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-Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Mariaha Benedict of Fort Dodge pins Mason City Madeline Hoover during Dodgers invite on Friday

The Fort Dodge girls are coming together as a team.

Five returning letterwinners earned medals at the Fort Dodge Invitational, three better than last season.

Sophomore Mariaha Benedict climbed to the top of the podium, grabbing the 135-pound title, a year after finishing as runner up.

“Obviously she (Benedict) wanted to come in here and win the tournament,” said Fort Dodge head coach Jon Koenig. “She beat a familiar opponent, who knew Mariaha’s strengths and tried to take them away, but it was a good sign that she was able to do what she wanted to.”

The Dodgers (70) placed eighth and scored more points than their 10th place (48) finish in 2022.

Benedict (33-3) met a familiar foe in the championship match. The Dodger sophomore earned a major decision (11-3) over Decorah’s McKenzie Tollefsen (17-4), an opponent she beat for fifth place in the Dan Gable Donnybrook.

Through the tournament she earned a fall in 13 seconds and a 9-0 major decision in the semifinals.

“This was also good for her to be able to get into that period and work on her gas tank,” Koenig said. “We have to work on that and get that better and prepare for super regionals.”

Junior Lucy Porter (9-11) reached the 145-pound semifinal with a 47 second fall in the quarters. She finished fourth, losing to Clear Lake’s Alexa Hefflin in the third place match.

“This was good for Lucy to build some confidence,” Koenig said. “She faced a tough wrestler in the third place match and did well.”

Alejandra Manzanilla (22-14) placed fifth at 105 with a fall in 4:42 over Algona’s Reese Taylor in the medal round. Manzanilla won three straight, all by fall after losing in the quarterfinals.

Gracie Harvey (110) and Delaney O’Connor (140) both placed sixth. Harvey won two matches by fall and O’Connor had two fall victories.

“Alejandra and Gracie, just beat themselves and that’s something we know we have to work on,” Koenig said. “Those girls didn’t beat them, they beat themselves.

“Alejandra did something we had been working on in the room, and got it, but the girl just drove through her.”

The Dodgers were competing without senior Maddie Pulis (170), a state qualifier in 2022, who is recovering from an illness.

“I think our schedule is going to really help as we get to the postseason,” Koenig said. “I think we will shock some people. We had good conditioning coming in and are getting it in the season as well with all our matches and tough tournaments.

“It stinks that Maddie (Pulis) wasn’t able to compete for her senior year, but she is going to rest up and get better for the second part of the season.”

The Dodgers will compete at West Marshall on Tuesday to finish up the first portion of their schedule.

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