BETTENDORF, Iowa — After the final match had been wrestled, after the awards had been handed out, even after the clean-up crew started rolling up the mats, a substantial number of people in purple and gold wrestling gear stood in the southwest corner of the Bettendorf gym.
The Muskies had plenty of reasons to soak up the moment after four of their wrestlers advanced to state in Saturday's Class 3A District 2 tournament at Bettendorf High School. Tim Nimely, Brennan Broders, Dalton Sell and Shane Mathias all advanced to the state tournament.
Nimely, a sophomore, was on his back during his semifinal match. He looked defeated. Nimely managed to throw his opponent over top of his head put him on their hip and pounced on top. The Muscatine 170-pounder won that match 8-5.
Then came the finals, as the Muskies had Nimely and three seniors vying for a district championship.
In the first of those matches, Nimely found himself on his back yet again against Bettendorf's Will Jefferson. Though his reversal of fortune was a bit more played out than in his previous match, Nimely nonetheless came out on top by a score of 5-4.
"I didn’t want to let down the team," Nimely said. "Last year we only had two guys that qualified and I wanted Muscatine to do better so I went out there and fought."
Broders then got his chance. Broders lost to Bettendorf's Alex Blizzard, but since his match got over with before the other 182-pound contest on the adjacent mat, he and the rest of the Muskie team got to watch his shot at a wrestleback get realized in the minutes following his defeat. Muscatine's 113-pounder Tyler Garrison also had a chance at a wrestleback, but fell short in that bout 5-1.
The match after that saw Sell achieve victory via second-round pin over Clinton's Ethan Barry and take home first place in the 195-pound weight class.
“It’s just really cool," Sell said of advancing with three teammates. "I don’t think we’ve had this many qualifiers in a long time. I’m just really proud of all these guys."
Mathias gave the Muskies their third state qualifier in the 220-pound final with a convincing 5-1 win over Clinton's Hunter Randall. It will be Mathias’ second straight state appearance.
"It’s definitely the highlight of my entire high school career," Mathias said. "To have all of us that are so close together. (Going) to state together is probably one my happiest moments of high school."
Sell and Mathias’ matches happened while Broders had to watch, waiting for his opportunity to make good on a second chance in a wrestleback.
"I saw three of my teammates win ..." the senior said, "... so I felt like I had let down my team, and my coaches were just telling me ‘We all believe in you, you gotta bounce back,’ and I just wanted to do that for everybody.”
In his wrestleback match against Pleasant Valley's Scott Wendel, Broders fell behind early. It stayed that way for the second period. Behind 12-8 in the waning minutes of the final period, Broders pulled off a series of moves that tied it 12-12. In the extra session, Broders landed a takedown to clinch a state berth.
"Honestly, I thought I was going to have a stroke," Mathias said of watching Broders' comeback. "I was really nervous for him and I’m happy he won."
Muscatine head coach Joe Kane was profuse in his praise of Broders' comeback and the rest of his team.
"He’s got more heart than any kid I’ve ever coached," Kane said. "Brennan Broders is an outstanding kid and he’s a great wrestler and he never gives up. He has been leading the charge all year and I’m very proud of him.
"We preach that our toughest match comes in our own room. So definitely, those guys that train together every day are rising to the occasion."
Nimely, Broders, Sell, and Mathias get the opportunity to write their own endings at the Iowa state championship meet that starts Thursday at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.