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IT’S GO TIME

Another busy state week ahead for Dodgers

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla: Fort Dodge's state qualifiers include, front row (left to right): Dru Ayala (106 pounds), Max Bishop (113), Dreyzon Phillips (145), Drake Ayala (132) and Kody Cook (160). Back: Ben Egli (182), Damarion Ross (138), Lane Cowell (120) and Matt Surles-Davis (170).

DES MOINES — Bobby Thompson knows what his fourth-ranked wrestling team can do on the mat, but it’s what his student-athletes have helped build as a program year in and year out which makes this a truly special run.

For six straight years, the Dodgers have placed in the top three of the traditional state tournament. There have always been graduation losses, but a couple of pieces have always returned to bridge the gap.

That consistency has extended a tradition during an unprecedented era of success.

Since 2015 alone, the Dodgers have brought back 42 state medals, including 12 individual championships.

In 2020, the Dodgers earned eight medals — the second most in school history. Four senior medalists are back this season, along with two state other qualifiers.

“The cohesiveness of this group is tremendous — as it has been for basically the last decade,” said Thompson. “(Seniors) Drake Ayala, Dreyzon Phillips, Lane Cowell and Kody Cook have helped this program earn a lot of points, all while leading these younger wrestlers along the way.

“We’ve had great leadership throughout our program in recent years. Guys like Triston Lara, Sam Cook, Brody Teske, Drew Bennett, Cayd Lara, Damond Lockner, Erik Birnbaum. That’s carried over to Carson Taylor and now Drake and the others. That is what makes this program special.

“The community and myself have been spoiled. It has been phenomenal to see in this program. We have produced great wrestlers and, even better, great men. We have four guys competing at the Div. I level (at Northern Iowa), Carson (Taylor) at NAIA and Jonah (Egli), along with Sam Cook, who just finished up at Iowa.”

Five of the six returning state participants are back from a year ago, along with four newcomers.

Cowell (120), Ayala (132), Phillips (145) and Cook are the linchpin. The senior quartet has 13 state appearances combined. They’ve earned seven medals and won two state championships, with three finals appearances.

The foursome has combined for 436 career victories.

The Dodger program is about so much more than wins, though.

“You had the entire team standing mat side when Pry’Shayn Mosley (a first-year wrestler) was in his wrestleback (to qualify for state at districts last Saturday),” Thompson said. “When he didn’t make it, everyone was devastated. When Matt (Surles-Davis) advanced (as a senior with an 9-16 record), everyone was cheering. Getting nine down is great, but it hurts not having the other five there.

“I remember last season when Carson (Taylor) was getting a medal as a senior and Drake was getting choked up. They truly want each other to succeed.”

Fort Dodge heads to state with five district champs and four runner-ups. Seven of the nine qualifiers received top-six seeds at Wells Fargo Arena.

Phillips (22-4), who has 92 career victories, is the top seed at 145. Ayala (28-1) is the No. 2 seed at 132. Cowell (25-4) and Cook (23-3) earned three seeds at their respective weights. Junior Ben Egli (18-8) is the four at 182, along with freshman Dru Ayala (25-4 at 106).

Returning state qualifier Max Bishop (18-2) is sixth at 113. Senior Matt Surles-Davis (9-16) and freshman Damarion Ross (20-15) are 16 seeds at 170 and 138 pounds, respectively.

“I thought we did OK in the seeding,” Thompson said. “Some of the other teams getting better seeds may hurt us for the quarterfinals. It gave us some tougher matchups right away.”

Ayala, who is third on the Dodgers’ all-time win list, is 164-3 in his career. The future Iowa Hawkeye will face Ankeny’s Carter Davis (7-3) in the first round.

Ayala pinned Davis in the district finals. He moved up to 132 pounds for the postseason, depite being the nation’s No. 1 126-pounder.

Over the past four seasons, Ayala has developed into a true program leader.

“Drake is very unique in his mindset. He is self motivated and driven by the next challenge. Never satisfied,” Thompson said. “He came in as an undersized freshman and finished second to a Div. I wrestler (in 2018).

“I’ve coached a lot of state champions, but I’ve never seen anyone quite like this who is willing to put it all on the line night in and night out. He truly has that growth mindset, which makes him better than everyone else.”

The Dodgers open the traditional state tournament on Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

Fort Dodge opens at the state dual tournament on Wednesday, when the fourth-seeded Dodgers face No. 5 North Scott at 9 a.m.

The ninth-ranked Lancers, who have seven rated wrestlers, qualified eight for the traditional tournament.

The winner will face either No. 1 Waverly-Shell Rock or eighth-seeded Linn-Mar at 1:30 p.m. On the other side of the bracket is No. 2 Southeast Polk, No. 3 Waukee, No. 6 Bettendorf and No. 7 Norwalk.

The Dodgers and Lancers will have four ranked matchups.

“We are going to get after it,” Thompson said. “We don’t match up great with them top to bottom, but it should be an entertaining dual with some big matchups before traditional state. The tough thing for us is, we could also see North Scott a few times in the quarterfinals of the traditional tournament.

“This will be great for Carter (Forbes), Cal (Hartman), Pry’Shayn, Austin (Read) and Keaton (Nichols). Other than Carter, they’re all underclassmen, so it will be good for them to get this kind of big-time experience.”

FORT DODGE vs. NORTH SCOTT

Ranked Wrestlers

106 — 4. Dru Ayala, fr., Fort Dodge; 113 — 5. Max Bishop, so., Fort Dodge vs. 3. Trace Gephart, jr., North Scott; 120 — 4. Lane Cowell, so., Fort Dodge; 126 — 1. Drake Ayala, sr., Fort Dodge; 138 — 6. Josh Conner, sr., North Scott; 145 — 3. Dreyzon Phillips, sr., Fort Dodge vs. 7. Peytin Westlin, jr., North Scott; 160 — 5. Kody Cook, sr., Fort Dodge vs. 4. Devin Strief, sr., North Scott; 170 — 8. Seth Madden, so., North Scott;182 — 4 Ben Egli, jr., Fort Dodge vs. 5. AJ Petersen, so., North Scott; 195 — 9. Joey Petersen, sr., North Scott.

STATE DUALS LINEUP

106 – Dru Ayala, fr., (25-4); 113 – Max Bishop, so., (18-2); 120 – Lane Cowell, sr., (25-4); 126 Carter Forbes, sr., (6-10); – Drake Ayala, sr., (28-1); 138 – Damarion Ross, fr., (20-15); 145 – Dreyzon Phillips, sr., (22-4); 152 – Cal Hartman, fr., (15-16); 160 – Kody Cook, sr., (23-3); 170 – Matthew Surles-Davis, sr., (9-16); 182 – Ben Egli, jr., (18-8); 195 – Pry’Shayn Mosley, jr., (8-15); 220 – Alex Read, so., (15-16); 285 – Keaton Nichols, so., (13-17).

FIRST ROUND STATE PAIRINGS

Fort Dodge

106 — Cael Nelson (25-12), fr., Carroll, vs. Dru Ayala (25-4), fr.; 113 — Jack Stevens (19-4), fr., Clear Creek-Amana vs. Max Bishop (18-2), so.; 120 — Lane Cowell (25-4), sr., vs. Ty Solverson (26-8), fr., Boone; 132 — Carter Davis (7-3), jr., Ankeny vs. Drake Ayala (28-1), sr.; 138 — Hunter Garvin (12-0), jr., Iowa City West vs. Damarion Ross (20-15), fr.; 145 — Dreyzon Phillips, (22-4), sr. vs. Dalyn Mull (23-15), sr., Marion; 160 — Kody Cook (23-3), sr. vs. Sean Mwangi (29-10), jr., Waverly-Shell Rock; 170 — Caleb Helgeson (20-1), sr., Johnston vs. Matt Surles-Davis (9-16), sr.; 182 — Jack McCabe (12-4), sr., Valley vs. Ben Egli (18-8), so.

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