Competing in the familiar surroundings of its own gym helped bring out the best in the Fort Dodge wrestling team here Saturday.
For the first time since the 1995-96 season in which they eventually placed second at traditional state, the Dodgers captured top honors in their own Don Miller Invitational.
Behind three individual champions, two runner-up performances and a pair of bronze medals, FDSH registered 203 points to win its 39th annual event going away. Webster City (171.5) was next in line with four silvers and three thirds. Clarinda (147.5), No. 3 (Class 1A) Emmetsburg (140) and Sioux City East (121) rounded out the Top-5.
"It was nice to win our own tournament, especially to finish ahead of a future district opponent in Webster City," FDSH head coach Bobby Thompson said. "I know a lot of teams maybe didn't have their full group of guys due to injury or sickness, but the finals were still very exciting."
Sophomore Erik Birnbaum (106 pounds), freshman Cole Detmering (113) and third-ranked (3A) senior Duke Egli (170) all took home gold for the Dodgers, while junior Cameron Hicks (126) and No. 7 classmate Riley Prescott (195) were each downed in the finals. Junior Kole Evans (120) and freshman Jonah Egli (138) both added third-place efforts for Fort Dodge.
"I thought all 13 of our guys wrestled well and made contributions," said Thompson. "We got some big bonus points (yesterday) when we needed them."
Duke Egli, who placed eighth at state a year ago at 160, impressed with three pins and a 4-3 victory in the finals over Emmetsburg's fourth-ranked Nick Schany for his 85th career triumph. Birnbaum and Detmering each posted a fall in the semifinals and a decision in the title round.
"Birnbaum wrestled whistle to whistle, which shows he's been listening in the room," Thompson said. "Detmering also looked solid in winning his first high school title."
In addition, the Dodgers received fourth-place showings from the freshman duo of Kole Kampen (152) and Sam Cook (182). Settling for fifth were senior Cameron Archibald (145) and 10th-ranked classmate Kyle Johnson (220).
"I thought Cook wrestled just outstanding, and he's getting better all the time," said Thompson. "For Jonah to get third in his bracket should really give him plenty of momentum for the second half of the season, too.
"We have another tough week ahead, and hopefully we gained some confidence from this (tournament title). We're going to need the holiday break to rest up now, so we can keep improving and closing the gap on our opponents."
Despite finishing second in the team race for a third straight year, Webster City head coach Ted Larson saw his squad flash glimpses of potential. Freddie Seeley (113), Tanner Hild (138), Connor Larson (160) and No. 2 (3A) Dylan Fielder (182) all reached the finals for the Lynx, while Jacob Powers (145), Alex Oswald (152) and Brandon Patton (170) won their third-place matches.
"I have mixed emotions right now since most of the teams didn't have full lineups and we had all 14 guys," Larson said. "I'm tired of being the bridesmaid (at the Don Miller Invitational). We didn't always stay intense for a full six minutes and got beat in some scramble situations. We still have a long way to go and just have to keep working."
Top-ranked Andrew Wellik (182), No. 4 Austin McCartan (195) and eighth-rated Tayler Wegner (220) all prevailed in their title bouts for the E-Hawks. No. 2 Brady Bailey (152) and Schany (170) were each second, while Dillon Van Oosbree (106) was third.
Wellik was also honored with the Tim Ascherl Outstanding Wrestler award after notching fall times of 3:42, :34 and 4:46, respectively.
Clarinda, who is coached by former FDSH state champion Josh Porter, picked up its lone gold medal from Cole Race (126).
No. 2 (3A) Zach Renshaw (285) secured the only title for Council Bluffs Lewis Central, which won last winter's Don Miller Invitational. Renshaw and 10th-ranked (2A) Caleb Coleman from Bondurant-Farrar both repeated as champions.
A total of 16 ranked wrestlers and 15 defending state qualifiers, including eight placewinners from a year ago, participated in Saturday's field.
Fort Dodge visits CIC Northern Division foe Marshalltown for a dual on Monday. Start time is set for 7:30 p.m.