TITLETOWN

Teske, Bennett golden; FDSH makes it a clean sweep of team crowns

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Fort Dodge senior Drew Bennett reacts after winning a state title at 132 pounds on Saturday night at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. For more photos, please visit CU.messengernews.net

DES MOINES — After waiting 33 years to claim another state wrestling championship, the Fort Dodge wrestling team had to sweat it out just a little bit longer here at Wells Fargo Arena Saturday night.

But after watching Waukee drop two of its three title matches, the last at 182 pounds, Fort Dodge could finally stake claim to gold in Class 3A.

After a solid semifinal round Friday that saw them take a 26-point advantage Friday night, the Dodgers suffered through a disappointing Saturday morning of consolation matches and that lead was gone.

Thanks to a pair of state championships from seniors Brody Teske and Drew Benett, though, the Dodgers got past the Warriors and officially claimed their first state title since 1985.

At long last.

Fort Dodge finished with 144 points to win its 12th state title in school history, now tied for third on the all-time Iowa list. Waukee, which stormed to the lead after Saturday’s consolation round and the 120-pound title from Kyle Biscoglia, ended up second with 139.

Three-time defending state champion Southeast Polk was third with 134.5 points.

“This means so much to us,” said FDSH head coach Bobby Thompson. “It’s been a four-day grind, a four-year grind, a 33-year grind. It’s just a compliment to our kids. They just got the job done.

“I was more than a little nervous after Saturday morning, I can tell you that. I felt pretty good about our lead Friday night, but I thought we would be able to get it done in the wrestlebacks. We fell on our face and Waukee and Southeast Polk didn’t.”

Fort Dodge scored just six points in the consolation round Saturday while Waukee piled up 33 and Southeast Polk 40.

Fort Dodge’s lone wins Saturday morning came from sophomores Carson Taylor at 113 and Levi Egli at 160, who both claimed fifth-place matches.

“Those were two huge wins by two sophomores,” said Thompson. “And Carson added a fall. That was big.”

Fort Dodge moved ahead of the Warriors when Teske pinned Kaleb Olejniczak of Perry in the 126-pound final for his fourth state title. The Dodgers added to it when Bennett won his first state championsip with a 9-4 win over Eli Loyd of Pleasant Valley in the 132-pound title match.

Waukee still had a chance at the team title, but the Warriors dropped matches at 170 and 182.

“This whole year, our seniors have had such focus on the team title,” Thompson said. “When they were freshmen, we were at a workout and Brody looked up at the 1980 and 1985 state title banners and said ‘we need to get one of those for ourselves, boys.’

“It’s so gratifying, knowing what this means to our community. Our fans have been incredible. They have been behind us 100 percent.”

Saturday’s championship caps a four-year quest that started when this senior class helped the Dodgers to a third-place trophy in 2015. FDSH finished second the past two years.

Fort Dodge also won its first ever duals state title on Wednesday, beating Waukee in the finals.

“I was on a state championship team (in 1980), but this means more to me,” Thompson admitted. “It’s so great to see the kids get something they’ve worked so hard for.

“This group is special. They are just so modest and humble.”

Fort Dodge dropped a pair of championship matches Saturday night. Freshman Drake Ayala lost to defending state champion Cullan Schriever of Mason City, 9-3 at 106. Senior Cayd Lara was edged in the finals at 152 in a heartbreaking match, 5-4 against Harlan Steffensmeier of Fort Madison.

Lara (44-4) was also a state runner-up last year at 152 pounds. He finishes with four state medals.

Ayala’s only two losses this year were to Schriever. Ayala finishes his rookie campaign 41-2.

Bennett, 46-1 this year and 153-8 for his career, was the aggressor from the start against Loyd, taking a 6-2 lead after the first period. He had three takedowns in the first two minutes.

“After being disappointed the last two years, I can’t describe the feeling,” said Bennett, who was third twice before reaching the finals this year. “The best part about it, though, is it helped us in the team standings. Coach Thompson told us if we just go out and wrestle our matches like we can, the team score will take care of itself.

“Brody, Cayd and I have been wrestling together since we were little kids. We just kept pushing ourselves,” Bennett added.

Thompson said Bennett had so much confidence after finally getting past Friday and into the championship round.

“It was big for him to get that Friday monkey off his back,” he said. “He’s been working so hard since he was a little kid. Wrestling has meant so much to him.”

Thompson said this golden trophy also belongs to the wrestlers who were along for the ride the past four years. He mentioned two-time state champs Sam Cook and Triston Lara along with Erik Birnbaum, who was the lone senior on the third-place team in 2015.

“This title doesn’t just belong to the guys that placed down here this weekend. It belongs to all 14 in our lineup, every guy in the wrestling room and all those guys that came before them. This title belongs to everyone in Dodge,” Thompson said. “After we got third in 2015, Erik looked and me and said, coach you’re going to be so good the next three years.”

Fort Dodge tied Emmetsburg for third on the all-time team title list with 12. Waterloo West leads with 17 and Lisbon is second with 16 after winning the Class 1A title Saturday night.

The Dodgers are also second all-time with 22 first or second place finishes, just two behind Waterloo West.

Fort Dodge started to see a path to the title Saturday night after Biscoglia didn’t earn any bonus points at 120. Thompson said Teske told him, “if I get a fall, we win.”

“Here’s a kid going for his fourth state title and he’s thinking about the team title. That’s how our seniors were this year. They were focused on that crown,” Thompson said.

Fort Dodge had a program-best 13 state qualifiers and finished with a school-record nine medalists. They also pushed four wrestlers to the finals for the first time since 1941.

“It’s hard every year when I lose seniors and I walk back into the room the next November,” said Thompson. “I am losing four great ones this year.”

Along with Bennett, Lara and Teske, Damond Lockner wrestled as a Dodger for the last time in the consolation round Saturday.

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