DES MOINES - MHS senior Pedro Gomez picked a perfect time to ride someone out for the first time this season.
With the score tied at 2 after three periods and two overtime sessions, top-ranked Gomez had to hold down third-ranked Jake Scanlan of Southeast Polk for 30 seconds.
So if he accomplished something that had eluded him all season, he would advance to his first-ever championship match.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
A spent Marshalltown High School senior heavyweight Pedro Gomez hangs onto head coach Mike Mann after defeating Johnston’s Jake Scanlan in the Class 3A semifinals Friday night at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Gomez is the first MHS finalist since 2010.
Gomez denied Scanlan on his feet two different times, using a death grip and a bear hug, and the ride out clinched a shot at the 285-pound championship Friday night during the Class 3A semifinals at the Iowa High School State Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Arena.
"It was my last chance, and it's go big or go home," said Gomez, who improved to 36-3 on the year. "I was not going to let him go. And it feels great. The hard work finally paid off."
MHS coach Mike Mann had a bad feeling early in the match when Scanlan won the initial flip to start the second period. That meant that Scanlan had the chance to score first, which would give him the advantage in a sudden victory, final 30-second scenario.
"It is your worst fear that things like that won't go your way," Mann said. "The flip didn't go our way and things didn't look good. But it is awesome to see something you knew Pedro had come through. He has never ridden someone out before. We found out what he had tonight. That was all heart."
Gomez will face Council Bluffs Lewis Central's Zach Renshaw in the championship match tonight. The championship finals begin at 7 p.m. inside Wells Fargo Arena.
Renshaw, ranked No. 6, beat Cedar Rapids Prairie's Andrew Netolicky in their semifinal. Netolicky is ranked No. 7 and is 1-1 against Gomez this year. Gomez and Renshaw have never met.
"It's probably better that we face someone we haven't faced," Mann said. "It kind of lets us start fresh."
Gomez proved Friday night that he can beat anyone at any time. His back was clearly against the wall against Scanlan but a strong effort in the closing seconds pushed him through to the finals, while Scanlan once again came up short of his goal of winning a state title.
Scanlan was seventh in 2011 and fourth in 2012.
"It is Pedro's time," Mann said. "He is doing everything we thought he could do. We brought one guy here and he is taking us all the way to the championship match. That's really cool."
Both wrestlers had no trouble scoring points off their escapes in the second and third periods and both got out rather easily in the second overtime session. That is why the advantage was clearly with Scanlan heading into the final 30 seconds.
The Bobcat senior improved to 7-0 all-time against Scanlan, who started his high school career at Johnston before transferring to Southeast Polk heading into his junior year.
"I stayed mentally tough," Gomez said. "This is my last chance to climb the podium."
While Gomez was mentally tough, Mann was a nervous wreck.
"The scenarios in my head are always negative because I always beat guys and beat guys and then they beat me when it counted," he said. "I never won the one that counted. But Pedro got it done today."
Renshaw is 48-3 on the year. Southeast Polk leads the team standings with 137.5 points, while Bettendorf is second with 117. Waverly-Shell Rock (86), Cedar Rapids Prairie (68) and Linn-Mar (58) round out the top five. The consolation semifinals and finals will begin at 10 a.m. today. The grand march kicks off at 6 p.m. and the finals will begin after that - around 7 p.m.