Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021 is a date that Kobe Simon will be hard-pressed to forget. After qualifying for the Iowa High School State Wrestling Tournament for the fourth straight year, Simon would not be denied a state championship in his last attempt.
The class 2A section of the tournament began on Thursday, Feb. 18 with three Comet qualifiers looking to leave their own individual marks in the state history record books. Alex Beaver and Drake Collins joined Simon in Des Moines for what some will say is the greatest state wrestling tournament in the country.
Beaver goes over 100 wins
Beaver competed in the 126 pound division. He opened the tournament Thursday night with a tough match against Ty Koedam (35-8) of Sergeant Bluff-Luton.
Koedam scored first on a single leg to a carry in the opening period. He rode Beaver out the remainder of the period after several solid attempts by Beaver to escape. Koedam locked up a cradle in the second period and ended up pinning the Comet in 3:15.
Beaver squared off against Kellen Moore (38-9) of Forest City in the first round of consolations later that evening. Moore put Beaver in an early 5-0 hole that proved to be too much for the Comet senior to overcome. Moore scored ten more points primarily off of three big takedowns and went on to defeat Beaver by a 15-3 major decision.
Beaver ended his state run and senior campaign with a 28-12 mark and surpassed the century win mark with a 102-36 career record that included three straight state tournament appearances.
One talented sophomore
At 160 pounds, Collins opened his first state tournament experience with Allen Catour (19-3) of Davenport Assumption.
Catour took Collins down first after a lot of quality scrambles from both wrestlers. He held Collins for a three point nearfall and jumped out to a 5-0 lead. Collins quickly reversed Catour and trailed only 5-2 to start the second. Collins started the second frame on bottom and Catour turned him for the fall in 2:36 to send the Comet sophomore to the consolation bracket.
Collins’ first round of consolations matched him up with Cade Shirk (26-8) of Emmetsburg. Collins struck first with a takedown and a ride out in the opening period. He scored a reversal and another takedown before flattening Shirk for the pin in 4:00 to advance to Friday’s matches.
Hunter Worthen (33-4) of Union brought his A-game to Friday afternoon’s session and worked the score to 7-1 before ending Collins’ second varsity season by fall in 2:24.
At 33-10 this year, Collins has two more years to build on what he has accomplished so far as a Comet.
Simon steals the show
Simon stole the show for the Comet faithful in attendance at Wells Fargo Arena, by taking advantage of his number one seed at 220 pounds, as he settled in for three solid days of competition.
Simon’s first two rounds were completely dominating for the Comet senior. He dropped Nick Wacha (14-10) of Ballard with a 3:49 pin in the first round. Kain Nelson, a 22-2 senior from Clarion-Goldfield-Dows was Simon’s next victim, losing by a 20-4 tech fall in the quarterfinals.
Simon’s semifinal match Friday night against 30-1 Conner Murty of East Marshall LeGrand was a little closer match in score, although Simon controlled the entire 8-5 victory. With the semifinal victory, for the second straight year, he earned a spot in the 220 pound state finals.
Standing across from Simon Saturday night would be undefeated 29-0 senior Dylan Winkel of Central Lyon-George Little Rock.
The match was set up to be a brawl from the start, but Simon struck first with a go-behind takedown just 19 seconds in. Simon let Winkel go with 54 seconds left in the period to make the score 2-1, Simon, after one.
Simon chose bottom to start the second and managed a reversal midway through the period. Winkel countered with a reversal of his own and the score was 4-3, Simon, heading into the third and final frame.
Winkel chose bottom and after a major scramble situation, Simon decided to take a gamble and let him go to tie the score at four all with 1:39 remaining in the match. With just 19 seconds left, Simon, a future Grandview College Viking, scored the winning takedown and held on for the 6-4 victory.
With the win, Simon became just the eighth different Comet in school history to win a state title. Simon qualified for state as a freshman, placed fourth as a sophomore, and was runner up last season. His Comet legacy concludes with a stellar 142-36 career mark.
A proud coach
Head Coach Ian Alke had plenty to say about the Comets at state and the future of the program:
“I know that Alex Beaver didn’t have the results that he wanted at state but I couldn’t be happier with his effort. He went up a weight class and competed at a very high level. He’s been a leader all year even if he didn’t necessarily believe it,” the coach said. “Everyone followed him because of his work ethic and the way he competes. He left everything on the mat and went down swinging like a Comet. We will miss him next year.”
The coach said Drake Collins “gained an experience this weekend that he will use as fuel for the next two years. This tournament forces kids to get better in a very short time and I feel like he did just that.”
“He won a match at the highest level an Iowa high school wrestler can by wrestling better than I have ever seen him,”Alke said. “I feel like the sky is the limit for Drake and I can’t wait to get back to work with him.”
Alke also was proud of his champion. “Kobe Simon is a product of West Liberty Wrestling. He is a home grown kid that has been coached by home grown people his whole life. He trusted his coaches, the program, his family and himself. He worked hard, set goals, made adjustments and it all paid off.”
“He wrestled an outstanding tournament beating a very good opponent in the finals,” the coach said. “I can’t wait to see what he does at the next level. I know he will represent the West Liberty Wrestling Club in the best possible way.”
“Looking ahead to next year, we will return Drake Collins (state qualifier), Josh Zeman (district qualifier), Colin Cassady (district qualifier), Diego Gonzales (freshman letter winner), Quintyn Rocha (freshman letter winner) and Joe Barten (junior letter winner),” Alke said. “We will have to do some recruiting in our hallways to fill some of the lower weights but I am excited for the guys returning and next year's team to carry on the West Liberty Comet wrestling tradition.”