DES MOINES - It wasn't the story book ending that Erik Lux was hoping for Saturday, but his high school wrestling career did come to a close on a happy ending.
The top-ranked wrestler at 170-pounds from South Tama entered his final Class 2A state tournament with an unblemished record as he sought a second-straight state title. After losing a shocking opening match, the STC senior made the best of what some would call a bad situation. He was hoping to finish atop the podium Saturday night, but the level-headed Trojan was pleased to win his final match and take third Saturday afternoon.
"I still wrestled well and I'm happy with that," Lux said. "I wish I could redo it, but it's whatever."
South Tama senior Erik Lux, right, takes down Cash Wilcke of OA-BCIG during the 170-pound third-place match at the Iowa State Wrestling Tournament at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Lux won the match by a score of 8-2 to finish his final state tournament with a 5-1 record. The victory over Wilcke was also the 150th win of his career as a Trojan. Lux finished his career 150-21.
The meet which Lux had been waiting for all season had finally come Thursday. Unfortunately, it started rocky for the STC senior. He faced Grinnell's Jack Leshen, who entered the tournament ranked No. 8 at 170 with a 41-5 record, in the opening round. Leshen built a 3-1 lead before Lux tied it with a take down with more than a minute remaining in the match.
Lux allowed Leshen to stand up, giving his opponent an escape point and 4-3 lead. Shortly before the match ended, Leshen took Lux down. Leshen won the match 6-3, knocking out the bracket favorite.
"He had high goals but everyone is tough when you get down here," coach Nate Van Dyke said Thursday night. "Crazy stuff happens. He wasn't the only defending champion to lose today."
A much-more fired up Lux came out and wrestled his second match of the night. He dominated his match against Spencer's Blaine Johnson and won with a pin in the second round (3:04). That win capped off Lux's Thursday night and kept him alive for a third-place finish, which was the best he could earn after the opening loss.
"You've got nothing to lose when you're in that position," Van Dyke said. "He went to win a state title, so he's got nothing to lose. All you can do is open up and wrestle to the best of your ability. Those last two matches were the best of his tournament."
On Friday, a motivated Lux won both of his matches with ease. He started the day with a 5-2 lead after the opening two minutes against Josh Bauer of Hampton-Dumont. Lux went on to an easy 11-4 win, earning himself a spot on the awards podium. Later in the day, Lux beat third-ranked Aaron Crossett of Knoxville 10-5 in the same fashion that he won most of his 45 matches before the state tournament.
"There is a bit of anger in there," Lux said. "I'm definitely wanting that third place and I have to push matches to get that done.
"I have to keep pushing the pace," he said. "Also have to keep scoring and don't be happy with what you have."
Van Dyke was happy to see his star senior wrestle like he had all season - aggressive and fast.
"That's how he always wrestles," Van Dyke said. "He always wrestles aggressive. I think he can open up a bit more and relax now. He's doing what he has to do right now. He's not happy, but he's a tough kid. He's got a lot of character. He's not going to give up, that's for sure."
Friday's second victory set up a chance for redemption. Leshen lost the semifinal match to the eventual runner-up. That loss sent him to the consolation bracket paired up with Lux once again. The Trojans went to bed on Friday night knowing what lie ahead Saturday morning.
"Oh yeah, he was ready for him," Van Dyke said. "That's what he wanted. That's the matchup we wanted. It makes you feel a little bit better, but it's still going to hurt."
Lux got his redemption. He dominated Leshen in their second match of the tournament. In fact, he shut out Leshen with an 8-0 victory.
"It's pretty nice to wrestle a match that I know I should have won the first time," Lux said. "I just proved to everybody that I should have won. You have to accept it and just live with it."
Lux and his coach learned how to attack Leshen after their first match. It was a match they were ready for Saturday morning.
"We know he tried to slow the match down," Van Dyke said. "We thought we were in better shape, so we tried to push the pace. We kind of fell into the way (Lesham) likes to wrestle the first time, but he was definitely ready for it the second time. We just had to push the pace the whole match and wrestle our style."
Lux followed that match with another victory. He defeated Cash Wilcke of OA-BCIG to claim third place in his fourth and final trip to state. It was his final match as a Trojan, but it was also his 150th career win as an STC wrestler.
"A lot of people wish they could have gotten third," Lux said. "I'm happy with it, but a little unsatisfied with it at the same time."
His career comprised 150-21 record, four state tournament appearances, a third-place finish and a state title."
"He bounced back very well," Van Dyke said. "He was very mature about it. A half hour after it, he's been very good since then. He showed a lot of character. It's the best that I could expect."
When asked how he would feel on the awards podium, Lux was honest about his final state tournament.
"Sweet and sour," Lux said of his emotions on the podium. "I'll feel good that I placed, but a little sour taste knowing I could have done better."