No. 1 Dodgers earn CRJ title

-Messenger photo by Britt KudlaDrake Ayala of Fort Dodge wrestles against WoodBury Central Beau Klingensmith in the Championship during Don Miller on Saturday

CEDAR RAPIDS — Top-ranked Fort Dodge was all business again at the Cedar Rapids Jefferson Invitational here on Saturday, as the Dodgers crowned five champions and worked their way to a fourth team title already this year.

Head coach Bobby Thompson’s squad racked up 268.5 points, with No. 10 Dubuque Hempstead (216) placing a distant second. Moline (Ill.) was third with 153 points.

Unbeaten FDSH stalwarts Drake Ayala (106 pounds) and Drew Bennett (132) joined seniors Cayd Lara (152) and Damond Lockner (145) and junior Drevon Ross (138) at the top of the podium. Three other Dodgers reached the finals, including top-ranked Brody Teske, who suffered his first career loss to Alex Thomsen at 126 pounds.

Sophomore Levi Egli (160) and junior Kaden Smith (170) also reached the championship round. Sophomores Carson Taylor (113) and Brooks Cowell (120) both placed third.

”It was a good effort overall; all 13 of our guys wrestled well,” Thompson said. ”We made some correctable mistakes, but we battled and gave a strong effort.”

The second-ranked Ayala (27-0) racked up bonus points in all three of his matches, majoring Isaiah Tapia (28-7) of Moline in the finals, 13-4. The top-rated Bennett (31-0) buzzed his way through the bracket at 132, then recorded a 9-3 victory over second-ranked (1A) Logan James of Underwood (30-3) for the title.

”Drake beat a good, mature senior in the finals, and Drew dominated,” Thompson said. ”They both continue to do a great job of staying the course and wrestling their style.”

The No. 1 Lara (31-1) defeated fourth-ranked Harlan Steffensmeier (27-2) of Fort Madison in the finals, 6-3.

”Harlan’s a very rangy kid and can be a handful, but Cayd was in control,” Thompson said. ”I think that in Cayd and Drew’s (championship bouts), their opponents wrestled to keep it close and the officiating played into that as well. Those matches weren’t close.”

Ross (27-6), who is ranked second, recorded an 11-1 major decision in the finals against Tyler Murphy (21-6) of Hempstead. The third-rated Lockner (30-4) handled No. 6 Mason Hulse (26-2) of Boone, 5-3, to win at 145.

”Drevon looked really good in the finals — as good as he has all year,” Thompson said. ”Drevon and Damond both had solid tournaments. They had steady performances against quality opponents in their championship matches.”

Seventh-ranked Egli (15-5) and No. 5 Smith (27-6) bowed out at the end of their respective brackets at 160 and 170, though Thompson added, ”they both performed well.”

”That was Levi’s match to win (in a 3-2 setback to No. 4 Alex Ward of Hempstead), but he’s gaining confidence and getting better. He’s at a tough weight for a sophomore, but he’s right there.”

The No. 6 Taylor (27-5) and 10th-rated Cowell (16-6) rebounded from semifinal setbacks to both take home bronze medals.

”I thought Carson out-wrestled (fourth-ranked Dillon Gottschalk) in the semis after the first period, but he bounced back strong,” Thompson said. ”It was good to see Carson and Brooks take care of things and finish on a positive note.”

Sixth-rated junior Triston Licht (6-3) placed fourth at 195 after dropping matches to No. 2 Tyrell Gordon (33-2) of Waterloo East and ninth-ranked Ethan Barry of Clinton.

Sophomore Austin Lee (17-15) was fifth at 182, and junior Logan Finowski (15-12) was eighth at 285.

Fort Dodge, which also owns team tournament golds from Independence, its home Don Miller Invitational and at Iowa City West, will take on Marshalltown at home this Thursday in make-up CIML Iowa Conference dual.