KINGSPORT - Thinking big paid off for Iowa Black again.
The wrestling juggernaut from the Hawkeye State swept the final three matches, rallying to defeat the Michigan Bad Boyz 38-34 and claim its fourth consecutive national title at the Hertz AAU Wrestling National Elementary Duals.
John Shiltz, one of the Iowa Black coaches, says winning this tournament never gets old.
"We love it," Shiltz said. "It's youth wrestling at its best here in Tennessee.
"I wouldn't miss this tournament. I would pull my kid out of another national tournament to be here. Most definitely, the best of the best wrestle here in Tennessee."
This battle between the best of the best came down to the heavier weights.
The Michigan Bad Boyz recorded a pin in the 125-pound match to take a 34-22 lead. Iowa Black notched a technical fall at 126, setting the stage for the defending champions' strongest wrestlers to shine.
"The heavier kids are most definitely the strength of this team," Shiltz noted.
That evaluation held true as the finals came to a close. Brenndan Koerich made a pin in the 148-pound match to whittle Michigan's lead to 34-32 - and place the outcome of the entire dual match on the broad shoulders of each team's heavyweight grappler.
Brian Grimes pulled it off for Iowa, pinning his opponent in 1:41 to spark a joyous celebration.
"I think he might be undefeated in this tournament," Shiltz said of Grimes.
Big comebacks in the heavier weights are nothing new to Iowa Black.
Shiltz said his team rallied from a 32-point deficit in an earlier tournament this season. On this day, he tabbed an unexpected victory by Hunter Drake at 45 pounds as a crucial factor in the final outcome.
It was an unfortunate flashback for the Michigan squad, which lost last year's national championship in exactly the same fashion - with Iowa rallying late and winning the crown with a pin in the heavyweight match.
"I'm proud of my boys. They wrestled tough," Michigan Bad Boyz coach Ty Eicher said. "We win as a team and we lose as a team."
Even carrying the late 12-point lead, Eicher didn't feel completely comfortable with his team's situation.
"You never underestimate Iowa's heavier weights," Eicher said.
Twenty-four teams turned out for this year's national duals. After pool competition, they were separated into three eight-team brackets.
The Indiana Red Cobras won the Silver bracket, besting Iowa Gold in the finals. Georgia won the Bronze, topping Team Tennessee in the finals.
Kingsport's Parker Begley, a member of the Team Tennessee roster, captured a copper medal, tying for fourth place in the 75-pound weight class.