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Matt Robertson had no trouble maintaining his mental edge on the wrestling mat last season.

In his first year with Davenport Assumption's program, there was a freshness to the season and he was aspiring to reach the top of the podium at the state tournament for the first time in his career.

He accomplished that.

Robertson's run to a repeat, though, has not been quite as smooth. There have been some bumps along the road.

But as the 132-pounder gears up for his last high school state meet this week at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Robertson is confident he's still the guy to beat in his weight class.

"When I'm at my best, my mindset is in the right place," he said. "My confidence is high and I walk out on the mat thinking, 'I'm the man. They have to beat me.'

"I had no trouble getting in that mindset last year. This year, there was a mindset flaw for a little bit. I had a lot of things going on in my life, but last week (at districts) I think I got back to that place. I'm more excited than I was last year at this time."

Robertson just needs to peek at the wall inside Assumption's wrestling room for incentive.

The school has had only two wrestlers claim multiple state titles in a Knights singlet — Josh Watts (1998, '00, '01) and Jon Garvin ('98, '99). Topher Carton won three championships but just one with Assumption.

Robertson and teammate Julien Broderson (182 pounds) can add their names to that list Saturday night.

"There are a lot of good kids on that wall who have one title — (Brody) Grothus, (Danny) Bush, (Eric) Clarke," Robertson said. "To have two up there would cement the legacy and be pretty sweet."

Wrestling has been in Robertson's blood since he was little.

His father and uncle both wrestled.

At age 5, his father took him to his first wrestling practice.

"I was so small I didn't even have a partner," Robertson said, "so I worked on my own and my dad showed me stuff."

Several weeks later, he competed in his first tournament and won a four-man youth tournament at Rock Island.

In the finals, he defeated North Scott's Caleb McCabe, who is wrestling in the 3A state tournament this weekend.

The sport connected he and his father.

"It was really about junior high when it really clicked and everything started falling together," he said.

Robertson started his high school career at Pleasant Valley. He qualified for state as a freshman and placed seventh as a sophomore.

"I didn't get what I wanted my freshman year and thought about leaving then, but we were getting a new coach," Robertson said. "I decided to stay one more year and see how it went.

"I really loved coach (Jake) Larsen, but personally I felt to get where I wanted to be, the top of the podium, I wasn't going to get it done there with the partners I had in the room."

Robertson considered transferring to Assumption or Bettendorf. After spending time in the Assumption room, he felt a connection.

"They were very quick to welcome me and treat me like I've been here since I was 5 years old," he said.

The decision to leave PV created some animosity.

Some of his friends and the wrestling parents at PV have been supportive. Others have turned against him and labeled him a traitor.

"There's been a good and bad side to it," he said.

Robertson has experienced that feeling of having everybody but Assumption's fan base against him.

In last week's district final, Robertson figured about everyone in the gym not wearing Assumption gear was against him when he faced West Liberty's Will Esmoil.

"It is fuel to the fire," he said. "I love that, and honestly it makes me better. It is nice to be the villain sometimes."

In Robertson's two years at Assumption, coach Pete Bush said the senior's mat wrestling has vastly improved.

More than his mat skills, Robertson has brought a critical component to Bush's practice room.

"He's been our best leader the last two years," Bush said. "Without him, we're minus a leader, we're minus a lot of energy and we're minus a lot of confidence.

"Matt Robertson has a lot of fun and he's got a squirrelness to him in a good way. He has as much fun on a wrestling mat as I've ever witnessed as a coach."

Other than one setback, Robertson was perfect last season in 44 matches. He won conference, sectional, district and state championships.

Robertson has lost four times in 46 bouts this season, twice to PV's Eli Loyd. The last came in the finals of the Mississippi Athletic Conference tournament.

After cruising through sectionals, Robertson avenged one of his losses with a 7-3 victory over Esmoil in the district final.

Now, Robertson is four wins from a state repeat.

"The bottom line is, the fun stuff is when you climb up the hill," Bush said. "Once you're at the top, there is fun taken away from that. What replaces fun is the pressure.

"I think Matt has figured this thing out at the end, and I expect a really good state tournament from him."

Several of his 132-pound competitors have wrestled at the state tournament. None have won a state championship.

They'll be eager to knock Robertson off his perch.

Robertson, who has signed to continue his wrestling career at NAIA power Grand View University in Des Moines, is motivated to get back and widen the gap after winning last year's championship by just a point.

"All season coach has been preaching how hard it is to go back-to-back," Robertson said. "There aren't a lot of guys who do it.

"This year, I want to leave it all out there and really spread that gap and prove to people how dominant my career really was here."


Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.