Creston alum named to IHSAA Wrestling Hall of Fame

Mar. 1—More than a decade after his illustrious high school wrestling career came to a close, Jake Marlin became Creston's first athlete to earn a spot in the IHSAA Wrestling Hall of Fame.

A 2013 graduate, Marlin ended his career as a four-time state champion, a title that had been his goal since a young age.

"Maybe I was just too dumb to know any better," Marlin joked. "I was pretty convinced I was going to do it. I would pretty much tell everyone who would listen. There were definitely people who doubted me."

Feb. 17 at the 2024 IHSAA State Wrestling Tournament, Marlin was joined by his wife Molly and children McCoy and Blake as he was inducted before the final matches.

"It truly does kind of feel like a whole different lifetime," Marlin said of his wrestling career. "I wasn't surprised. All the four-timers get inducted into it. It's cool, but I'm pretty quiet about it these days."

Creston head coach Cody Downing was Marlin's junior high coach, transitioning to an assistant coach role at the high school when Marlin was a freshman.

"I saw the ability there," Downing said. "His dad was a state champion also, so the genetics were there. He did a lot to make himself better. He was a full-time wrestler. He gave up other sports and made wrestling his sole focus."

Despite being the best of the best, Marlin never had an undefeated season, finishing his career with a 204-6 record. His losses were intentional by his coaches.

"That was what Creston wrestling was — creating the most challenging matches possible," Marlin's head coach Darrell Frain said. "My job was to get them beat and theirs was to prove me wrong. They knew they were going to face tough competition the whole time."

The first time Frain remembers being proved wrong was the first match Marlin lost. "He was a 130 pounder and I made him wrestle a state runner-up at 140," Frain explained. "It was like 16-14, but I knew then he would be tough."

Marlin said the coaches were determined to get him beat whenever they could. "I think that's a good theory. We didn't run from anybody; we actually ran to people," Marlin said. "I'd bump up two weights if I had to to wrestle someone tough. It worked out. I think I only had two losses in Iowa. It seemed like every match I was wrestling someone ranked."

Though being an undefeated state champion is another accolade on the resume, Downing said it's not the mentality of an elite wrestler. "The best wrestlers want to be pushed. The best wrestlers want to wrestle the other best wrestlers," he said. "When Jake lost his first career match and we knew he wouldn't be a four-time undefeated state champion, so let's keep pushing it. A lot of high-level multi-time state champions share that trait."

Mario Galanakis, a four-time wrestling state place-winner from Nodaway Valley and University of Iowa wrestling alumnus, was enlisted as an assistant coach to be Marlin's wrestling partner throughout his career.

"When he came in as a freshman, I remember he was good but he had a lot of bad habits we had to break," Galanakis said. "He had moves that worked for him on younger and inexperienced kids that he liked to do. I had to come in as his workout partner, and he learned really quickly those moves didn't work on good or elite guys."

His freshman season, Marlin came in ranked sixth at 130 pounds. "Maybe some people would have thought that was an honor, but I took it as disrespectful," Marlin said. "I was pretty upset I was only ranked sixth."

Galanakis remembers Marlin's reaction to the ranking. "As a freshman you have to go out and prove it and earn it," Galanakis said. "Until you've been there and done it, they aren't going to take you seriously."

At the state tournament his freshman year, people began to really notice the freshman from Creston.

"He was at a tough weight. There was two or three returning state champs in his bracket with some other tough kids," Galanakis said. "We knew he was capable, it was just putting it together at the state tournament."

In the semifinals, Marlin defeated senior Tanner Schmidt of Charles City, 13-2, in overtime, scoring 11 points in two 30-second overtime periods after the score was deadlocked 2-2 through regulation and one 1:00 sudden death overtime period.

"The kid was a state champ. He was definitely tough," Marlin said. "There were a couple situations it could have gone either way during the main match. Once we got into the second overtime, he was pretty much done. He didn't have any gas left."

Galanakis said he'll never forget that match. "That was a big confidence builder for him," Galanakis said. "After that, you just kind of see him grow into a whole different human being. I knew, he knew, he was capable of beating anybody."

Jake Marlin controls Tyler Endres of Independence in the 2010 state quarterfinals. Marlin won his second state title that season.

Despite his youth, the team accepted Marlin and teammate Kaden Hulett as peer leaders. "Their eighth grade year was what you could consider a down year," Frain said. "They took control. The fact they were accepted by older kids and let them be leaders was big."

As he continued through his career as a Panther, the coaches continued to put him in challenging situations. That strategy is still used today. "That's why our tournament schedule is as tough as it is," Downing said. "We make the schedule tough to get them defeated during the year so they are battle-tested come state tournament time."

Going into his senior state tournament, there was a lot on the line. Not only did he have the opportunity to secure his goal of being a four-time state champion, but he was also closing in on the state career pins record.

As excitement ramped up, a documentary was made about Marlin and Brandon Sorensen — two high school wrestlers in Iowa who were searching for their fourth-straight state championship.

"There were cameras following him every day," Frain said. "That part of it created pressure he didn't need to have, but it was a big deal."

Despite the added pressure, Marlin said he never thought he wouldn't get the job done. "I was never concerned I was going to lose," he said. "It never even crossed my mind."

In his final high school bout, a pin would secure him his fourth title and the pins record. In the second period, he stuck Adam Staudt of Charles City, earning his 147th pin.

Jake Marlin celebrates after earning his fourth straight wrestling state championship in 2013. Marlin was inducted into the IHSAA Wrestling Hall of Fame this year.

After high school, Marlin wrestled a year at the University of Iowa before transferring to North Iowa Area Community College. But he knew it was time to hang up the singlet for good.

"At the time it was pretty easy," Marlin said. "I was tired of it. But you always wonder."

Marlin had a younger brother wrestle and now his sister Evy has competed in the first two seasons of girls sanctioned wrestling.

"I think there's probably a lot of pressure on her that's unnecessary," Marlin said. "It's fun though. I don't know that brothers generally have a lot in common with their sisters. It's sort of a thing we can bond over. She doesn't listen super well when I tell her something, but that's how I was too."

This season, Galanakis joined the girls wrestling coaching team as an assistant where his daughter, Alainah, is a teammate with Evy.

"Now that it's sanctioned, I love it," Galanakis said. "It's really really exciting. I'm glad she decided to do it. I told Evy I don't know how many times that she reminds me of Jake. Her mannerisms, she has that confidence. She believes in herself and she thinks she can beat anyone."

Evy Marlin of Creston is declared the winner of the 130 lbs finals bout against Nicole Bond of Red Oak at Regionals Friday in Sioux City. Highway 34 placed fourth and the team is sending four wrestlers to state

Galanakis said Creston's wrestling success has everything to do with the people giving back. "There are a lot of good guys who have come through this program. Maybe they didn't win four or win a state title but they've always given back," Galanakis said. "That's a big part of our community, a big reason our youth wrestling community is big. Dads or even just people who love wrestling are stepping up and giving back to the sport. As long as that continues to happen, we are going to have success down the road."

Life has settled down for Marlin as he operates his own electrician company while raising his children with his wife. But wrestling will never leave his blood. "I've taken [my son] to a couple practices to watch," he said. "I want to get him around it and see if he likes it. There's a culture that surrounds it."

Both on and off the mat, Marlin's accolades and attitude earned him a hall of fame title.

"Of course everybody who looks just sees a four-time state champion," Frain said. But it's about the path he took and how he did it, how determined he was. He truly believed from a young age he would be a four-timer. He believed in himself. Everything he did was well deserved."