DC secures first state medalist since 1999

It’s the dream of every high school wrestler in the state of Iowa to do two things before they graduate. The first is to qualify for the Iowa High School State Wrestling Tournament. The second is to earn the right to stand on the medal stand on finals night sporting a medal.

Davis County junior Taylor Huggins made that dream a reality last weekend when he finished sixth overall in the Class 2A 132-point weight class. Huggins finished 3-3 overall in the tournament.

Teammate Dawson Townsend also made the dream a reality by qualifying for the tournament at 120 pounds. Townsend’s trip through the tournament bracket was brief as he went 0-2 in his first two matches and was knocked out of contention.

Huggins’ success in Des Moines last weekend earned him a place in the Davis County High School history books. Huggins is the first wrestler to reach the medal rounds and finish in the top eight since Cody Townsend finished second in 1999. Townsend earned that second-place finish at 125 pounds.

Huggins began the tournament facing a familiar opponent in Justin Keller of Albia. The two met several times this year including championship matches in both the Class 2A Sectional and District Tournaments.

The two hit the mat together again on Thursday night, Feb. 18 in opening round of the Class 2A State Tournament. Keller struck first and took Huggins to the mat for a 2-0 lead. That takedown happened just 20 seconds into the match. Huggins worked free for an escape and scored a takedown of his own over Keller as time was winding down in the first period.

Huggins led 3-2 going into the second period where he immediately added another takedown. Huggins let his guard down just a bit and Keller took advantage of it. He scored a reversal but was warned for stalling. Huggins continued to battle and secured a reversal of his own before the end of the period. After four minutes of action, Huggins led Keller 7-5.

Huggins finished the match with dominating fashion in the third period. He started the period on the mat and worked free for a reversal. Huggins caught Keller out of possession and turned him for near-fall points. Huggins kept Keller from scoring in the final 1:23 and went on to win.

Huggins advanced to the quarterfinal round to face Logan Arp of South Tama. Huggins struggled with Arp and couldn’t get his offense on track. Arp took Huggins down in the first minute and turned Huggins on his back for a pin in 1:19.

The loss was disappointing, but Huggins didn’t let that deter his mission of getting further into the tournament. The loss sent Huggins into the Friday afternoon consolation round where he faced Riece Graham of Woodward Granger.

Huggins began this match with an aggressive attack, which paid off. Huggins scored a takedown over Graham in 28 seconds. In his effort to turn Graham, Huggins attack was stopped due to a potentially dangerous move that could have injured Graham. Huggins was cautioned and the action was restarted. Graham escaped Huggins’ grasp but not for long. Huggins tied up Graham once again and took him to the mat for another takedown. After two-minutes of action, Huggins led 4-2.

Huggins and Graham traded reversals to start the second period. Graham was also warned for stalling before Huggins turned him on his back. Huggins couldn’t get Graham’s shoulders to the mat but secured a three-point near fall and a 9-4 lead going into the final period. Huggins added an escape and another takedown in the final period to get the win.

Huggins advanced to the Friday night session where he met up with Triston Barncastle of Creston. Huggins dominated the match winning 15-4.

Barncastle scored the opening takedown in this match. Huggins worked his magic once again and freed himself from Barncastle’s grasp. Huggins’ reversal led additional points as he turned Barncastle on his back. The only thing that kept Huggins from getting the pin was the clock expiring at the end of the first period.

Barncastle scored a couple of escapes in the second period, but Huggins continued to dominate with his aggressive wrestling style and flurry of offensive maneuvers. Huggins added a pair of takedowns, pushing his lead to 9-4. Huggins added an escape, a takedown and another three-point near fall over Barncastle in the third period to secure the win.

The victory pushed Huggins into action on Saturday’s medal rounds. He faced Brock Moore of Forrest City in his first match on Saturday. The two wrestlers battled for position and did a lot of hand fighting to start this match. Moore caught Huggins with a takedown about halfway through the first period. Huggins struggled to get free and was later pinned in 1:34.

The loss meant Huggins was going to wrestle again in the fifth-place match instead of the third-place match. Huggins met up with Reily Dolan of West Delaware in that fifth-place match.

Huggins came out aggressive and scored a takedown shortly after the match began. Huggins was later warned for stalling but led 2-0 at the end of the first period.

Dolan chose to start the second period in the neutral position and caught Huggins for a takedown to even the score at 2-2. Dolan rolled Huggins on his back for near fall points. Huggins escaped but trailed 5-3 going into the final period.

Despite a hard-fought battle, neither wrestler scored in the third period. Dolan held on for the win and forced Huggins to settle for the sixth-place spot on the medal stand Saturday night.

Huggins finished the year with a record of 33-10 overall.

“The last time Davis County had a state place-winner in wrestling was 1999. That was 22 years ago. Taylor Huggins has put Davis County back on the map,” said Davis County Coach Jim Nelson. “It was his time to shine.

“Taylor works out for wrestling twice per day, at the school and across town at the local wrestling club. He also has a weight lifting class in the morning. He practices his wrestling most of the year. This is what it takes to become a state place-winner in Iowa. The medal you earn is attributed to hard work and dedication to the sport in season and out of season. Very few wrestlers this past weekend who took home medals are just seasonal wrestlers,” said Nelson.

Dawson Townsend’s state tournament run began with a match against second-seeded McKinley Robins of Greene County. Robbins entered the tournament with an undefeated 34-0 record. Townsend was 25-5 when the tournament began.

The match between the two wrestlers was a closer battle than the 9-4 score indicates. Townsend wrestled a smart match and kept Robbins from getting much going offensively. Robbins did take Townsend to the mat with 1:18 left in the first period but couldn’t get him turned for additional points. Townsend escaped and Robbins took him down a short time later as the two battled on the mat. Townsend escaped again and the rest of the period was spent watching the two wrestlers battle on their feet for position or a shot to score more offensively.

Robbins took a 4-2 lead into the second period. He started the period on the mat and managed to free himself from Townsend’s grasp for an escape. The two wrestlers again began a battle for position and control. Neither Townsend nor Robbins would give in and the second period ended with Robins now taking a 5-2 lead.

As the third period began, Townsend started in the down position and escaped quickly to get back to his feet. Robbins added two more takedowns. Townsend also added an escape but was forced to settle for the 9-4 loss.

Townsend moved into the first round consolations to face Ethan Follman of Atlantic. Townsend scored the first takedown but not before the two battled for position at the start of this match. The takedown came with 1:05 left in the period. Follman escaped and trailed Townsend 2-1 going into the second period.

Follman began the second period on the bottom and used that opportunity to tie the match at 2-2 with an escape point. Townsend and Follman continued to battle for position and control in the period. Follman did catch Townsend and take him down with 30 seconds left. The maneuver gave Follman a 4-2 lead.

Townsend started the final period on the mat and worked free for an escape with 1:28 left on the clock. That cut Follman’s lead to 4-3. Time was running out on Townsend in his bid to stay in the tournament. As the two battled for control. Follman caught Townsend in just the right position and took him down. The takedown came with 18 seconds left. Townsend ran out of time in an effort to counter. He was forced to take the 6-3 loss and end his tournament run.

Townsend finished the season with a 25-7 overall record.

“Dawson Townsend has the same workout schedule that Huggins has. Two practices a day and weight training. He was deserving of becoming a medalist too, but every wrestler there is fighting for the same thing,” said Nelson. “It was an honor for him to make it this year, but he wants to get to the podium before he graduates. He’ll have that chance one more time.”