day, and was kind of out of it, but today I was able to pull off three amazing wins. That consolation semis match was probably my best win all season.”
Another sophomore, TJ Taylor, made his state wrestling debut. Taylor was granted a bye in 113-pound action after his opponent failed to make his weight at Friday morning’s weigh-in. In his quarterfinal bout, Taylor lost by a 9-1 decision against Pratt’s Devon Weber (31-1).
On Saturday, Taylor lost by fall to Liam Sutton of Ottawa, but is taking his first state appearance in stride, and is eager to make his return next season.
“I was just happy I was able to wrestle again this season considering I dislocated my knee earlier in the year,” Taylor said. “Making it to the state tournament was my goal all year. For the future, I want to get better, and by getting better hopefully I will get to come here again, and hopefully will get to place next time.”
Senior Gary Lower made his first state wrestling appearance over the weekend. Lower finished 1-2 in the tournament, with his solo win coming via fall Ottawa’s Jared Ferguson. Considering Lower’s sophomore and junior year were hindered by injury, making it to state was quite the accomplishment.
“I was ecstatic because this was the first year I qualified for state,” Lower said. “I worked hard to get here.”
Lower has intention to sign at Neosho County Community College to continue his wrestling career.
“I already miss the sport. I just can’t wait for the future,” Lower said.”
All in all, it was a fantastic tournament for the Mustangs. Iola placed 10th out of 51 teams at the state tournament with a team score of 51.0.
“I knew we had the potential, and it was up to them if they showed up or not, and they did,” Bates said. “All four boys that showed up to state won a match, and that is saying something.”