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CRUNCH TIME

—Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Fort Dodge’s Drake Ayala competes at the Don Miller Invitational. Ayala is going for his third state appearance.

Seven Fort Dodge seniors are looking to end the chapter of their high school careers with state tournament bids on Saturday, as they will wrestle for the final time in front of a home crowd.

The Dodgers will host a Class 3A district meet inside the Dodger gym, begining at noon.

Joining third-ranked Fort Dodge will be ninth-ranked Mason City, LeMars, Sioux City East, Sioux City North, Sioux City West, Spencer and Storm Lake.

“We have great leaders with seniors as well as our under classmen,” said Fort Dodge head coach Bobby Thompson. “The kids are excited to be wrestling at home and with the chance to go to state.”

Seniors Carson Taylor (126), Brooks Cowell (132) and Savion Wheat (160) all qualified last year. Taylor and Cowell are two time qualifiers.

Classmates Austin Lee (No. 10 at 182) and Levi Egli (195) were in Des Moines as sophomores (2018). Brandon Mills (No. 8 at 145) and Colten Munter (285) are looking for their first trip.

Taylor, ranked second, is a returning state champion. Cowell (No. 6) was fourth a year ago and a qualifier as a freshman (2017). Egli (No. 2) placed fifth in 2018.

Taylor also took fifth as a sophomore.

With the three returning seniors, seventh-ranked (113) junior Lane Cowell (fourth), No. 1 junior and returning state champion Drake Ayala (120), second-ranked junior Dreyzon Phillips (138), and junior Kody Cook (152) were all 2019 state qualifiers as well.

Fourteen ranked wrestlers will be in the field with five potental rated finals matchups. The 126-pound bracket is the one to watch, with top-ranked Cullan Schriever and Fort Dodge’s second-ranked Taylor on a potential collision course.

Taylor has a career record of 117-17 and is 15th on Fort Dodge’s all-time win list.

“Carson is at the top level with any of these guys,” Thompson said. “He just keeps grinding and doing what he needs to do.”

“Every weight class has two or three good kids, which means someone is not going to state,” Thompson said. “There will be some great matches in the finals especially.”

Schriever a University of Iowa recruit, and Taylor, a Grand View recruit, met in last year’s 120-pound state semifinal. Schriever, who was dealing with a shoulder injury at the time, defaulted in the first period. Taylor went on to claim the state title as the No. 5 seed with a 13-8 victory over Iowa City West’s third-seeded Hunter Garvin.

Cullan and his twin brother Colby (No. 2 at 145) are returning to the mat after recovering from injuries. Cullan has been out with a dislocated shoulder. Colby, also a Hawkeye recruit, is joined by Mills in the 145-pound bracket.

Egli and Storm Lake’s ninth-ranked senior Colton Dreith will be at 195. Mason City’s fifth-rated Jace Rhodes and Lane Cowell (No. 7) are at 113. Spencer’s Isaiah Spencer and LeMars’ Jake Franschen-Small are rated eighth and ninth, respectively, at 160.

Ayala, who is ranked No. 1 in the nation at 120 pounds, has lofty goals for the Dodgers as well. The junior, who is 126-2 in his career and 11th on the Dodgers’ all-time win list, has reached two straight state finals in as many seasons.

“Drake is a great leader,” Thompson said. “After practice he was in postseason mode, getting his right mindset. He was looking at the brackets and other things, doing what he needed to do to prepare for what’s ahead.

“You could see his mentality was changing.”

Dodger Probable Lineup

106 Max Bishop, fr. 27-11

113 Lane Cowell, jr. 29-8

120 Drake Ayala, jr. 39-0

126 Carson Taylor, sr. 35-2

132 Brooks Cowell, sr. 26-7

138 Dreyzon Phillips, jr. 34-7

145 Brandon Mills, sr. 27-11

152 Kody Cook, jr. 21-11

160 Savion Wheat, sr. 20-17

170 Tucker Pederson, fr. 8-5

182 Austin Lee, sr. 24-15

195 Levi Egli, sr. 18-3

220 Sawyer Springer, jr. 12-13

285 Colten Munter, sr. 13-24

RANKED WRESTLERS

113 — 5. Jace Rhodes, so., Mason City; 7. Lane Cowell, jr., Fort Dodge.

120 — 1. Drake Ayala, jr., Fort Dodge.

126 –1. Cullan Schriever, sr., Mason City; 2. Carson Taylor, sr., Fort Dodge.

132 — 6. Brooks Cowell, sr., Fort Dodge.

138 — 2. Dreyzon Phillips, jr., Fort Dodge.

145 — 2. Colby Schriever, sr., Mason City; 8. Brandon Mills, sr., Fort Dodge.

160 — 8. Isaiah Spencer, sr., Spencer; 9. Jake Franschen-Small, sr., LeMars.

182 — 10. Austin Lee, sr., Fort Dodge.

195 — 2. Levi Egli, sr., Fort Dodge; 9. Colton Dreith, sr., Storm Lake.