Chase Shiltz has given Tucker Morrison a new perspective.
Morrison has accomplished plenty already during his junior season wrestling for Columbus Community. The third-ranked wrestler at 170 pounds in Class 2A according to The Predicament and IAWrestle, Morrison has won 30 of the 31 matches he’s competed in this season.
The one setback, to Shiltz, 2A's top-ranked grappler at 170 from Creston Orient-Macksburg, on Jan. 16 at the Mike Halupnick Big Red Invitational at Centerville, put Morrison on a new path.
“I kind of just got outmatched against Shiltz,” Morrison admitted. “It gave me a good viewpoint of where I’m at and where I need to improve. It showed me I’m not where I need to be, so [these] past two weeks I can feel a big difference in my work ethic. I decided I needed to do more if I want to be the best.”
Morrison's placed himself among the best of the state with the postseason starting Saturday at the Southeast Iowa Superconference tournament at WACO, and that stems from the work he put in last offseason after finishing eighth at 170 pounds at the 2A state tournament last February.
Before the season started, Columbus wrestling coach Bill Plein said Morrison’s skill level had improved from his sophomore season. This season, the Wildcats coach pointed to Morrison’s improvement on his feet, with his hand-fighting skills and from the down position, among other areas, as where he's seen strides made.
"He’s getting into scramble situations and things like that and he’s winning a lot more of those just because how much time and effort he’s put into that,” Plein said. “In the course of practice, he wrestles a lot with our coaches. They give him a heck of a challenge.
“[T]hese are scrambles he wasn’t winning last year and he wasn’t winning at the beginning of the year — because he’s just more acclimated to it. You see [the improvement] there and you see it in his work ethic.”
The Centerville tournament allowed Morrison to showcase his ability.
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He pinned his way through pool play to set up a matchup with Kirksville, Missouri’s Marshall Cook, ranked third in Class 2, who Morrison pinned in 3 minutes, 46 seconds to get to the final.
“He wrestled well," Plein said. "The thing about it is he had good position and kept wrestling and kept being aggressive. That’s what we wanted for him against the kids from Kirksville. I think he just wore that kid down.”
He got caught against Shiltz, though, in the title match. The Creston wrestler, ranked No. 17 at 170 pounds nationally by InterMat, pinned Morrison in 47 seconds.
“He’s really strong, really athletic. He’s a great athlete,” Morrison said. “He just came right out there and had two carry attempts on me and I defended both and I could feel myself loosen up a little bit. He hit the third one, carried me to my hip, got my hip pinched, threw a turk in and took me over and that was it.”
While the loss is simply a blemish on his overall record, it was also an opportunity for Morrison to re-evaluate.
“Like I told Tucker, every time you’re on the mat you got to learn. [Shiltz] does things that you don’t see happening to you in our wrestling room, we don’t show you those things,” Plein said. “This kid has a unique ability, but [I asked do] you want to wrestle him again? He said yeah. We have to make that happen in Des Moines. That’s his goal now. He wants to get to Des Moines and get another chance to, A, get on the podium and, B, possibly wrestle this young man again.”
That path begins Saturday at the SEISC tournament. As Plein told Morrison and the entire Columbus team earlier this week, the margin of victory doesn’t matter anymore. It’s all about earning the win by any means necessary and moving on.
Morrison, who said he’s healthy and wrestling as well as he has this season, is ready to start the path back to Des Moines, with his loss offering that little bit of extra motivation.
“Growing up that was always a dream, to be a state champion,” Morrison said. “I’ve got two years to get that job done. I feel like, up to this point, I maybe haven’t put everything on the line that I needed to. After that loss to Shiltz, I realized I needed to put it all on the table, all my cards down on the table, if I want to get this done.”