State wrestling: Greene County's McKinley Robbins honors his late brother through his wrestling
Grant Robbins was a spunky kid. That’s what his older brother McKinley remembers.
He was scrappy and never backed down and fearless, whether it was soccer, baseball or even wrestling.
“He was not afraid of anybody,” McKinley Robbins continued. “I try to do that, but nobody will ever be as mean as he was.”
Robbins, of Greene County, has done a dang good job trying. He advanced to the Class 2A state quarterfinals Thursday night after a 9-4 win over Davis County’s Dawson Townsend at 120 pounds. He’s now 31-0 this season, and 68-2 for his career.
Six years ago, his younger brother Grant died in an ATV crash. He was on a four-wheeler near the family’s farm in Scranton when it flipped over and trapped him. He was just eight years old.
Robbins was 10 at the time, and is now a sophomore at Greene County. He reached the state finals at 106 pounds last year, and is back again as the 2-seed this week. And his brother is never far from his mind.
“It’s flown by,” Robbins said. “It seems like just yesterday he was punching me and trying to beat the crap out of me. He was definitely a scrapper.”
Grant loved wrestling just as much as his older brother. He was a member of the Rambler Wrestling Club, and took pride in his medal earned from the PeeWee State tournament a month before the accident. He was just in second grade.
McKinley Robbins and his family have been enveloped with support from the wrestling community ever since. Robbins is a member of T.J. Sebolt’s successful wrestling club, which recently relocated to Jefferson, which is about 20 minutes from their farm in Scranton. Sebolt named his wrestling facility the Grant Robbins Fieldhouse.
IAWrestle hosted its annual Night of Conflict event last September on Grant’s birthday. Event organizer Tony Hager reserved an empty chair for Grant right in front of the mat. Robbins secured a come-from-behind pin that night over Carter Schmidt, a Montana state champ.
“It’s awesome, just knowing that it’s making an impact on a lot of people, and it really makes a big impact on my family,” Robbins said. “I love putting on a show for the people that show support and love watching me.”
More from Day 1 of state wrestling
- Class 3A: Ames' Greenlee comes from long line of successful heavyweights
- Class 1A: Logan-Magnolia three-time finalist Briar Reisz still after first title
- Matches to watch: Analysis of Friday's top quarterfinals in each class
- Photos: Every picture from the 2021 state tournament
- Updates: Opening sessions, as they happened
Robbins has produced a stellar season thus far. Of his 31 victories this season, 21 have been pins. He’s been fueled by last year’s loss in the state finals, a 5-0 decision to Webster City’s Camron Phetxoumphone.
To win this year, he’ll have to navigate a bracket that includes multiple past state medalists, like West Burlington-Notre Dame’s Blaine Frazier and Central DeWitt’s Keaton Zeimet, among others. Those three alone have a combined record of 111-5.
It will be a tall task, but Robbins is more than up for the challenge.
“It’s going to be tough,” he said, “but I think if I stick to the ways that I’ve been trained to beat the crap out of people, I think I’ll get it done.”
In short, Robbins needs to be scrappy and spunky and fearless — just like Grant.
West Delaware seizes team lead
West Delaware was the team to beat in Class 2A this week — and that challenge just became a lot tougher for everybody else after Thursday's opening round.
The Hawks had firm control of the team race heading into Friday's second round, with 36 points. That's twice as many as second-place Independence (18). Assumption, Crestwood and Osage are all tied for third with 17 points.
All 11 Hawk wrestlers that qualified for this week are still alive. Eight advanced to the quarterfinals — Carson Less (113), Reilly Dolan (132), Logan Peyton (145), Jadyn Peyton (152), Jared Voss (170), Cael Meyer (182), Wyatt Voelker (195), Carson Petlon (285) — while the other three came back with wins in the wrestlebacks.
Of course, West Delaware had the lead after the first day last year, then Friday happened and Osage surged ahead. But the Hawks finished with six first-round pins and added another in the wrestlebacks.
If they keep wrestling like that, it's going to be hard for anybody to run them down. Assumption has all five of its qualifiers in the quarterfinals, while Independence, Osage and Crestwood all have four.
Aaron Graves, the dual-sport king
It's been a busy week for Aaron Graves.
On Tuesday, the Southeast Valley junior scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds in the Jaguars' 89-67 win over Greene County in substate basketball play.
On Thursday, Graves recorded a first-period pin over Greene County's Sawyer Schiltz to advance to the quarterfinals at 285 pounds.
That's some extreme dual-sporting.
It gets better, too, because Graves, an Iowa football commit, has been doing this all season.
He's played in all 22 basketball games this winter, averaging 13.4 points (on 49.8% shooting) and 6.2 rebounds per game, while also compiling a 31-3 record on the mat.
Graves actually had a big decision to make on Thursday: basketball or wrestling?
"We sat down and talked about it, and we just decided to come here," Graves said. "My basketball team, they were really gracious about and really supportive."
Graves won on Thursday, and is now one win away from finishing on the podium.
(The Jags' boys' basketball team lost to Roland-Story, 58-49.)
Class 2A saw the fewest pins
There's a case to be made the Class 2A state tournament might be the most competitive this week. On Thursday, it actually had the fewest total number of pins after the opening session: just 69, slightly fewer than 3A (73) and significantly fewer than 1A (94).
Only seven pins occurred in 60 seconds or fewer in 2A. Independence's Brandon O'Brien had the fastest, in 25 seconds. That was the fifth-fastest across all classes. (Pella's Kody Huisman, in 3A, had the fastest pin Thursday, in 18 seconds.)
There's also this: There were 10 wrestlers in Class 2A that were pinned in the first round and then rebounded with pins in the wrestlebacks:
- West Delaware's Brayden Maury, at 106
- Woodward-Granger's Riece Graham, at 132
- Spirit Lake Park's Zach Jensen, at 152
- West Liberty's Drake Collins, at 160
- Camanche's Logan Waltz, at 170
- Anamosa's Nathan Keating, at 195
- Mid-Prairie's Josh Wallington and Emmetsburg's Jordan Anderson, both at 220
- Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont's Skyler Young and Winterset's Duggan Tolley, both at 285
Prayers up for CPU's Cole Whitehead
Center Point-Urbana's Cole Whitehead had to injury default out of the tournament on Thursday night. He was the 4-seed at 120 pounds, and was leading Central Lyon's Donovan Morales 5-0 in the first round when he hurt his knee.
That stinks. Whitehead is a senior, a two-time state medalist and returning state finalist. He was among the many contenders at 120 pounds this week.
Here's hoping for a speedy recovery.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.