All heart

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Fort Dodge celebrates its state wrestling championship on Saturday night at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. The Dodgers secured their first traditional state wrestling championship since 1985. For more photos, please visit CU.messengernews.net

DES MOINES — This is for you, Fort Dodge.

The waiting. The hoping. The wondering.

The nervous energy. The scoreboard watching. The anxiety.

It’s over. All of it. You don’t have to worry anymore. You don’t have to look over your shoulder or down the road.

For the first time in 33 years, the state wrestling championship is coming home.

No one said it would be easy. A 50-point lead midway through the semifinals dwindled to 30, then 15, and was gone by the end of the consolation rounds on Saturday. The team race became a perfect storm of struggle, with the Dodgers laboring toward the finish line while Waukee was slicing its way through the backside.

In a way, though, it became fitting that the title hinged on the performances of senior stalwarts like Brody Teske and Drew Bennett. They helped introduce this golden era of FDSH wrestling four years ago. Heading into Saturday evening’s action, it was in the hands of the hammers. By the end of the session, all of the heavy lifting had been done. The tough-as-nails duo had delivered two individual golds and the long-awaited team crown.

Mission accomplished. Case dismissed. Closure forever.

These Dodgers secured their place on the school’s championship wall — a promise the seniors and their teammates vowed to deliver after finishing third, second and second in prior state tournaments. They’re now the names and faces wrestling fans will talk about for years and decades and generations to come.

This isn’t just about wrestling, though. And it isn’t even entirely about winning. Fort Dodge is at the top of the wrestling world again, but even if it had finished a step below on the team podium Saturday, nothing, in reality, would be different this Sunday morning.

The Dodgers put in the time to reap the benefits of a broader perspective. They’ve always been more process than end result; more journey than destination. Winning can be a fleeting reward, relative to the amount of work both behind you and ahead.

Instead, head coach Bobby Thompson’s program has given us a blueprint for succeeding long-term against the odds. Fort Dodge Senior High isn’t ever going to be the biggest school with the best resources. But let’s be honest: how often are any of us naturally the biggest or the best at what we do?

These Dodgers are the best versions of what we all could be — inspirational reminders of how much determination, discipline, patience and perseverance matter. In everything. Always.

Fort Dodge wrestling is a way of life and a state of mind. It’s defying the odds, making no excuses, willing out wins, and showing more heart and character than an opponent.

Fort Dodge wrestling is also a family, though. Lessons, relationships and memories that connect old to new. Unique bonds. Special traditions.

These Dodgers are the best of all worlds. They’re talented athletes, sure. Away from the mat and out of the spotlight, they can and will shine — even after their wrestling days are over and the records are forgotten.

On February 17, 2018 at around 9 p.m. inside Wells Fargo Arena, the rest of the world officially saw them as the champions we always knew they are. The hardware doesn’t define them. It simply validates what they believed all along: anything — even a clean sweep of the dual and traditional state championships — is possible.

Let the celebration begin. The Dodgers delivered, and it’s time to shower them with praise. But after the pomp and circumstance subsides and everything returns to normal in our town, keep the bigger picture of Fort Dodge wrestling in mind.

True winners never rest, never stop believing, and never give up on the dreams of making the world around them a better place through passion, love and commitment.

This is their message to you. This is the lasting impression they will leave.

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

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