CLINTON — Isaac Larkin and Ethan Barry are headed to Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines for the state wrestling tournament this week, and they’re glad they’re headed there together.
The two are not just teammates — they’re good friends outside of the wrestling room as well. Just ask them what formed their friendship:
“Definitely because of wrestling,” Larkin said.
The two met in middle school when they were both wrestling, and formed their bond over the sport.
“He was a phenomenal wrestler, and I didn’t know much starting out,” Barry said. Barry is a year younger than Larkin. “I watched him and I picked up on a lot of things I still use today from him.”
But that’s the kind of bond the River Kings have. In fact, it’s the kind of bond wrestlers have. Between the cutting weight and the grueling season and the mental trials, they become closer than you would expect from such an individual sport.
“Wrestling is a ‘you’ sport, but there’s also a bond there that no other sport can compare to. I’d rather go out on the mat with my brothers there to support me than anything else,” Barry said. There’s a bond that wrestling will always have.
“There are ups and downs but your teammates are always there. Isaac has always been there. Some matches don’t go my way, I get out of my comfort zone but he’s there and the Chapman boys are there. They always push me to get better and work on things I need to improve on.”
So, they are headed to state together. It’s been an interesting road for both of them. Larkin was a state qualifier his freshman year, but then didn’t go out as a sophomore.
“I’ve wrestled since kindergarten so I’ve been doing this for a while. I quit last year—I just needed a year off,” Larkin said. “I was getting really tired of it. I needed that break and came back out this year and have wrestled the best I have wrestled in a long time.”
He has had a phenomenal return. He was the champion at 138 pounds at Western Dubuque on Saturday at the district meet, but earlier this season he broke the Clinton High School record for fastest tech fall. That beat Dan Knight’s record of 1:12.
“It felt amazing. It was like, I couldn’t believe I did it because it hasn’t been broken in so many years,” Larkin said. “It was fantastic to know that I beat the record.”
“It’s been more than I expected,” Larkin said of his season. “I didn’t expect to come back and do this well. I expected to be rusty and stuff, but I have surpassed everything I thought would happen.”
Making a return trip to Wells Fargo Arena, he can’t wait to experience it again.
“When you’re down on the mats and look up there are so many seats and people, it’s unbelievable,” Larkin said. “I’m definitely excited. I’m trying to take it one match at a time. The nerves are there because freshman year I lost the match before placing. I keep telling myself I got this and I can do it.”
Barry, a sophomore, is making his first trip out to Des Moines to wrestle. He has been out there before when his brother, Trevor Barry, qualified. Trevor was in the stands on Saturday to see Ethan qualify for the state meet.
“It was nerve wracking. I was nervous, like what if I didn’t make it,” Barry said about districts on Saturday. “We were joking around and he said ‘Oh, I made it my sophomore year, are you going to?’ I just pushed that aside and focused on one match at a time.”
There were some bragging rights associated with the sport in the family, certainly, but Barry credits his involvement in wrestling to his brother.
“The reason I started wrestling was because I always looked up to my brother growing up, he was my role model,” Barry said. “If it wasn’t for him I would not be where I am today. He pushed me to the point I am. I don’t know if I was always sure about wrestling, but he got me into it and I will always thank him for that.”
The youngest of three, he said his brothers helped make him as competitive as he is. Plus, he’s seen the atmosphere at Wells Fargo Arena as a spectator and knows he is mentally prepared to experience from the mat.
“I’ve prepared myself, because I knew after watching my brother that there are a lot of people there and I didn’t really want that to affect me,” Barry said. “I think I am prepared for this weekend.”
The state meet begins on Thursday and runs through Saturday.