Fort Dodge’s Ayala wins title in Independence

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Drake Ayala of Fort Dodge wrestles against Ankeny Centennial's Jackson Bresson earlier this week in Ankeny.

INDEPENDENCE — Opening the season with three straight days on the mat can be a daunting task, but Drake Ayala embraces the pressure.

The top-ranked Fort Dodge sophomore pinned his way through the 113 pound bracket at the Cliff Keen Invitational this weekend, claiming his second straight crown at the tournament on Saturday.

Ayala won five matches in 24 hours, coming off a technical fall victory on Thursday in a CIML dual at Ankeny Centennial.

“I like it (wrestling three days in a row),” Ayala said. “You get your weight down and if you have a bad match, you just go out and correct it.

“Right before I stepped out there, I knew in my head what I had to do.”

Ayala was the lone champion for the defending Cliff Keen Independence Invite champs, as the short-handed Dodgers placed seventh in the final team standings with 231 team points.

Christian Brothers College won the title with 299. Scott West (271.5) was second, followed by Solon (260), Lisbon (251), Fennimore (247) and Osage (233).

Clarion-Goldfield Dows (199.5) was 12th in the 33 team field.

In the final round, Ayala pinned Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Austin Kegley in 3:20. He defeated Clarion-Goldfield-Dows Tyler Stein by fall in the semifinals.

Ayala also recorded two first-period falls and another second period fall.

“He told me on Thursday that he was going to pin his way through the tournament,” said FDSH head coach Bobby Thompson. “He was methodical and got the job done.

“Drake has always been dominant on his feet, but he’s gotten even better and was working on his top game.”

Third-ranked junior Carson Taylor (120) placed third. Taylor earned a major decision in the quarterfinals before being edged by Crestwood’s (2A) fifth-ranked Kaden Anderlik 7-6 in the semifinals.

Taylor bounced back with a pair of lopsided decision triumphs for bronze.

“He out-wrestled him (Anderlik in the semis),” Thompson said. “Carson is definitely better than him, he just didn’t quite get the takedown he needed at the end of the third period.

“Carson has been wrestling at a good pace. He had a solid tournament.”

Brothers Lane Cowell (106) and 10th-ranked Brooks Cowell (126) each earned four victories in the tournament, finishing fifth and sixth, respectively.

“They both showed a ton of improvement,” Thompson said. “They lost some tight matches. It was definitely a growting experience, getting through the grind of three days.

“It was great for Lane to come in and get in the Top 8 of the bracket. And Brooks had a strong showing.”

Fifth-ranked Drevon Ross (145) picked up four victories and finished sixth. Ross lost to Joshua Saunders of Christian Brothers in the semifinals. Ross, who tweaked his ankle in the Saunders match, lost to No. 9 Tyler Murphy of Dubuque Hempstead and eighth-ranked Ryne Mohrfeld of Lisbon with a medical forfeit.

“Saunders is ranked nationally,” Thompson said. “Drevon wasn’t quite the same after that. He couldn’t get any offense going with his ankle, so we took him out to get him healed up.”

Eighth-ranked sophomore Kody Cook (138) was eighth. Rounding out the Dodger lineup was Logan Finowski (11th at 285), Sawyer Springer (12th at 220), fifth-ranked Kaden Smith (13th at 170), Dylan Zimmermann (18th at 152), Dreyzon Phillips (19th at 132) and Savion Wheat (19th at 160).

“I think Sawyer, Logan, Dylan and Savion had really rough days in pool play (Friday) because of their seeds, but fought through the bronze and copper brackets tough,” Thompson said. “That will pay dividends. Kody ran into buzzsaw in Grant Gambrall (Iowa City West) and had an uphill climb on the backside.

“Without three of our guys (junior Levi Egli, senior Triston Licht and junior Austin Lee), we definitely left some points on the table,” Thompson said. “So we’re a relatively young, inexperienced team overall right now, and this schedule forces us to mature quickly.

“We train our minds and our bodies with these difficult three-day stretches.”

The Dodgers are back in action on Thursday when they travel to Des Moines Hoover/North on Thursday. Action begins at 6:30 p.m.