There are few athletes out there who are able to simply step up their game when it's needed the most.
Newton senior Derrick Hurt is one of them.
Despite not being ranked in Class 3A at 285 pounds all season, Hurt went above and beyond expectations at the state wrestling meet by finishing on the podium and sixth place, and strengthen his legacy of performing at the highest level on top of it.
"I'm very happy," Hurt said. "Before my last match I knew it was my last one, and I already accomplished everything I wanted to do, so I just went out there and tried my best. What happened happened, and overall I still had a really good weekend."
Hurt first established himself as a state competitor last season when he surprised the field at the Drake Relays by finishing second in the shot put. He then followed that up with another second-place shot put performance at the state meet and earned all state honors in football this fall.
"When you get to that next level, especially at state, it really brings it out of you," Hurt said. "For me to wrestle this way and make it to the podium, it's just a really good feeling."
Facing an uphill battle after losing his first match of the tournament, Hurt scored a pin over Ottumwa's Kevin Childs in the first round of the consolation bracket and outlasted Webster City's Landon Johnson 6-4 to secure his place on the podium on Friday. In the process, he also hit the 30-win mark he was hoping to hit going into the tournament.
"I wrestled him before so I knew what I had to do," Hurt said of his match with Johnson. "He's not a very offensive wrestler, so I knew if I could get a takedown early I'd have a chance to win it. I just worked my stuff after that takedown and the plan worked out how it was supposed to."
Hurt’s final win of the tournament came against Bettendorf’s Raekwon Jefferson. After Jefferson gave Hurt an opening, he took advantage and put Jefferson on his back in one minute exactly. That win insured at least a sixth-place finish and guaranteed two more matches on Saturday.
“Derrick wrestled right up there with the best of them,” Newton coach Bill Reed said. “We talked all year about not worrying about rankings and if you go out and wrestle hard, good things can happen. When he looks at the people he’ll be on the podium with, which is a pretty special group, I think he’ll be pretty happy.”
Although Saturday didn’t go as planned for Hurt, his previous work allowed him some solace after his defeats of a 5-1 decision in the consolation semifinals and 9-0 major decision in the fifth-place match. However, he admitted his nerves had calmed down by that point, especially after how they were at the beginning of the tournament.
“I was a little prepared with certain aspects of making it to state, but this was a whole different story compared to track,” Hurt said. “It’s a completely different mentality and I thought I had it the first day coming up here, but walking in before my first match, I was really nervous.”
At Saturday night’s grand march and medal ceremonies, Hurt stood with the best wrestles in the state, even if he wasn’t considered among them in terms of rankings throughout the year. Considered to be Newton’s only three-state athlete in recent memory, people are likely starting to recognize his name. He’ll likely have another chance to compete on the big stage with spring track right around the corner.
“I can’t be happier for Derrick and the way he’s finishing things out,” Reed said. “He made the 30-win club, he’s a place holder so he’s on our wall, and just by coming in here and doing what he did this weekend, he really elevated himself and set himself up for a great spring track season.”
Like any true athletic perfectionist, Hurt remained stubborn about his finish. Although placing sixth in wrestling didn’t have the sting that taking second at state track did for him last year, Hurt was still able to find something to improve on.
Then again, the good ones usually do.
“It would’ve been nicer to end my career on a win, but not everyone gets that luxury,” Hurt said. “Being able to come here and place is a really good way to end it.”