Commentary: Marion is Iowa’s man at 141

BY RYAN YOUNG | JANUARY 18, 2010 7:30 AM

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Two months ago, Montell Marion wasn’t even wrestling Division-III competition. He was a backup, waiting for his turn despite beating teammate Dan LeClere, 11-7, during the Hawkeyes’ wrestle-off finals in early November.

Eleven months ago, he picked up a suspension after allegedly shattering two car windows with a chair while under the influence of alcohol in Indianola.

When police later approached him following the incident, Marion reportedly lied in order to avoid retribution and remain on scholarship.

Now he’s shutting down elite-level title contenders? Bringing 10,967 Iowa fans to their feet in Carver-Hawkeye Arena?

Seems as though head coach Tom Brands has found his man at 141 — a diamond in the rough.
What a difference a year makes.

“I feel like I’m the No. 1 guy at 141 nationwide,” Marion said after Iowa’s 19-16 win over Oklahoma State on Jan. 16.

It’s an admirably arrogant statement. But arrogance is a virtue inside the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex, a concrete and foam spawning ground for Olympic and world champions.

The meek and mild only get broken. Hawkeye grapplers don’t get to the NCAA championship finals thinking they’re the bubblegum pop princes of college wrestling.

And they certainly don’t get to crack the Iowa line-up without a mean streak and a sense of superiority.

Granted, Brands may not have been immediately willing to publicly anoint Marion a starter after he recorded a 3:28 fall against Northern Iowa’s Trent Washington five weeks ago.

The prospect of a three-man race at 141 among Marion, LeClere, and former NCAA finalist Joe Slaton intrigued many mat maniacs at the time.

But Marion won the public wrestle-off, 8-3, at the Midlands Championships soon after, and Slaton has been absent from the competitive picture in dual meets.

“A” plus “B” minus “C” theoretically leaves the sophomore from Des Moines as the go-to guy, which he was primarily slightly more than a week ago at the Cliff Keen National Dual in Cedar Falls. Taking the mat in three of Iowa’s four bouts, Marion won two by decision.

Then a 42-second pin by Minnesota’s Mike Thorn in the tournament semifinals forced Brands to pit LeClere against Iowa State’s Dalton Jensen with a third-straight National Duals title on the line.

Any ongoing dispute became insignificant, though, once Marion ousted Oklahoma State’s No. 5-ranked Jamal Parks, 4-0.

Three years removed from the Iowa state high-school wrestling tournament, he may not be polished, but he sure knows how to win.

“When he wrestles solid and focused and free and not trying to take on the whole world, he’s doggone tough,” Brands said. “I love him.”

So does Oklahoma State head coach John Smith, who after the dual legitimately questioned whether Parks is a better wrestler than Marion.

That’s exactly what he wants, too.

“You know, I’m throwing my hat in the ring, and I’m ready to go after that title,” he said.

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