“My mom decided I was going to play basketball or wrestle because she didn’t want me sitting at home all winter. I decided I better wrestle and I fell in love,” Gage Linahon said.
And that’s how Newton High senior Gage Linahon’s wrestling career began in seventh grade at Newton’s Berg Middle School. Linahon’s career moves forward from high school to college after the four-time state tournament qualifier signed a national letter of intent last week.
Linahon has signed to wrestle for NCAA Division III Central College in Pella next year. He is coming off a 33-2 senior season with Newton and as the Iowa Class 3A 220-pound state tournament runner-up.
“It was a tough choice between Central and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. I think both programs are great,” Linahon said. “I really like Coach (Eric) Van Kley at Central and he’s just a good guy. Central is a little closer to home and I can come back and still be a Cardinal.”
Linahon is following Newton standout wrestlers Duncan Lee and Jaise Gulling into the Dutch wrestling program.
Lee just graduated from Central after having a tremendous senior season for the Dutch, and going 27-6, winning a NCAA D III regional championship at 285 to qualify for the national tournament but didn’t get to compete because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Gulling, a 2019 Newton graduate, is on the Dutch team listed at 285.
“Duncan just graduated so the heavyweight spot is open and I’m hoping to fill the heavyweight spot and have a good season next year,” Linahon said. “I’ve met a lot of the wrestlers and I think I’ll fit in good with the team. I think I can be a strong leader for them and work toward becoming an All-American.”
Linahon finished his senior campaign for Newton wrestling in the Iowa Class 3A 220-pound state championship match in February. Linahon faced fellow senior Brayden Wolf of Waverly-Shell Rock for the third time in the 2019-20 season.
They were 1-1 against each other with Linahon winning a 3A district championship title in overtime the week before against Wolf.
“The finals didn’t go my way — it was 8-6 — and the match with him the week before did go my way. Taking second place left a taste in my mouth and I definitely want more,” Linahon said. “I’m looking forward to wrestling in college and getting to the national level.”
Linahon, who became an Eagle Scout as a sophomore in high school, claimed his 100th match win on Senior Night when he pinned Dallas Center-Grimes’ Colin Kakacek in 36 seconds. He opened his senior season as a Cardinal by winning his first-ever tournament — taking the 220-pound gold medal at the Newton Cardinal Classic.
Linahon’s second tournament title came a weekend after earning his 100th career win. He was the 2020 Little Hawkeye Conference 220-pound champion then captured the Class 3A District 8 220 title to earn his fourth straight trip to the 3A state tournament.
Linahon approached his senior wrestling season and his fourth state tournament appearance as he did his freshman year at Newton.
“I’m going to have fun and take it all in,” Linahon said a day after finding out he would be competing in the 2017 Iowa Class 3A State Wrestling Tournament. He had finished third at district his freshman year and thought he was done for the season.
The Iowa High School Athletic Association informed Newton late the next Monday afternoon that Linahon would be competing. The IHSAA told Newton head coach Andy Swedenhjelm the second-place finisher was unable to wrestle at the state tournament.
Linahon’s first state tournament went quick as he lost his first two matches. Linahon finished second in the 220-pound division at the district meet as a sophomore and went 1-2 at the state meet.
Linahon broke through as a junior — taking second again at district to get back to the state tournament. He did the work on the mat at state to win the third-place medal in the 3A 220-pound division.
Following his win over Wolf, who was ranked No. 1, at the 2020 district tournament, Linahon was ready to take on his fourth state tournament. He was ranked No. 4 but the victory secured the Newton senior the No. 1 seed at the 3A state tournament.
“It means a lot to go all four years. I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Linahon said. “Last year I learned if I took good shots for takedowns, good things happen. I’m going into state just like I did this season — go out and compete the best I can and just have fun.”
Linahon said he went out every match and wrestled his best throughout the season. He said he was able to win a lot of matches and he tried to put a lot of points in his matches.
“I love wrestling because it’s only you out there. Yes, it is a team sport but at the end of the day it is an individual sport. The hard work I put in directly reflects what I get out of it on the mat,” Linahon said.
Linahon finished with 108 career wins as a Newton Cardinal. He claimed two state medals in four state tournament appearances — all coming at the 220-pound weight class.
Linahon’s two losses as a senior were to Wolf (39-1). He was the school’s first finalist since Bryce Skaggs lost a 160-pound championship match in 2008.
Linahon is a three-year starter on the Newton football team along the offensive line. He earned Class 3A third-team all-state honors as an offensive line as a senior and Linahon was a Class 3A District 7 All-District offensive lineman as a junior and a senior. He was also earned All-District 7 Academic honors as a senior.
“Wrestling plays a big part in football and football plays a part in wrestling. With wrestling you learn about leverage and a double-leg (takedown) is essentially a football tackle,” Linahon said. “All the summer workouts and football conditioning gave me a jumpstart into my wrestling season.”
Linahon pointed out that Central has a great strength and conditioning program.
“I’ve been blessed at Newton to have Coach Swede as my wrestling coach and my strength and condition coach. If I went somewhere that didn’t have an upper weight coach and didn’t have a strong strength and condition program, I would have taken a step back in that regard,” Linahon said.
“And it’s the family atmosphere at Central I really like. All the guys care about you and I’m excited about this opportunity to wrestle there.”
Linahon is the son of Tim and Lori Linahon of Newton. He said he was undecided on a major at Central but was leaning toward a business degree.
Contact Jocelyn Sheets at
641-792-3121 ext. 6535