The road to the top

Logan Brown became Iola's first high school wrestling state championship nearly three weeks ago, but the journey to glory is a tale on its own.

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Sports

March 20, 2020 - 3:57 PM

Iola’s Logan Brown paces the mat before his heavyweight championship bout on Feb. 29 in Salina. Photo by Erick Mitchell / Iola Register

Logan Brown became an Iola sports legend when he captured the Kansas 4A 285-pound state title on Feb. 29 in Salina. But the glory that Brown enjoyed that day almost never came to be.  

As a fourth-grader, Brown joined the Iola Kids wrestling club, only to be kicked off for his over-aggression. 

“I didn’t know how to wrestle. So I got thrown to the ground, and started pulling out the WWE moves,” Brown said. “I think I might have head-butted a kid.”

It would be three years before Brown gave wrestling another try at the encouragement of Iola Kids wrestling head coach, John Taylor. 

“I had known Mr. Taylor since I was in third grade, and he always told me to go out for wrestling. I didn’t want to though because I was afraid,” Brown said. “I don’t like losing. I’ve always been a bigger kid, so when I got pinned… I did not like it. I cried in middle school when I lost.”

Iola wrestling head coach Jason Bates was entering his second year at the helm when Brown re-started his wrestling journey in seventh grade. Immediately, Bates knew Brown was a wrestler with potential. 

“He was an athletic kid,” Bates said. “I had heard some stories about Logan, and I think one of them was about him head-butting a kid. So I was just being patient with him, working with him, and getting him better.”

Brown admits that wrestling helped him control his anger. A year into wrestling, Brown had mellowed out. 

Next step: Work on his commitment to the team. 

As a freshman, Brown stood at 8-0 in JV competitions before getting called up to the varsity squad. Unfortunately, he didn’t last.  

“We were getting ready for our first duel of the season, which is a varsity match,” Bates said. “Logan didn’t want to lose, so he quit. I was pretty disappointed.”

Brown truly felt he was not ready for the varsity level.

“There were grown men out there,” Brown said.

Brown returned to Mustang wrestling the next season as a sophomore, but once again failed to complete the season days before the regional meet. 

“Logan had lost only four matches all year, and it was getting to the point where we were getting to crunch time, and needed to work harder,” Bates said. “I picked on Logan a little bit, and that upset him.”

Bates highlights that entering this year, his goal was to keep Brown on board through the entire season. That dream nearly fell apart. 

Prior to the Mustangs’ Pioneer League meet, Brown had been absent to competing due to a knee injury. Awaiting Brown at the league meet was Santa Fe Trail’s undefeated Evan Dean, who was Brown’s only loss of the season. Brown’s teammates jokingly referred to him as a chicken, comments Brown didn’t take lightly. 

“I don’t know why those kids did that, but I can say Logan did take that, and it motivated him from league on,” Brown said. He was telling me he was going to win it, that he was going to be a regional champion, and from regionals on he said he was going to be a state champion.”

Iola wrestling coach Jason Bates, left, and Logan Brown moments after Brown captured his state title.Photo by Erick Mitchell / Iola Register

AT REGIONALS, Brown faced Coffeyville’s 285-pound heavyweight Brady White. While Brown is a heavyweight wrestler, his mass amounts to only 245 pounds, 40 pounds less than White.

From the get-go Brown was in full attack, taking shot after shot while attempting to bring down the Coffeyville brawler, but after the first round, Brown needed a nap. 

“You shouldn’t do that against heavyweights if they are a lot heavier than you,” Brown said. “So that gassed me, and after that I just had to survive. I had to think of some smart moves.”

The move needed to become regional champ was unique. In fact, it wasn’t true wrestling technique either. When the second round reached its end, both wrestlers appeared to be unaware of the period’s conclusion. 

Brown then tumbled on top of White near the perimeter of the wrestling mat, which sent the Coffeyville wrestler’s head into the metal leg of his coach’s chair. White’s day was done, and Brown had captured his regional title along with a place at the state meet. 

“After regionals, I was shocked I had made it this far in the season. When I went to state, I couldn’t believe that I was there,” Brown said. “I wanted to win badly. I thought, if I lose the first one, then I am going to win the rest of them. I told myself first off, I’m not going to lose.”

 Brown earned wins over Bishop Miege’s Evan Galbraith and Hunter Scott of Mulvane to advance to the state semifinal. Dean, who was Brown’s only loss of the season, awaited him in the semifinals, but Brown showed no signs of fear. 

“I told myself he was nothing no more,” Brown said. 

Dean was millimeters away of pining Brown before he was able to earn a reversal and pin Dean seconds before the end of the first round. Dean had set the state record for most pins in a season at 41, but a bigger challenge awaited Brown in the finals — No.1 4A heavyweight, Ulysses’ Aysten Perez. 

Prior to the match, the pair of wrestlers were pacing the mat for nearly 10 minutes while awards for other weight classes were being passed out. During that time, Brown did not lose focus. 

“I was just trying to keep my head in the game, telling myself I could do this,” Brown said. “I kept on thinking he is the no.1 kid in the state, but I Told myself he is going to be no.2.”

When the match did commence, Perez took early control. Brown trailed 9-2 on the scoreboard in the second round, but was able to get a reversal midway through the period. Brown then took advantage of his opportunity, pinning Perez at the 3-minute, 52-second mark.

After winning the match, Brown collapsed onto the mat where he laid like a child creating a snow angel in mid-Winter. Yes, he was exhausted, but his mission was complete. He was a state champion.

“I told myself I finally did it,” Brown said. “I didn’t want to just be a kids club state champion, I wanted to be a high school state champion. I wanted to cry, but I was too tired.”

When thinking about the future, Brown already has his priorities straight. 

“Two-time state champion,” Brown said. 

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