Wrestling at a consistent high level, the West Liberty High School Comet wrestling team came from behind to win a River Valley Conference triangular meet in Monticello and then battled some of the stiffest competition they’ve had all year in an Invitational at Benton.
Head coach Ian Alke believes the Comets have been wrestling really well and at a high level consistently, as of late. “Every year there is a question if the kids will be ready to go coming off of winter break,” he said. “This year everyone was itching to compete.”
He singled out several individual performances including Colin Cassiday, pointing out he had a big win against Monticello that worked as a catalyst for the rest of the team.
“After beating Monticello we were riding high and ready to take on a monster of a tournament at Benton,” Iske said, noting Drake Collins “really found himself,” as a wrestler on Saturday. “I’m also so excited to see him finish the season.”
He complimented Kobe Simon, a state runner-up a year ago, in eliminating two ranked opponents this weekend to earn a gold medal at what he called “one of the toughest tournaments in the state.” The coach cautioned that Simon has to “refocus” on this week with “tough” opponents from Lisbon and Solon.
The coach said the team is mentally prepared this season. “This year has been strange with the pandemic, but I can’t say enough about our athletes and their grit, hard work and improvements.”
Win Monticello triangular
On Thursday, Jan. 7 the Comet wrestlers ventured to Monticello for a River Valley Conference triangular with North Cedar and host Monticello.
The host Panthers squared off against the Comets in the first dual of the night. Midway through the dual, the Comets faced a fairly large 24-6 deficit before Drake Collins started the Comet comeback run with a first period pin and Lake Newton matched that with a pin of his own.
Two Monticello forfeits to Austin Elizalde and Felipe Molina along with pins by Quintyn Rocha and Kobe Simon put the Comets up for good. Alex Beaver also collected a pin and Colin Cassady edged out his foe by a 8-7 score to complete the Comet 45-29 victory. (Monticello was penalized for unsportsmanlike activity taking their team score from 30 to 29).
North Cedar fielded just eight wrestlers against the Comets in the final dual of the night.
Winning contested matches were Beaver, Diego Gonzales, Joshua Zeman, Sam Gingerich, Elizalde and Cassady, all by fall. Collins, Newton, Joe Barten, Molina, Simon and Rocha all took their victories by forfeit.
North Cedar won just two matches, both by forfeit at 113 and 126 pounds due to open weight classes by the Comets. Final team score ended 72-12 in favor of the Comets, who remain unbeaten in River Valley Conference duals, looking to continue their conference title winning streak.
Tough Bobcat Invitational
On Saturday, Jan. 9, the Comets competed in the Bobcat Jerry Eckenrod Invitational at Benton Community High School in Van Horne. Some of the state’s best wrestlers competed in the meet that featured over 78 ranked wrestlers and eight state-ranked teams.
At 106 pounds, West Liberty’s Colin Cassady went 2-3 with two first period pins to finish eighth in his 16-man bracket.
Alex Beaver received a first round bye at 113. He then went 1-3 in his next four matches to place sixth.
Wrestling at 132, Diego Gonzales was edged out of his first match by a 11-7 score. He rebounded with a third period pin in his next match, but lost his third match by fall to bow out of the double elimination tournament.
At 138, Joshua Zeman wrestled a very impressive tournament. Zeman won his first match with a pin. He dropped his next match by fall but came back with an exciting 9-7 overtime win. Even though he lost his fourth match, 9-3, the effort put forth against top ranked and three time finalist, Nathaniel Genobana of Centerville, was admirable to say the least. Zeman finished fifth when he won his final match by medical forfeit.
Sam Gingerich, at 145, wrestled in a very competitive bracket as well. He lost a close 7-4 decision in his opening match and came back with a nice 3:03 pin in round two. Another close 7-5 loss ended Gingerich’s day.
At 152, Drake Collins was seeded third in his bracket. He dominated his way to the finals with three straight pins, to finish above his seed. Collins lost by fall to undefeated Jadyn Peyton of West Delaware to finish runner-up at one of the toughest tournaments in Iowa.
Joe Barten wrestled in the 170 pound bracket. He dropped his first match by fall. His second match resulted in a victory by pin for Barten. After losing his next bout by fall, Barten’s day was over.
At 182, Austin Elizalde lost his first match by fall to the eventual runner-up of the bracket. He then lost a 5-3 heart breaker to close out his tournament run.
Felipe Molina received an opening round bye at 195. He lost his next match by fall. Molina got a pin of his own in his next match and lost by fall in the consolation semifinals. Molina then lost an excruciating 5-3 overtime match to finish sixth.
Top-seed senior Kobe Simon entered the tournament with just one loss on the season. Wrestling at 220, Simon reeled off two pins before he eked out a come-from-behind 3-2 victory in the semifinals. Simon then handed Connor Murty of EMG his first loss of the season with a 7-4 victory and secured the lone Comet championship at the brutal event.
As a team, the Comets finished with 91 points, which was good for seventh place. West Delaware (245.5) came away with the team title, followed by Waukee (240.5), Don Bosco (214), Independence (148.5), Fort Dodge (135.5) and Davenport Assumption (110).
Next up for the Comets is a non-conference triangular on Tuesday, Jan. 12 at Lisbon that also includes New London. The following Saturday, Jan. 16, the Comets plan to compete in the Ed Hadenfeldt Invitational at Solon High School.
On Friday, Jan. 8, Isabel Morrison was the lone representative for the Comet Girls Wrestling team in the Highland Girls Wrestling Tournament.
Morrison continued her strong season with a second place finish in the four person round robin bracket. Morrison won her first match by injury default in 2:21. She pinned her next opponent in 1:02. In her final match, Morrison lost by fall to secure her runner-up medal.
The Comet girls do not wrestle again until Saturday, Jan. 16 in the girls portion of the Independence Tournament at Independence High School.