DES MOINES — Last week's State Wrestling Tournament featured a range of emotions for Interstate 35 senior Bobby Heilman.
There was elation. There was disappointment. And, finally, there was a sense of validation.
Validation in that all of Heilman's hard work had paid off in the form of a sixth-place medal at the 2014 Iowa High School State Wrestling Tournament.
"It feels amazing," Heilman said. "I've never experienced it before. It's indescribable how amazing it feels."
Heilman's tournament started with a loss to eventual runner-up Mario Pena of Hampton-Dumont by fall in 3:25 on Friday.
With the senior 285-pounder needing to win two matches or face elimination, Heilman went on a run, recording three straight pins spanning Friday into Saturday, guaranteeing himself at least sixth place, and giving himself a shot at third place.
"He had himself a great tournament," Interstate 35 head coach Randy Calvert said. "Heavyweights, it's all about who falls first sometimes. The last couple of days, he's wrestled so well. The last two weeks he's improved so much with his hips and his movement, we're just so proud of him. Where he started at and where he finished at, it was unbelievable."
Heilman pinned Atlantic's Jezidiah Phippen in 3:37 and then decked North Fayette Valley's Dalton Lape in 1:33. That's when he got a familiar opponent in Benton Community's Quintin Taylor, who Heilman pinned in just 58 seconds.
"It's my sister's boyfriend, so that made it interesting," Heilman said with a smile after the match. "I came out, I wanted to be tough right off the whistle. I got my foot stuck in the mat and he pushed me back and I kind of bailed out. I built my base, and I felt his weight wasn't on me and was pushing into me, so I went for the roll and I stuck him."
That gave Heilman two matches on Saturday to determine where he's place, from third to sixth.
Heilman lost to Monticello's Daniel Pike by fall in 2:45 and then was pinned by Solon's Logan Linderbaum in 2:25 in the fifth-place match.
"I knew I was going to have tough kids," Heilman said. "It's top eight. That's all you can expect is tough matches. You've got to come out prepared, and I felt like I was prepared, but I didn't wrestle to my full potential. Sixth place, starting as a freshman never wrestling before — I'm never satisfied, but I'm happy."
"He had a great tournament," Calvert said. "He had those three falls in a row. We knew coming back today (Saturday) was going to be tough, because we knew he had good kids. Sometimes you hit it and it works, sometimes it doesn't. Today, they didn't work for him like they did yesterday."
Calvert said the key to Heilman's success at the state tournament was how much he had improved in just the two weeks since sectionals.
"Some of the things he used up here at the state tournament, he couldn't use three weeks ago, because technique wise, he didn't use them right," Calvert said. "But he worked on it and worked on it, and he executed them really well up here. That's the part that we're really proud of, is how he made himself the best wrestler he could in the short amount of time he had."
Heilman felt the improvement himself.
"I felt the spark," he said. "I felt a huge jump. I felt like I was ready for it. Once sectionals came around, I just knew it was my year. I knew it was my time to step up and I'll be the hero."
And, the experience of competing at the state tournament for the first time as a senior was something he'll never forget.
"You see a lot different style of wrestling," he said. "Everywhere else you see good wrestling, but you don't see great wrestling. Here, you see amazing things. I just loved it. I didn't even feel like there was that many people in the crowd.
"I loved it," he continued. "It was outstanding. I love wrestling. I'll be here every year."
Interstate 35's other two wrestlers competing in the state tournament were both eliminated after their first two matches.
Sophomore 113-pounder Austin Pontier lost a 4-0 decision to his cousin, Creston/O-M's Kruz Adamson in the first round, before losing a 6-4 decision to Boyden Hull Rock Valley's Samuel Klarenbeek in the consolation first round.
Senior 195-pounder Lonnie Harper lost both of his matches by fall.
Central Decatur junior 160-pounder Colton Ranney lost his first match, but pinned Spirit Lake Park's David Trucksess in the consolation first round to earn another match. But Ranney was pinned by Albia's Brett Leshen in 41 seconds in the consolation second round.
Central Decatur junior 182-pounder Trenton Wells lost an 8-4 decision to Phirom Peterschmidt in the first round and then lost an 8-5 decision in overtime to Oelwein's Chase Reising in the consolation first round.