Ayala a national runner-up at Super 32
Fort Dodge’s standout sophomore reaches finals before narrow loss
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Drake Ayala was bound and determined to win a championship at the prestigious Super 32 Challenge wrestling tournament.
The Fort Dodge sophomore wound up settling for second place in the 106-pound bracket on Sunday — one victory shy of becoming just the second Iowan ever to earn a title here in the high school division.
The frustration of losing a close match in the finals paled in comparison to the emotions Ayala experienced away from the action less than an hour before he faced Stevo Poulin for gold, though. And it quickly put everything into perspective for the budding Dodger star.
Ayala’s younger brother, Dru, was injured during his middle school 70-pound bout as Drake sat matside. Dru Ayala, a seventh grader, had posted victories against Christian Castillo and Wyatt Wheeler before suffering a dislocated elbow in two parts and a fracture in another during his match with Brandon Morvari.
“If I could change anything about the weekend? It would be my brother’s injury,” Ayala said, deflecting the attention away from his own accomplishments. “It happened right in front of me, and he and my dad (Sam) left together right after that to go to the hospital.
“My dad told me on the way out to just stay focused and try not to worry too much about it — to stick to my gameplan. I was able to get zoned in and concentrate on my match, but of course (Dru’s health) was in the back of my mind. I wanted to make sure he was alright.”
Drake didn’t find out about the extent of Dru’s injury until well after his 11-8 loss to Morvari. Sam and Dru were in the Emergency Room at nearby Moses H. Cone Hospital and missed Drake’s match live.
“I’m kind of disappointed in the finish, of course … you come to these tournaments to get first, not second,” Ayala said. “But it does feel good to know I made it to the finals in a tournament I didn’t even place in (a year ago).
“To me, this the toughest event in the nation. The number of ranked kids here was just ridiculous. So I can take a lot away from making it this far, even if I didn’t quite get (Morvari).”
The 15th-ranked Ayala was close. He rallied from an 8-2 deficit with three third-period takedowns before running out of time against New Yorker Morvari, who is rated 10th nationally at 106.
“Being down early (4-1 and 8-2 at the end of the first two periods) is something I have to work on,” Ayala said. “I’ve started kind of slow and had to fight my way back in some of these big matches. I need to get better at getting out quicker and balancing (out the performances).”
Ayala buzzed through the morning session on Sunday with victories over Alex Almeyda of New Jersey (6-1) and Braxton Brown of Texas (6-4). Almeyda is ranked 11th at 106 by FloWrestling; Brown is third.
Ayala scored two late takedowns to defeat Brown for the second time in eight days. The Dodger standout also took care of Brown during “Agony in Ames” last weekend, 9-5.
Ayala, a Class 3A runner-up as an FDSH freshman last February at 106, will move to 113 for the upcoming prep campaign. He was 44-2 a year ago for the state champion Dodgers, losing only to University of Iowa commit Cullan Schriever twice.
Schriever, from Mason City, captured the 106-pound crown here last October to make history as the first Iowa Super 32 high school titlist.