Ayala earns 150th career win for FD
Nation’s No. 1 126-pounder pushes overall high school win streak to 107
VAN HORNE — Drake Ayala is a forward thinker.
Fort Dodge’s two-time defending state wrestling champion completely respects his place in both the program and state’s history books. At the same time, Ayala’s story is still being written. And now isn’t the time to start looking back.
Ayala became just the sixth Dodger ever to eclipse the 150-win plateau here on Saturday at the Eckenrod Invitational. A tournament championship for the country’s top-ranked 126-pounder did the trick and extended the Iowa Hawkeye recruit’s prep win streak to 107 matches in the process.
“It feels really cool to be a part of our history here,” said Ayala, who is now 151-2 overall. “But I have a whole lot of matches still to come in my career before I will really let that stuff sink in.”
Ayala was the lone Fort Dodge gold medalist in the 17-team event, which featured a field with some of the best Class 1A, 2A and 3A have to offer. Fellow senior Kody Cook reached the finals at 160 pounds, while senior Lane Cowell (120) and freshman Dru Ayala (106) took third at their respective weights.
The Dodgers — competing without ranked standouts Dreyzon Phillips and Max Bishop — were fifth in the final standings.
“Drake has been through so much this past year, so it’s good to take a step back and appreciate where he is and where he’s headed,” FDSH head coach Bobby Thompson said. “Hopefully we’ll have a state tournament in February and he can officially take his place among the all-time greats as a four-time finalist and three-time state champ.
“For everything he’s done or will do as a Dodger, he has so much more ahead of him — both as a wrestler and as a person. The sky will be the limit, and we’re all very proud of him. He’s a perfect example for our program, as far as what it should mean to be a student-athlete from Fort Dodge.”
Ayala (16-0) scored two first-period pins and a technical fall in claiming the title at 126.
Cook (12-3), ranked sixth in 3A, bowed out in the 160-pound championship round against No. 1 (Class 1A) Cael Frost of Don Bosco, 5-2. Fourth-rated Cowell (15-2) suffered his only defeat at the hands of No. 3 (1A) Garrett Funk — also of Don Bosco — in the 120-pound semifinals. And Dru Ayala (15-3), ranked sixth in 3A, went 4-1 with a narrow 14-12 setback versus No. 1 (2A) Derrick Bass of Davenport Assumption in the quarterfinals.
“We got better. That was the main goal,” Thompson said. “I know our records may not indicate it, but facing quality competition like this in January is necessary if we want to reach our potential in February. Have to keep pushing, keep growing.
“Our guys wrestled hard. We left some opportunities out there, but you learn from it and move on. We’re still going through some growing pains as a squad, with five freshmen and four sophomores in our lineup (on Saturday). That’s why it’s as important as ever that our (starting) seniors especially — Drake, Dreyzon, Kody and Lane — keep leading and remind the younger kids not to hit the panic button if their records aren’t glossy. That’s not what we’re after.”
Dodger junior Ben Egli (182) and freshman Damarion Ross (132) were both fifth. Egli (11-5) won three matches and dropped a pair — to top-rated (1A) Carson Tenold of Don Bosco and No. 6 (2A) Austin Roos of Benton. Ross (12-9), who recently cracked the 3A rankings at No. 10, was also 3-2, lost to No. 4 (2A) Kolten Crawford of La Porte City Union and fourth-rated (1A) Cael Bridgewater of North Linn.
Freshman Kane Butrick (113) was seventh for FDSH. Junior Ashton Patrick (195) took eighth.
“Kane and Ashton did a nice job,” Thompson said. “And even the guys who didn’t place fought. It was a tough tournament, and we’re in for another tough week ahead (with Ankeny Centennial at home on Thursday and a tournament in Cedar Rapids on Saturday).”
No. 1 (2A) West Delaware (245.5 points) was the Eckenrod team champion, followed by No. 3 (3A) Waukee (240.5), top-rated (1A) Don Bosco (214), No. 8 (2A) Independence (148.5) and the Dodgers (135.5).
Phillips, ranked third at 145, and Bishop — fourth at 113 — are expected back this week.