DES MOINES – It had been 1,098 days since Creston/O-M’s Kaden Bolton had last wrestled at the Iowa High School Traditional Wrestling Tournament. Thursday, in a return to state, the Panther senior had his sights on taking advantage of his first trip to The Well since his freshman campaign.
The 152-pounder last made a state appearance as one of five Panthers to wrestle at state in 2018, a group which also included current Panther senior Kolby Hulett.
Bolton, then at 113, recalled the experience and the differences Sunday after the conclusion of his second state run, which ended without him placing for the second time.
“Freshman year, I remember it being an incredible experience, getting up there and wrestling in The Well for the first time,” said Bolton. “I remember going down there and in the middle of the match thinking ‘wow, this is really neat.’ ... This time around, I feel like I was a lot more after my goals to place at the state tournament. I feel like I was a little more comfortable there.”
The comfort was increased by having a little more familiarity of the setting, which came from Wednesday’s state dual tournament.
“Wrestling on Wednesday (in the dual state tournament) helped out,” said Bolton. “Getting all the big nerves out then was big. My freshman year, I was kind of just happy I was there, and I wasn’t expecting to go far. This year I had goals to go far.”
Bolton’s tournament opened against Colby Tool of PCM. Bolton, facing a returning state-qualifier, lost in an 18-1 technical fall.
Going into consolations, his goals may have changed, but the attitude to get as deep into the bracket as possible did not diminish.
“I knew going up there I have nothing to lose. There’s nothing to be nervous about,” Bolton said. “Just go up there and wrestle my match and wrestle my hardest and whatever the outcome is we’ll take it as long as I wrestle hard.”
The nothing-to-lose mentality helped Bolton advance one round in consolation, scoring a decision win over Alex Casey of Anamosa. Four takedowns, two in the third period, helped Bolton get ahead for a 9-4 decision win.
It was Bolton’s first and only at state.
“It was great,” said Bolton. “That was my first, and it was a great feeling that I was getting that much closer, ... getting a win up there meant a lot because stuff was paying off. It was pretty cool.”
In the next round, Bolton was bounced out of contention in a 9-2 decision by Ridge View’s Zander Ernst, who finished fourth.
An integral part of the team’s state dual berth, Hawkeye 10 title and even claiming his own Hawkeye 10 and Sectional title along the way, Bolton said he hopes his work ethic and what he’s done in the wrestling room will help inspire others.
“I hope I was remembered as somebody they could look up to, who worked really hard and could lend a helping hand if they need it,” Bolton said.
Fellow senior teammate Jackson Kinsella had high praise for Bolton, not just as a wrestler, but as an individual.
“I don’t know if Kaden knows this but I look up to him as a person,” said Kinsella. “He might look up to me as a wrestler, but I look up to him as a person. ... For him to finally get back up here means a lot. Seeing him not place, that was tough. He worked his tail off, and I know he’s going to be a good man.”
With the high school wrestling chapter closed for Bolton, he’s thankful for everything the program has taught him and gave him and thinks everything he’s learned across the last four seasons will help make him a better person.
“I’m just really thankful I was able to wrestle for Creston. It meant a lot to wrestle for them for all four years and all the lessons I learned through wrestling,” Bolton said. “I know I didn’t place at state, my goal was to, but I’m still really thankful for the season I had, for the friendships I made through wrestling, and just all the many life lessons I was taught through the sport. I think that will carry in life and make me a better person.”
Bolton caps off his career a two-time state qualifier with a Hawkeye 10 title and two Sectional titles to his name.