A trio of West Liberty High School Comet wrestlers will compete this weekend in the state finals in DesMoines after taking top honors Saturday in the Solon District.
Senior Kobe Simon, who placed second last year, will be battling for honors in the 220 pound division again Alex Beaver, who moved up from wrestling at 113 pounds last year, will be going after the 126 pound title in his third visit to the state finals. The third qualifier was Drake Collins, a freshman wrestling at 160 pounds.
On Saturday, five West Liberty Comet wrestlers competed in the Class 2A District 7 tournament held at Solon High School, but only three would qualify for state.
Wrestlers from Solon, West Liberty, Camanche, West Delaware, Mount Vernon, Central Dewitt, Monticello, Anamosa, Center Point Urbana, Tipton and Maquoketa competed in the tournament with individual state tournament state berths on their minds.
The top two wrestlers in each of the 14 weight classes earned the opportunity to represent their schools in the Iowa High School State Wrestling Tournament Feb. 18-20 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Three sophomores and two seniors advanced to districts for the Comets by placing in the top two at their sectional tournament held in Dewitt the previous Saturday. Colin Cassady, Joshua Zeman and Drake Collins joined seniors Alex Beaver and Kobe Simon Saturday in Solon.
Comets gave it their all
Cassady started the day off with a bang for the Comets as he topped Monticello’s Cael Sampson by an 8-6 score to reach the district final at 106 pounds. Cassady met familiar River Valley Conference foe Jaxon Bussa of Camanche in that match and went out and grabbed the first takedown.
Bussa had defeated Cassady the week before by a 6-0 score. After the initial takedown. Bussa reversed Cassady and ended up pinning the Comet in the first period.
Cassady then had to regroup to wrestle Brayden Maury of West Delaware for true second place. Maury unfortunately had Cassady’s number and won by fall to end Cassady’s stellar season (29-12) just short of a state tournament appearance.
At 126, Beaver faced senior Jacob Coon of Mount Vernon in his opening match. Beaver ran the score up to 4-1 before pinning Coon in 2:37.
In the finals, Beaver faced Blake Engel of West Delaware. Beaver again jumped out to a nice lead and was ahead of Engel by a 5-2 difference after the first period and 7-2 into the second period before getting taken down and put to his back for the fall.
Beaver advanced to the state tournament for the third consecutive year with his true second place finish.
Zeman lost his first match 7-2 in the 132 pound weight class to Reily Dolan of West Delaware. Zeman secured an opportunity for a true second place wrestleback when he knocked off senior Robert Howard of Central Dewitt by fall in 4:24 after trailing 8-4 in the third period.
The huge win avenged a 9-2 loss to Howard just the week before. In the wrestleback match, Zeman lost by fall to Jackson Jaspers of Mount Vernon to complete his admirable 26-12 sophomore campaign.
Collins struck first with a first period takedown against Isaac Fettkether of West Delaware in his first match of the day and cruised to a 6-3 victory to reach the district finals at 160 pounds.
There, he met two time defending state champ Hayden Taylor of Solon. The bout was a rematch of the sectional final, in which Taylor won by tech fall.
After keeping a close 2-0 deficit throughout much of the first period, Collins lost by fall. He did not face a wrestleback situation and secured his first spot at state in two attempts with his runner-up placement.
Simon dominated his opening round opponent, Clark Younggreen from Mount Vernon, by widening the gap primarily in the third period and eventually winning 9-1.
Simon then faced Gage Marty of Solon for the fourth time this seasn, beating Marty by 5-2, 6-3 and 5-2 scores in their previous three matches, the latest being at the sectional tournament a week ago.
Marty kept this match just as close and actually led Simon 4-3 after the second period. Simon went ahead of Marty with a takedown in the third period and punched his fourth straight state ticket with a exciting 6-5 victory.
Coach praises wrestlers
“Obviously we wanted to get all five through but we fell a little short,” head coach Ian Alke praised his wrestlers “Colin and Josh finished third after two tough true second place matches. I’m hurting with those two. I know that they didn’t accomplish what they wanted and it’s sad to be so close.”
“The good news is that they had and experience that not very many kids have with district wrestling and they can use this feeling as motivation to train next year,” the coach said.
“On the other hand, I am so excited for Drake to compete in the state tournament. He’s made a mountain of progress in the last year. He has earned his chance to get on that podium.” The coach said Beaber has done something “rare” in West Liberty.
“He is a three time state qualifier,” Alke said, “He’s really made jumps the last few weeks and is wrestling his best yet.”
“In my opinion, Kobe won the toughest 220 pound district bracket in the state,” the coach said about his state runner-up finisher last year. “I believe all four of those kids in his bracket could place at state. It is a shame that only two can go.”
“We look forward to the number one seed for Kobe and getting him back to the finals, but one match at a time,” the coach said.
“This week, we will keep practices short, focusing on fine tuning and making small adjustments. The biggest thing is getting their minds right to be loose, have fun and score points.”
First Round Matchups at State:
126 – Alex Beaver, sr. West Liberty (28-10) vs. Ty Koedam, so. Sergeant Bluff-Luton (35-8)
160 – Drake Collins, so. West Liberty (32-8) vs. Allen Catour, jr. Davenport Assumption (19-3)
220 – Kobe Simon, sr. West Liberty (33-3) vs. Nick Wacha, jr. Ballard (14-10)
Regional Duals Appearance
On Tuesday, Feb. 9 the Comet Wrestling team, minus the five individual district qualifiers including Cassady, Beaver, Zeman, Collins and Simon, competed in the 2A regional duals in Independence.
The Comets faced a tough Williamsburg team in the opening dual of the night. The winner of that dual would face #5 Independence for a chance to advance to the State Duals Feb. 17 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
The Comets won just three matches against the Raiders as Quintyn Rocha won by fall in 3:19 at 285, Diego Gonzales won 7-1 at 138 and Joe Barten eked out a 2-1 victory at 152.
The Comets fell 63-12 to Williamsburg to end their season with a nice 18-2 dual record. Independence went on to defeat Williamsburg to advance to the State Duals.
Regional Duals Appearance
Mediacom Communications will provide Iowa television viewers with a mix of live-action and replay coverage of the upcoming Iowa High School Athletic Association’s (IHSAA) state semi-final and championship wrestling competition.
The statewide cable channel, MC22, will carry live-action coverage for the semi-final matches in each class of the ISHAA 2021 State Wrestling Tournament. Coverage will begin with Class 1A on Friday, Feb. 19 at 3:30 p.m.; followed by Class 2A-3A matches at 7:30 p.m..
On Sunday, Feb. 21, fans can tune-in to MC22 to watch complete replay coverage of both the state semi-final matches (2:30 p.m.) and all championship matches (6 p.m.).
The championship competition on Saturday, Feb. 20, will be televised live on IHSSN television affiliates, with a free live stream available on ihssn.com. The IHSSN partnership with Mediacom provides MC22 with replay rights for the championship games, as well as the previously televised semi-final matches.