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Patten back in state finals; is gold in his future?

February 18, 2011 - Troy Banning
Take a look at that first picture over there on the right. Click on it, study it and then maybe you can answer this question for me: Just how in the (insert whatever word you want here) did Tyler Patten score four points off that?

“I have no idea,” Patten said after being shown that picture of his face scrunched into the mat as he held on for dear life. “I got into that and I was feeling pretty nervous at that point.”

It’s the legend of Tyler Patten. And it lives on.

The Webster City senior 135-pounder, ranked fourth in Class 2A, played the role of Houdini yet again this afternoon at the state wrestling tournament, as he scored six points in scramble situations to tear the heart right out of top-ranked Matt White of Albia, 6-3, during the semifinal round inside a packed to the rafters Wells Fargo Arena.

Chomping away on his gum — yes, he went back to the Orbit Citrusmint for the occasion — Patten (35-3) navigated his way to a second straight state finals appearance. At 14-3 now in four state appearances, he’ll tackle No. 2-ranked sophomore Jake Marlin (47-1) of Creston/Orient-Macksburg in tomorrow’s gold-medal match. Marlin won a state title at 130 a year ago and has just one blemish on his card this season — an early-season 2-1 loss to White (50-2).

Patten has pulled off some eye-popping victories in his career – think back to last year’s last-second takedown for a one-point win over OA-BCIG’s Darius Dutcher in the same semifinal round — but this one may top them all.

Trailing 3-0 in the second period, Patten found himself with his leg in the air and mere inches from falling behind 5-0 near the edge of the mat. But Mr. Scramble turned the tables on White, got a leg of his own and eventually scored his own takedown to trim his deficit to 3-2.

It remained that way until early in the third period when White flew into the legs of Patten and maneuvered the Lynx senior over his shoulders. At that point, well, I’m not really sure HOW it happened, but somehow Patten locked onto the ankle of White as his nose was stuffed into the mat. White then made his biggest wrestling mistake of the tournament by bringing his other leg close enough for Patten to latch onto.

Two ankles in his grasp, Patten had enough leverage to plant the unsteady White on his backside for a takedown and two-point nearfall with 40 seconds remaining.

Game, set and match.

“I felt pretty comfortable when I was in on that leg and I really didn’t feel like I was in danger,” Patten said. “So I just hung onto it and slowly worked my way up the leg.”

He makes it sound so simple, doesn’t he? Believe me, it wasn’t, but when you’ve been wrestling for most of your life like Patten has then even the most torturous moments seem routine.

“People that haven’t had matches like this before would bail out of things like that,” Patten said. “But I’ve wrestled for a long time and in that situation I knew I needed to get those points to stay in the match.”

It was storybook. Patten was able to avenge one of his three losses this season — White stopped him 4-2 at the Allie Morrison Duals in Marshalltown on Jan. 8, the day Patten broke the Lynx career wins record, no less — and now he has the chance to put last year’s disappointment in the rearview mirror.

You remember the state finals last year, right? Patten was overmatched by 125-pound stud Levi Wolfensperger of Denver-Tripoli, who pinned the then Webster City junior to claim his second state crown before he took off for the University of Northern Iowa to become a Panther.

Patten has another stud this year, too. Marlin is a beast, and he’s turned some very good wrestlers into less than mortal this week. Fifth-ranked Keegan Mumma of ADM — the same Keegan Mumma who upset Patten 4-3 last month — didn’t get out of the second period in the opening round. Marlin cranked over Benton Community’s Dustin Shinkle for the fall in 35 seconds in the quarters, and Charles City’s Tyler Mitchell gave up 16 points in a technical fall loss in the semifinals.

So, yeah, Marlin is good.

“He’s definitely the best of the best,” Patten said of Marlin. “I’m going to have to go out there and give him everything I’ve got.”

Will Saturday night be the perfect fairytale ending for Patten?

“The next 24 hours I’m going to do everything I can to get ready for that match,” he said. “I’m going to leave it all out there, that’s for sure.”


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DFJ photo by Troy Banning