Muller of Osage wins state title in memory of late cousin, coaching staff | Northern Iowa High School Wrestling

DES MOINES — Brent Jennings jumped in place. Barrett Muller was in disbelief.

In the space of 10 seconds, Osage’s 220 pounds went from his belly down to South Tama’s Gavin Bridgewater on Saturday night.






Osage head coach Brent Jennings hugs Barrett Muller after his win over South Tama County’s Gavin Bridgewater in the championship round of the Iowa State Wrestling Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena from Des Moines on Saturday.


CHRIS ZOELLER Personal Mail Photographer


Muller took Bridgewater’s arm out, knocked him down, then set up for the 3-minute, 9-second pin to win his first career state championship and experience a celebration like no other at Wells Fargo Arena.

As he walked off the mat, the Osage fan section broke into a chant, repeatedly saying “Barrett.”

From third place in districts the past two years to state champion.

“It’s honestly surreal,” Muller said. “I felt it go high on my hips. I just grabbed it, pulled it and flattened it. It’s pure excitement. Let it fly.”

There were more emotions for Muller than just the euphoria of a state championship. He fought all season for his cousin who died last year.

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Barrett Muller of Osage celebrates after defeating Gavin Bridgewater of South Tama County during the championship round of the Iowa State Wrestling Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.


CHRIS ZOELLER Personal Mail Photographer


Muller’s cousin was a wrestler himself and pushed Muller to become the person he is today. Muller thought of him the whole way until the final bell rang.

“He was one of the most successful wrestlers in my family,” he said. “It just means a lot to do that to him.”

Jennings, the Osage head coach, had been on Muller’s ear since he entered the Green Devils hall. Now that the state championship was filled, Jennings could only smile.

He was hushed up talking about Muller’s growth after the semi-final win over Webster City’s Jaxon Cherry. He let out all the feelings in the corner.

“I knew he was capable, he’s a hell of a wrestler,” Jennings said. “He’s taking advantage of the opportunities that come his way. Guy is going behind his back, he’s probably not getting away with it.”

Osage ended the night with two state champions.







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Barrett Muller of Osage celebrates after defeating Gavin Bridgewater of South Tama County in the championship round of the Iowa State Wrestling Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday.


CHRIS ZOELLER Personal Mail Photographer


After consecutive trips until Saturday evening, Nicholas Fox finally found himself on the top step of the podium.

He used three takedowns, including an average replay from Carl Barkema of Hampton-Dumont-CAL in the first period, to triumph 7-2 in the 2A 160-pound final.

For the first time, Fox showed some emotion. He flinched and cracked a smile afterwards.







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Nicholas Fox of Osage raises his arm after defeating Carl Barkema of Hampton-Dumont-CAL in the championship round of the Iowa State Wrestling Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.


CHRIS ZOELLER Personal Mail Photographer


“I never celebrate because I’m not a state champion yet. Now I’m a state champion,” Fox said. “I just knew that all the hard work I put in over the summer, I just knew I was a better wrestler.”

It was the third meeting between Fox and Barkema. It was the third-period hairpin that pushed Barkema to a section title, and then Fox returned the favor to the districts.

This one was for all the marbles. And Fox wasn’t about to be denied the top spot again.

“I thought I had to stay in better positions, not get so sloppy,” he said. “Just fight smart.”

Barkema tried to turn Fox in the second period, but the wrist slipped and Fox came out. In the third, there was a scramble on the edge and Barkema had his hand hooked on Fox’s ankles.

Fox took out the peg and takedown to ice it.







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Nicholas Fox of Osage takes on Carl Barkema of Hampton-Dumont-CAL in the championship round of the Iowa State Wrestling Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday.


CHRIS ZOELLER Personal Mail Photographer


“I played a good game, he played a better game,” Barkema said.

Jennings called it a “huge relief” that Fox avoided three second-place finishes.

“Barkema is tough, he’s hard to fight,” Jennings said. “We knew we had to score on our feet. It was a hell of a game.”

Barkema ends his career as a three-time state medalist. He went from not even making a semi-final match to finishing second on his last time in an HD-CAL jersey.

And he leaves the program with a few discs.







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Carl Barkema of Hampton-Dumont-CAL takes on Nicholas Fox of Osage in the championship round of the Iowa State Wrestling Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday.


CHRIS ZOELLER Personal Mail Photographer


“I was trying to break them because I wanted to be like the ones holding them,” Barkema said. “Now I’m someone else’s inspiration.”

Bulldogs head coach Patrick Hansen is eager to see what his star wrestler will do if Barkema is given the chance to compete at the senior level or in life in general.

“Once the dust settles, he’ll be such a great individual when he goes out and does anything,” Hansen said. “I bet he will eventually become a millionaire. He’s a nice boy. If he was my son, I’d be so proud of him.”







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Carl Barkema of Hampton-Dumont-CAL takes on Nicholas Fox of Osage in the championship round of the Iowa State Wrestling Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday.


CHRIS ZOELLER Personal Mail Photographer


Muller will likely stay at 220 next year, but Fox is making progress. The question is whether Fox will drop to 170, a weight he struggled with for much of the second half of the season, or drop to 182.

“We’ll see where (Fox) goes. It’s up to him,” Jennings said. “(Barrett) is quite young for his rank. We hope he complements himself and continues to grow stronger.”

Half a point. It was the difference between Osage and Burlington Notre Dame in the 2A team race. The Nikes finished with 109 and the Green Devils recorded 108.5

Notre Dame clinched the tag team title with a major decision win over CJ Walrath in the finals at 182.

“It sucks a lot,” said Chase Thomas, a 152-pound Osage. “Things happen for a reason.”

Still, there was no super sad emption from anyone on the Green Devils during the trophy presentation. Why?

Because all 108.5 points are back next season.

“Next year we’re going to be a pretty tough man,” Thomas said. “We’re going to be super good. We’re going to use that as motivation.”

“We’re going to get better,” added Jennings. “The closet is full.”







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Carl Barkema of Hampton-Dumont-CAL takes on Nicholas Fox of Osage in the championship round of the Iowa State Wrestling Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday.


CHRIS ZOELLER Personal Mail Photographer


To go along with district qualifiers Garrett Tusler (106), Darren Adams (120) and Mac Muller (285), Osage gets Nicholas’ younger brother, Blake Fox.

Jennings said he would start at 120 or 126 in first grade. He and Thomas believe there is something special about Blake.

“I can see it being a quadruple,” Thomas said. “He’s on top.”

“I don’t want to put that on his shoulders,” Jennings added. “The potential is there. It’s quite strong.”

So Osage isn’t going anytime soon. Not with that, he has a comeback and community support that showed up in Des Moines. The 2021-22 version of the Green Devils added another runner-up trophy to the trophy.

The 2022-23 release? Thomas was already claiming it was the title or the bust.

“This summer, we are going to break our butts,” he said. “That will come into play next season.”

Zach Martin is a sports reporter for the Globe Gazette. Contact him by email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @zach_martin95.