Stage is set

—Submitted photo The Fort Dodge wrestling team gathers after qualifying for the state dual tournament.

SIOUX CITY — Even with the top ranking in Class 3A, head coach Bobby Thompson is advising his Dodgers to embrace the underdog mentality.

“We want to embrace it,” Thompson said. “We haven’t won anything yet. Rankings are for the fans and we have to hold that underdog role close and set the stage for a fight to the finish.

“This is the time of year that we’ve been waiting for. Our guys are ready to get after it.”

After hosting the district meet for a number of seasons, the Dodgers will get different scenery as they travel to Sioux City.

Action begins at noon inside Sioux City North High School with the finals at approximately 3:30 p.m.

“It’s always nice to be at home, especially with our contingent of Dodger fans,” Thompson said. “But our schedule has prepared us for this. We are used to staying in hotels the night before and we seem to wrestle better when we’re all together — we have that family bond.”

The Dodgers will be joined by host Sioux City North, Denison-Schleswig, Le Mars, Lewis Central, Sioux City East, Sioux City West and Storm Lake.

“It’s a nervous time, because you want everyone to get through,” Thompson said. “We push ourselves throughout the season and it’s nerve racking, but we have prepared for this.

“We have to come out and wrestle six minutes and stay focused.”

Fort Dodge enters the district meet with 10 ranked wrestlers compared to four in the rest of the field.

The Dodger senior quartet of top-ranked Brody Teske (126), second-ranked Drew Bennett (132), third-ranked Damond Lockner (145) and second-ranked Cayd Lara (152) enter the meet with a combined record of 604-62.

Teske (33-1), who is searching for his fourth state championship, is three wins away (168-1) from passing Sam Cook (170-12) as the school’s all-time wins leader.

Lara (38-3) is right on the heels of Teske at 166-24. Lara, who was a runner-up last season, has wrestled in a school record 190 matches.

Bennett (40-1), is coming off of two straight third place state performances and has a career mark of 144-8, while Lockner (39-5), who is 126-29, was fourth at state in 2017.

“The captains, those four seniors, have told the entire team that we are going to need 14 bullets for the state tournament,” Thompson said. “We need everybody down there, but we need everyone to score points. That’s what has hurt us in the past.

“Waukee is going to have at least nine qualifiers and I believe nine medalists.”

The trio of fifth-ranked Drevon Ross (138), 10th-ranked Kaden Smith (170) and seventh-ranked Triston Licht (195) earned state experience last season.

Ross (34-9) was eighth, Smith (36-7) and Licht (14-6) didn’t medal.

A trio of newcomers in second-ranked freshman Drake Ayala (106), fourth-ranked sophomore Carson Taylor (113) and seventh-ranked sophomore Levi Egli (160) have put together solid rookie campaigns.

Ayala’s (35-1) only loss has come to Mason City’s Cullan Schriever, who is a defending state champion and is ranked nationally.

Taylor (35-6) has burst on to the scene for the Dodgers has put together a strong resume. Egli (22-7) has also been a stalwart for the Dodgers.

Jeremy Ayala (120), Austin Lee (182), Tim Elliott (220) and Logan Finowski (17-18) are also in line to earn state berths.

Lewis Central enters the field with three ranked wrestlers in Gabe Kjeldgaard (No. 7 at 145), Caleb Kingery (No. 9 at 152) and Brock Bortolotti (No. 6 at 195).

Sioux City North’s Clement Oyadare is eighth at 170.

The Dodgers, who qualified for state duals after winning a regional dual final, will compete inside Wells Fargo Arena on Wednesday.

The traditional state meet will start Thursday in Des Moines.

106 Drake Ayala, fr., 35-1

113 Carson Taylor, so., 35-6

120 Jeremy Ayala, so., 4-3

126 Brody Teske, sr., 33-1

132 Drew Bennett, sr., 40-1

138 Drevon Ross, jr., 34-9

145 Damond Lockner, sr., 39-5

152 Cayd Lara, sr., 38-3

160 Levi Egli, so., 22-7

170 Kaden Smith, jr., 36-7

182 Austin Lee, so., 19-19

195 Triston Licht, so., 14-6

220 Tim Elliott, sr., 5-5

285 Logan Finowski, jr., 17-18