The start of the 20/21 West Liberty High School Comet wrestling season began fast and furiously on Saturday, Dec. 5 when the squad was given the go-ahead by school administration to begin their season. After practicing twice over the weekend and Monday through Wednesday to prepare for its first night of action on Thursday, Dec. 10, the Comets hosted Anamosa and Tipton, a pair of River Valley Conference teams.
The Comets took the first dual from Anamosa by a 42-24 margin.
Colin Cassady and Felipe Molina each won by fall at 106 and 195 respectively and Kobe Simon picked up a nice 13-8 win as he bumped up to the heavyweight division. Alex Beaver, Sam Gingerich, Drake Collins and Joe Barten all received forfeits to round out the Comet scoring.
Tipton never led the dual in which they lost to the Comets by a 44-21 score, but they did take a couple of contested matches. Diego Gonzales at 132, Collins at 152, Austin Elizalde at 182 and Cassady at 106 all notched pins for the hometown team.
Beaver recorded a tech fall at 120 and Simon again bumped up to heavyweight for tougher competition and earned a 9-2 decision. Lake Newton and Molina received forfeits for the Comets.
Girls do battle
There were also a handful of varsity girls matches on this night, as Solon and Mid-Prairie brought their female teams to West Liberty.
The Comet girls had mixed results against the Spartans and Golden Hawks. Mylei Henderson, Isabel Morrison and Laney Esmoil were all 1-1 with a pin each. Grace Evans lost a close match after putting up a great fight and Pita Garcia won an exciting match by fall.
Against Solon, Garcia won by fall and Esmoil and Evans each lost by fall.
On Friday, Dec. 11, the girls team ventured to Waverly-Shell Rock High School to compete in the Go-Hawk Invite.
Other schools in attendance were Independence, Crestwood-Cresco, North Fayette Valley, East Buchanan, Charles City, Cedar Falls, New Hampton/Turkey Valley, Decorah, Center Point Urbana, AGWSR, Nashua Plainfield and the host Go-Hawks.
Wrestling at 138, Esmoil regrouped nicely from the night before and was 3-1 during the tournament with three falls to gather a third place finish. At 145, Henderson received a opening round bye and went on to win a 6-1 match.
She dropped her next match and would find herself in a dogfight of a third and fourth place match. Henderson wrestled a great back and forth match but came up just short in a 7-5 decision to take home fourth place.
At 152 pounds, Garcia won her first match by fall. She lost her second bout by fall and ended her night with a heartbreaking 5-3 loss.
Morrison also competed in the 152 pound division and won her first match by fall. She fell in her next contest by pin. Morrison came out firing in her third match and during a scramble situation, accidentally dropped and landed on her opponent against the mat and was disqualified from the tournament. Girls coach Caleb Studebaker tried lobbying for Morrison with the officials, but in the end, it was ruled a slam and she was eliminated from the tournament.
Wrestle in round-robin
On, Saturday, Dec. 12 the Comet boys traveled through the first decent snowfall of the season to Sigourney for the Savage Cobras’ round robin formatted tournament. Also in attendance were Lisbon, Keokuk, Davenport Assumption and Wapello.
At 106 pounds, sophomore Colin Cassady went 2-1 on the day with two pins. He dropped his only loss to highly ranked Derrick Bass of Assumption by fall to finish in second place.
At 120, senior Alex Beaver finished a sparkling 4-1 with four pins. He took his lone loss to top-ranked and returning state champ Brandon Paez of Lisbon by fall to also finish second. Wrestling at 132 pounds, sophomore Joshua Zeman brought home fourth place after winning his first match by a 10-7 score. He dropped two straight matches by fall and one by tech fall. He forfeited his final match after wrestling a couple of state title contenders.
Senior Josh Mateo entered the 138 pound weight class and won his first match by a close 3-2 decision. He was injured during his second bout and ended up defaulting out of the tournament with a fifth place medal. Sam Gingerich suffered an injury as well at 145. He won his first match emphatically with a 3:01 pin. He dropped his next contest by a 7-2 decision. During the third round, an injury to Gingerich defaulted him to a fourth place finish in the tournament. Sophmore Drake Collins began his run in the 152 pound weight class with a 14-1 major decision. He followed that up with a gritty 2-1 victory over his Davenport Assumption foe. The third round saw Collins’ only loss of the day and he rebounded with a :58 fall to finish in second place. At 170, senior Austin Elizalde placed third with two nice pins. He took just two losses throughout the day. Felipe Molina wrestled quite well at 195 and brought home a runner-up prize. He won three matches by fall and one by a 13-7 score. Senior Kobe Simon wrestled his true weight and won two matches via first period pins at 220 pounds. He dropped his first match of the season by a 8-3 mark to top ranked Cole Clark of Lisbon to place second. As a team, the Comets finished in third place behind Davenport Assumption and Lisbon even with four open weights due to various reasons.
Comets host triangular
The Comets took on Muscatine and Pleasant Valley Monday, Dec. 14 in their final home event of the season.
Seven senior wrestlers were recognized on this night. Isabel Morrison, Alex Beaver, Josh Mateo, Sam Gingerich, Austin Elizalde, Lake Newton and Kobe Simon were all honored.
The Comets wasted little time jumping all over Pleasant Valley to win by a 44-34 score.
Newton, Elizalde, Molina, Simon and Cassady all took wins by pin. Collins won 10-4 and Beaver ground out a 15-0 tech fall. Quintyn Rocha received a forfeit to complete the scoring for the Comets.
Against Muscatine, Molina, Simon, Cassady, Beaver, Diego Gonzales and Collins all picked up six point victories by pin. Newton eeked out a 3-1 victory and Joe Barten received a forfeit to push the final score to 45-18 in favor of the Comets.
Head coach Ian Alke said the following after the Comets first week of action: “Never have we been so grateful for the time and opportunity to wrestle. This year has taught us not to take anything for granted and wrestling is no exception.”
He said it’s been a “struggle all year” to find opportunities to get better. “We asked the kids to get better on their own. Their progress this week and success shows their work ethic and self-initiative. We have a great group of kids that represent West Liberty well and I am so proud of their resilience.”
The coach said not knowing if a competition would be canceled, the team loaded the schedule with “as many matches we could and the kids didn’t flinch.”
“After just five days of practice we won our first two conference duals and competed in a tournament with some of the best that the state has to offer,” he said. “Our kids wrestled at a high level and learned from every match. We enjoyed every minute and will continue with that mindset through the rest of the season.”
When asked about the extent of the injuries to Gingerich and Mateo, Alke stated they both suffered shoulder injuries and he expects them each to take the time they need to be 100 percent so they can accomplish their goals this year.
The Comet boys are back in action on Thursday, Dec. 17 in Maquoketa along with wrestling Clinton and Solon squads in the meet. The Comets end the 2020 portion of their season Saturday, Dec. 19 at the Doug Philip Duals at Cedar Rapids Xavier.
The girls are back on the mats Saturday, Dec. 19 as well when they travel to the Wilton Girls Tournament.