FD’s Bennett commits to UNI

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Fort Dodge's Drew Bennett grabs Kyle Biscoglia of Waukee during the CIML Invitational championship round last year in Runnells. Bennett and Biscoglia have both committed to Northern Iowa.

While other boys dreamed of being baseball players or football stars, Drew Bennett had a completely different goal in mind.

The Fort Dodge Senior High star always wanted to be a collegiate wrestler.

”Ever since I was a little kid, making my own Division I brackets and wrestling against my teddy bear in the basement,” Bennett laughed, ”this is what I’ve been working toward and picturing in my mind.”

Bennett’s vision became a reality on Sunday, when he gave his verbal commitment to head coach Doug Schwab and the University of Northern Iowa wrestling program. The senior’s decision is the final Dodger domino to fall during a whirlwind 12-month recruiting stretch, which saw five different FDSH grapplers land roster spots at the Div. I level.

Bennett picked UNI over Iowa, Iowa State, Oregon State and Northwestern. He confirmed his choice exclusively to The Messenger late Saturday night, then made it official on social media Sunday morning.

The family atmosphere — cultivated and emphasized by Schwab — attracted Bennett to the Panthers most.

”It reminds me a lot of what we have here (at FDSH),” Bennett said. ”The coaches really care about not just wrestlers on (the current roster), but the guys they are recruiting. There’s a brotherhood on the team that is very real.”

Thanks in large part to a five-inch growth spurt since last February, Bennett plans on competing at 132 pounds this winter for the Dodgers. He’s projected as a 133-pounder at the collegiate level.

Bennett’s career prep record to date is 104-7. The .937 win percentage currently ranks as the fourth-best in school history, behind only classmate and Penn State University recruit Brody Teske (135-0) and two-time state champions Chase Holmgaard (71-2) and Mark Rial (131-8) among wrestlers with a minimum of 70 victories.

Bennett has placed third in each of the last two state tournaments at 106 and 113 pounds, respectively. Four of his seven career losses — including twice at state — have been at the hands of Waukee’s Kyle Biscoglia, a future Panther teammate.

Both Bennett and Biscoglia are ranked nationally by InterMat Wrestling.

Triston Lara, a two-time Dodger state champion, is currently a true freshman on the UNI squad. Bennett said Lara’s presence wasn’t necessarily ”a deciding factor,” but he did add, ”I can’t wait to be teammates with him again.”

”There will definitely be a benefit to having a close friend like Triston around,” Bennett said.

Bennett and Lara will be in the Panthers’ camp, with Teske headed to Penn State. Cayd Lara, another FDSH senior, verbally committed to Iowa State University in July, and 2016 graduate Sam Cook joined the University of Iowa wrestling program in August.

This year’s Dodgers are again expected to be among the top contenders for the team state championship. Fort Dodge is slated to welcome placewinners Teske (1st), Lara (2nd), Bennett (3rd), Damond Lockner (4th) and Drevon Ross (8th) back to the lineup in 2017-18, alongside qualifiers Triston Licht, Kaden Smith and Brooks Cowell.

The Dodgers have been the state runner-up in each of the last two years after placing third in 2015.

”I’d like to see us win the CIML, contend for the title, and hopefully win both team state and state duals,” Bennett said. ”That’s the mindset. As for me personally, I want to finish the job this time around and get that (individual state championship). I’m tired of coming up just short. As (a senior), I feel that added motivation and sense of urgency.

”The goal has always been a state title. This is my last shot. I want to get it done.”

Bennett thanked ”my dad (Troy) first and foremost, who has been my coach my whole life. None of this would be possible without him.”

”My mom (Shawn), sisters (Madi and Tory) and all of my family and friends have always been there for me, which means everything. (FDSH head) Coach (Bobby) Thompson, (Dodger assistant) Coach (Tanner) Utley, Coach (Carl) Valley and really all of the Fort Dodge Wrestling Club coaches through the years who have helped Brody, Cayd and I — we wouldn’t have this opportunity without their guidance and support.”

Bennett, an academic all-conference staple who carries a cumulative high school grade point average of 3.9, plans on majoring in movement and exercise science at UNI.