The West Liberty High School Comet wrestling team closed out the 2020 portion of its season by posting a 7-1 dual record over two days of competition.
Beginning on Thursday, Dec, 17, the Comets traveled to Maquoketa High School for a non-conference quadrangular that included Clinton, Solon and the hosts.
The Comets took on Clinton to open the night and it was pretty much all Comets from the get-go. West Liberty sweeping to a 66-12 team victory. The only points Clinton scored were from two forfeits by the Comets, losing every single contested match to the Comets.
Drake Collins, Lake Newton, Joe Barten, Kobe Simon, Quintyn Rocha, Colin Cassady and Alex Beaver all earned wins by pin over Maquoketa. Comets Diego Gonzales, Joshua Zeman, Austin Elizalde and Felipe Molina all collected wins via forfeit.
A talented Class 2A #7 Solon team was next in line for the Comets and the West Liberty team was more than the Spartans could handle in the end, although the teams were trading blows from the initial referee’s whistle.
The teams were tied at 18 each midway through the dual before Solon pulled ahead 36-33 with just two weights remaining. Beaver received a forfeit at 126 and Gonzales won by a 11-0 major decision to seal the 43-36 team win for the Comets.
West Liberty never trailed against Maquoketa in the final dual of the day, winning by a convincing 44-24 score. Beaver, Collins, Newton and Molina all won by fall for West Liberty.
Gonzales eked out a 4-3 win before Zeman dominated with a 17-2 tech fall and Barten came out on top of a 8-6 overtime match. Simon won 9-3 to wrap up the Comets scoring.
On Saturday, Dec. 19 the Comets competed in the Doug Philip Duals at Cedar Rapids Xavier. Fans were not allowed into the tournament, but that did not keep the Comets from wrestling at a high level all day long. Anamosa, Marion, Waterloo West, Williamsburg and Xavier all squared off against the Comets throughout the day.
Round number one was a good warm up to start the day for the Comets. They took on a scrappy Waterloo West squad and came out on top, 48-18.
Comets Sam Gingerich, Collins, Newton, Molina and Simon all recorded pin-fall victories. Winning close matches were Gonzales (6-1) and Zeman (6-5). Cassady and Elizalde both received forfeit victories to complete the Comet point-getters scoring.
River Valley Conference foe Anamosa was up next for the Comets in round number two. Molina, Simon and Cassady all pinned their opponents while Gonzales (4-3) and Seman (4-0) again gutted out close matches. Beaver, Gingerich, Collins and Newton all took wins in the form of forfeits from Anamosa’s open weight classes. The final team score ended 48-18.
Host Cedar Rapids Xavier took on the Comets during round number three. Gonzales, Collins and Simon all recorded first period falls while Zeman busted out a 17-1 tech fall and Cassady won a tight 4-3 contest. Beaver, Molina and Rocha all won by forfeit and the final team score ended up a narrow 44-36 margin of victory for the Comets.
Marion would be the next victim for the Comets during round number four. The Comets lost a close battle to the Indians at the same tournament last year and West Liberty didn’t let Marion have a chance to do the same again this year. Beaver, Collins, Molina and Simon all pinned their Indian foes before Zeman earned another tech fall while Gingerich and Newton both won by major decisions. Barten ground out an 8-6 win and the Comets rolled to a 52-9 drubbing over the Indians.
The fifth and final round matched the Comets up with perennial power Williamsburg. The Comets won the first match as Gonzales bested his opponent by a 10-0 major decision.
After that, the Comets played catch up the remainder of the dual. Williamsburg never relinquished their lead after the second match and cruised to a 49-25 victory, ending an 11 straight dual win streak for the Comets to open the season.
Other winners for the Comets were Collins and Simon by fall while Molina won 9-2 and Rocha received a forfeit. The Comets’ 4-1 dual record for the day earned them a second place finish as a team.
The Comets finished the first half of the season with a sparkling 11-1 dual team record and head into winter break with a lot of momentum according to head Coach Ian Alke.
“I am very proud of all the hard work the kids have put in this week. I am especially happy with Sam (Gingerich) who is working through an injury but roughing through it to help his team. That is what I need my seniors to do,” the coach said, praising his team. “We have some holes in our lineup but I believe I have a team full of fighters that represent themselves, their families and their community in the best possible way.”
He said the team thrives “when they are considered the underdogs, pointing out the Comet football season “was proof of that and that has carried over into this wrestling season.”
The coach said his team were underdogs to Solon and Xavier but performed strong to beat the talented teams.
“The Williamsburg dual hurt, but we walked away learning a lot. It is something that will make us better come February,” Alke stated, excited for what is to come and thankful that the kids can have this season.
Girls wrestling action
The West Liberty varsity girls team competed in the Wilton Girls’ Tournament Saturday, Dec. 19 as well.
Laney Esmoil was 1-2 on the day with one pin and took third. Pita Garcia was 2-1 with two pins and finished in second place. Mylei Henderson was 1-2 with one pin to place third. Isabel Morrison was also 1-2 with a pin to grab third. Grace Evans finished 1-1 with a pin to collect second place.
The Comet boys are off until Jan. 12 when they go to Lisbon for a non-conference triangular with Lisbon and New London.
The West Liberty girls are back in action on Saturday, Jan. 2, when they host their own tournament beginning at 9 a.m. followed by a dual at Anamosa on Monday, Jan. 4, beginning at 5 p.m.