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Ross has eyes on the prize

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Alexis Ross of Fort Dodge wrestles against Humbodlt during Don Miller Invitational.

CORALVILLE — Alexis Ross won’t forget the past, but she isn’t letting it consume her, either.

Simply put, the Fort Dodge sophomore doesn’t like to lose. Defeat is what drives her to accomplish something she has dreamed about since she was little.

“I’ve thought about last year’s state tournament, but I just try to mainly focus on myself as a wrestler and improve on what I need to,” said Ross, who will compete at the IWCOA girls state meet here on Friday and Saturday. “Finishing third last year was not what I was looking for at all.

“So I’m still going for a state title like I’ve always wanted. I’m not coming to state wanting anything less.”

As a freshman, Ross took the girls wrestling mat by storm. She compiled a 16-1 record, and was 5-1 at the state tournament.

Her only loss of the 2020 season came in the state semifinals to eventual state champion Abby McIntyre of Glenwood. Ross was able to bounce back and bring home a bronze medal for the Dodgers.

“I feel like I could have won that match,” Ross said. “I just didn’t wrestle like I was capable. This year, I feel, is another opportunity to prove myself.”

Ross has been able to move forward and is ready to pursue another podium spot.

“Losing at state left a chip on her shoulder, and then losing to Emma Grimm at the Clash put a chip on the other shoulder,” said Fort Dodge girls coach Jon Koenig. “Alexis doesn’t like to lose, whether it’s boys at the (junior varsity level) or girls, which hits a deeper vein.”

With the past behind her, Ross has wreaked havoc at the 132-pound class, earning an 8-0 record and preparing herself for another shot at a state championship as the No. 1 seed.

“It’s my love for wrestling that makes me want to get better and be the best. I’m also a very competitive person,” Ross said. “My family has always been very competitive.

“That just kind of translates into my wrestling life.”

Koeing has seen an uptick in Ross’ drive as she prepares for this weekend.

“She’s definitely excited and ready,” Koenig said. “With the hybrid learning and the pandemic, the state tournament popped up quickly.”

Ross is ranked third at 132. The second seed is Davenport Assumption’s Sydney Park, a two-time state champion. Annika Behrends is rated No. 2 and seeded third.

“To bring home a state title would mean a lot,” Ross said. “I’ve talked about winning state in high school forever, and now that I have the opportunity, it’s great. I want to take advantage of that and bring home as many titles as I can for me and everyone that has supported me on the way.”

Joining Ross in a Dodger singlet will be freshman Dari Cook (113). Cook, who hadn’t wrestled before this season, has three matches under her belt. She brought home a third-place finish at Waverly, going 2-1 with two falls.

“When we were riding to the tournament we got to talking and found out she has a background in taekwondo,” Koenig said. “So I told her to just go out there and approach it like she does taekwondo.

“She went out right away and got two wins and finished third. She was excited and it was great. She is ready to jump into this fully.”

Tournament action will begin Friday at 1:30 p.m. in the Xtream Arena in Coralville. Saturday’s matches start at 10 a.m.

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