Never alone

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Drew Bennett of Fort Dodge wrestles Waukee's Kyle Biscoglia during Class 3A semifinal action on Friday in Des Moines. For more photos, please visit CU.messengernews.net

DES MOINES — In a moment of personal celebration and historic achievement, three Fort Dodge state wrestling finalists immediately shifted the attention away from themselves and toward a brother in need.

Previously-unbeaten Drew Bennett suffered another crushing state tournament loss to Kyle Biscoglia here on Friday, pushing the nationally-ranked junior to the backside of a bracket Bennett felt was his for the taking.

Bennett had beaten Biscoglia — Waukee’s standout defending state champion — twice during the regular season, exorcising the demons from three overtime head-to-head setbacks a year ago. Biscoglia, who is rated one spot behind Bennett both in Iowa and the country at 113 pounds, prevailed by decision inside Wells Fargo Arena yesterday afternoon to keep Bennett on the outside looking in.

Fort Dodge had hoped to advance at least four of its five semifinal hammers into Saturday night’s championship round. And while Bennett’s defeat wasn’t necessarily surpising — the rivals have gone back-and-forth enough in the past to know nothing was guaranteed either way — it was definitely deflating to a Dodger squad that had bigger things in mind than another state runner-up trophy.

”His pain is our pain, and he’s in pain,” FDSH head coach Bobby Thompson said. ”We just wanted to make sure Drew knew afterward that he wasn’t alone. We win and celebrate together, but we also lose and hurt together.

”This program is truly about family, so when one of us goes through adversity, it affects us all. We have three guys (Brody Teske, Triston Lara and Cayd Lara) who will be going for titles, yet if you walked into this room with them right now, you’d think we had just been shut out (of the finals). It’s proof positive that there isn’t a better group of young men around. I’m blessed, and they’re fortunate to have each other.”

Triston Lara, a senior captain who is in the finals for a third consecutive season, said ”it broke my heart” to see Bennett and Damond Lockner fall just short of a prime-time Saturday slot. Lara is a perfect example of a Dodger who wears his heart on his sleeve; he’s all business on the mat, but very in tune to his teammates’ needs away from it.

”That tone was set a while ago, and this group is making sure it continues,” Thompson said. ”Right now, we have guys who have been tremendous leaders in our program, like Levi Peters and Sam Cook, spending time with us. It’s not just about being an elite individual talent and then moving on for good. It’s about being there through thick and thin.

”Win or lose, what happens this week is such a small part of what these guys will experience with each other. There’s a whole lifetime of memories ahead, where it’s not just about wrestling but growing up and growing old as friends and brothers. And when I see our younger kids, our soon-to-be Dodgers, following them around and being exposed to that special bond — the future here is in good hands. Tradition isn’t built on championships alone. And I wouldn’t trade this for all the trophies in the world.”

Bennett was visibly distraught after Friday’s loss. Like most intense competitors, he wanted to be left alone immediately following the match.

At some point, though, Bennett — a student-athlete with tremendous character and loyalty himself — will both need and use the support of his teammates to help him bounce back. There will be a hug, or a joke, or a sincere conversation that will help heal the hurt.

Why? Because that’s what Dodgers do when it matters most.

Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, or by e-mail at sports@messengernews.net