No. 1 Fort Dodge dominates with bigger goals on the horizon
Perspective was the word of the weekend for the Fort Dodge wrestling team.
The Dodgers earned a No. 1 ranking on Thursday, got a pep talk from Dan Gable on Friday, and dominated on their way to a Don Miller Invitational championship Saturday.
Most would consider such a three-day stretch to be about as good as it gets. Head coach Bobby Thompson’s squad realizes, though, that the ultimate goal — bringing home a haul of titles from the state meet in February — requires a lot more drive and a lot less satisfaction in the days and weeks to come.
”Coach Gable’s words really stuck with me when he asked us, ‘yeah, you might be good — but compared to what?”’ said top-ranked 126-pound Dodger senior Brody Teske, one of seven individual champions on Saturday and the tournament’s Tim Ascherl/Brent Helmkamp most outstanding wrestler. ”How good can we be? That’s what we need to focus on.
”You’re never good enough. We can all get better. I think (that attitude) will keep us hungry and keep us humble.”
Teske was joined in the winner’s circle by freshman Drake Ayala (106), sophomore Carson Taylor (113), senior Drew Bennett (132), junior Drevon Ross (138), senior Damond Lockner (145), and senior Cayd Lara (152). Fort Dodge — rated 21st nationally — finished with 259.5 points, which was well ahead of No. 5 (Class 2A) Webster City (171), Dallas Center-Grimes (155) and Emmetsburg (137).
Sophomore Levi Egli (160) and junior Kaden Smith (170) were also finalists for the Dodgers, who have now won three consecutive Miller Invite crowns.
”We’re getting there, but we’re also not wanting to peak in December,” Thompson said. ”We don’t want to look back two months from now and feel like this was when we were wrestling our best.
”I look at guys like Drevon Ross and Carson Taylor as perfect examples of that. If you consider where they were a year ago at this point, to be at the top of the podium (Saturday) shows how far they’ve come both physically and mentally. And yet, there’s still room to keep growing and improving. If we want to reach our full potential (by mid-February), this has to be just another step.”
Ayala (17-0), Taylor (18-3), Ross (18-4) and Lockner (20-3) were all pushed to the limit in their respective championship matches before escaping with narrow decision victories.
Ayala, ranked second in 3A, edged No. 2 (1A) Beau Klingensmith of Woodbury Central in the finals, 10-8. Ayala also slipped past Klingensmith in the Council Bluffs Classic’s championship match last Saturday.
Taylor, rated seventh, topped Milton Duarte of Storm Lake, 7-6. The No. 3 Ross escaped seventh-ranked (1A) Spencer Griffin of Emmetsburg, 7-4. Lockner, also rated third, held off No. 5 Gabriel Kjelgaard of Lewis Central, 5-4.
”We had some grinders (in the finals),” Thompson said. ”Our guys had to gut it out. I’m not sure if any of them would say they were particularly sharp, but it’s all a part of the process. You have to battle through adversity when things aren’t going your way. The bottom line is that they got the job done.”
Meanwhile, Teske (17-0), Bennett (20-0) and Lara (20-1) — all rated No. 1 at their respective weights — put on clinics against overmatched opponents. It was the third Miller Invite gold for both Teske and Lara, and the second for Bennett. Last year’s tournament was cancelled due to inclement weather.
”It’s great to see our seniors taking charge both on and off the mat,” Thompson said. ”They want to accomplish some special things, but it’s going to take every single one of us in our room to get there. They know that.
”Our program is all about making sure the bond and understanding of what it takes to be a Dodger is passed down to the younger wrestlers. Our seniors were there not that long ago. They were the ones learning the ropes from guys like Erik Birnbaum or Sam Cook or Triston Lara. Now, it’s their turn.”
Teske said it ”seems like just yesterday that I was in Drake (Ayala’s) shoes.”
”It all goes so fast. I remember being in his position as a freshman here. You have to look up, look around, soak it all in and not get too wrapped up in the moment. Just make the most of these opportunities.
”It’s an honor (to be named the most outstanding wrestler of the meet), shaking Tim Ascherl’s hand and seeing (the late) Brent Helmkamp’s name (on the award). Two great Dodgers. This is a cool moment, and we’re just focusing on an even better tomorrow.”
Teske joined Triston Lara (170 career victories) and Cook (162) in FDSH’s 150-win club at 152-0. Cayd Lara, meanwhile, moved to 148-22.
Junior Logan Finowski (285) and sophomore Brooks Cowell (120) took third place for the Dodgers. Sophomore Michael Schroeder (120) was fourth.
Fort Dodge heads to Johnston this Thursday for one final dual before the Christmas break.
The Lynx turned in an impressive runner-up performance, with individual championships coming from three of their top guns.
Second-ranked Drake Doolittle (16-2 at 120 pounds), No. 6 Zane Williams (14-3 at 170) and top-rated Cooper Lawson (16-0 at 285) all captured titles. Doolittle secured his 100th career victory in the process.
Doolittle pinned Christian Nichols of Emmetsburg in the finals. Williams did the same against Fort Dodge’s Kaden Smith. Lawson stuck Jorge Sandoval of Storm Lake.
No. 7 Carson Hartnett (14-4 at 138) and sixth-rated James Cherry (10-2 at 220) were both third. Chase Rattenborg (15-4 at 113) was fourth.
Three E-Hawks reached the championship round before bowing out.
No. 10 Christian Nichols (15-2 at 120), Levi Aldous (9-4 at 126) and seventh-rated Spencer Griffin (15-2 at 138) all advanced to the finals.
Ethan Berven (15-5 at 132) was fourth.