South Tama County now has it's 12th State Champion. Junior, Isaac Judge earned the Class 2A 152-pound title on Saturday evening in front of a crowd of thousands at Wells Fargo Arena.
"It hasn't quite sunk in yet," Judge said. "I'm still ready for the match. I'm ready to wrestle another match. It feels good. I feel proud. But next year now."
Judge joins the ranks of some elite company including Steve Strellner (1969), Stacy Hand (1987), Tyrone Roberts (1989), Wes Hand (1995), Matt Hand (1996), Paul Bradley (2001), Chris Harrison (2002), Bryce Chyma (2003), Nathan Van Dyke (2003), Kyle Lux (2011) and Erik Lux (2012). This was also a special win as Judge's title came within the same weight class that his head coach, Nate Van Dyke, captured 14 years ago.
South Tama junior has his arm raised in victory after capturing the Class 2A -pound State Championship on Saturday, February 18 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Chronicle Photo/Allison Graham
"When I grew up, I was watching Kyle and Erik Lux all the time," Judge said. "They were awesome to watch. It's pretty great to win a state championship, same as my coach, and the people I looked up to. It's really cool. Really fun."
The weekend began for Judge on Thursday with an opening round bout against Sam McMillin (Bedford/Lenox). Judge pinned McMillin in the second period for his only pin of the tournament. All eyes were on Judge's Friday quarterfinal match as it would be a No. 1 versus No. 2 showdown between Judge and top-ranked Joe Kelly (West Liberty). The two met earlier in the season and a misstep by Judge allowed Kelly to stick him. Judge came out quick and aggressive, dominating the match, finishing with a 10-2 major decision win.
"That was the plan all year long," said head coach Nate Van Dyke. "That's just classic Isaac Judge. Going out there and getting after it, whistle to whistle. Wrestling on the edge and outworking people. The takedowns and the scores were coming easier in the third period."
Judge then faced No. 4 ranked John Tuttle (Spirit Lake) in the semifinal round. Judge got the win 5-2 decision victory to move on to the finals. In the finals, it was Judge against Trey Van Weelden (Washington) who earned his finals spot following wins against 10th ranked Derek Fox (Osage) and 9th ranked Cael Krueger (Denver-Tripoli). This was yet another rematch for Judge, but this time he was the favorite after defeating Van Weelden earlier in January at the East Marshall Duals. There was never a moment in the state finals match that Judge did not appear in control. He methodically picked Van Weelden apart and finished with a 7-0 decision victory for his first state title.
"I'm super proud of him," Van Dyke said. "He put a lot of work into this. Wrestling is a sport where if you want to be a state place winner, you have to work like a champ. There's a lot of people with that goal. You work the same, either way, and you never know if it's going to go your way. So, when it does, it feels pretty good."
Following the win Judge was true to form as he is rarely a showy celebrator. He removed his bands, tossed them in the air and after a stop at the head table he jumped into his coaches arms for a hug. He also turned to his family and gave them a classic, "hang loose" gesture before running off the mat. It's a mantra the team adopted during the 2016 postseason.
"We don't say it much during the regular season, but when we get to the postseason, we always say, 'Hang loose,'" Judge said. "Because everyone always seems so uptight all around us. So, hang loose just makes me feel better. It makes us feel better. When I did that, we did it. I relaxed the whole time, we stayed the course, we wrestled a smart match. We did it. So, hang loose.
In fact keeping things light hearted is a key element for this group of Trojan wrestlers. You can often find them playing charades or some kind of game that has them all laughing before tournaments start. At the hotel the team took ??? place in their annual ping pong tournament which was seeded from the year before. Keeping things loose is important but they know when it's time to go to work. And work is exactly what got Judge to where he is today.
"It comes from training," Judge said. "It comes from the offseason and it comes from working hard when you don't want to. Working on drilling, that's the biggest thing. And just keeping your head up."
For more results from the State Tournament see the Tama News Herald on Friday, Feb. 24