Take a look back at some of the top moments and winners in the 2018 state wrestling finals.
The high school wrestling season as we know it ended 38 days ago with the state finals. But most wrestling fans know that in Iowa, and in many other states in the country, the season never stops.
This past weekend, for example, featured a slew of big-time wrestling events, where both former and current Iowa preps found success on the mat at various levels. One made a world team while others put on masterful displays of dominance both in a team and individual setting.
Here’s a quick rundown of what went down in the wrestling world this weekend:
Watters qualifies for U23 World Team (again)
Rachel Watters, a former Ballard wrestler and Ankeny native, qualified for the U23 World Team over the weekend by winning the world team trials at the Cox Convention Center down in Oklahoma City.
Watters went 3-0 to win at 72 kilograms (roughly 158 pounds). Wrestling for the Aries Wrestling Club, Watters outscored her opponents 26-3 en route to first place. She beat Titan Mercury’s Alyvia Fiske in back-to-back matches in the best-of-three finals, first 6-3, then 10-0.
“My first match was a little rough. I went out there a little flat,” Watters told USA Wrestling afterward. “Once I got to that second period and I got to that shot and I finished it, it boosted my confidence a little bit.
“Once I started to open up, and realized that double leg was there, and figured out her hand fighting, it was easier and I could get to it faster.”
In doing so, Watters has qualified for what will be her fifth age-level world team — she’s previously made the junior world team three teams and has now made the U23 team twice. The U23 World Championships are set for November 12-18 in Bucharest, Romania.
This is just a continuation for Watters’ successful start to 2018. Just last month, Watters, who wrestles for Oklahoma City University, took third at the Women’s College Wrestling Association national championships. She went 5-1 to win the bronze at 170 pounds, her second All-American honor in as many years in college.
Felicity Taylor wins junior folkstyle national title
In the same weekend that Watters earned another international opportunity, South Winneshiek’s Felicity Taylor sewed up a national crown of her own.
Taylor, a senior this past season for South Winn, won the Junior folkstyle national title down in Oklahoma City. She went 5-0 with three wins by pin to take first at 112 pounds — which is impressive considering Taylor entered the tournament ranked second nationally at 106.
This result comes just two weeks after Taylor announced her future plans. She officially signed to wrestle at McKendree University in Illinois, where other former Iowa girl wrestlers, such as Megan Black, Jasmine Bailey and Cassy Herkelman, have competed. As a team, McKendree recently just finished third at the WCWA national tournament.
Taylor graduated from South Winneshiek as one of the most sought-after lightweight female wrestlers in the country. Her national title at 112 this past weekend more than solidifies her standing as one of the nation’s best.
Additionally, Jayden Bentley of Female Elite Wrestling in Iowa placed sixth at 144 pounds in the Junior folkstyle national tournament. Bentley wrestled in the Cadet division as well, placing fifth at the same weight. Abby Mcintyre, of the Glenwood Wrestling Club, placed second at 127 pounds in the Cadet division.
Team Iowa wins at Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic
An assembly of Iowa prep wrestling talents were invited to the 44th Annual Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic, one of the most prestigious high school all-star meets in the country, over the weekend.
And the boys from Iowa did not disappoint.
Team Iowa beat the Western Pennsylvania all-star team, 36-6. It was a resounding decision, as Team Iowa won 11 of 13 matches to improve to 3-0 all-time at the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic.
Those who scored wins for Iowa: Williamsburg’s Grayson Kesterson (113), Johnston’s Zach Price (132), West Des Moines Valley’s Grant Stotts (152) and Joel Shapiro (182), Wahlert’s Josh Ramirez (160) and Boone McDermott (220), Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Ben Sarasin (170), West Liberty’s Bryce Esmoil (195) and Glenwood’s Caleb Sanders (285). New Hampton’s Michael Blockhus (138) and Crestwood’s Ryan Steffen (145) dropped their matches.
Fort Dodge’s Drew Bennett was the star of the meet, winning two matches at 120 and 126 pounds. He was named Iowa’s Most Outstanding Wrestler of the meet.
Team Iowa’s win over Western Pennsylvania was just the preliminary event of the evening. The Main Event featured Team Pennsylvania, a collection of the state’s best prep wrestling talent, against Team USA, some of the best wrestlers from the rest of the country. Team USA edged Team Pennsylvania, 23-21.
Among those on Team USA were Waukee’s Kyle Biscoglia, who lost by fall at 120 pounds, and Ohio’s David Carr, an Iowa State signee who beat Team Pennsylvania’s Zach Hartman 14-8, at 152.
Ayala takes third at NHSCA nationals
Fort Dodge freshman Drake Ayala followed his state runner-up performance with a stellar showing at nationals this past weekend.
Ayala placed third at the National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) freshman national tournament this weekend. Ayala navigated a bracket that featured 132 competitors by going 8-1 and taking third.
Ayala recorded two pins and outscored his other opponents a combined 83-38 in his other six victories. He reached the semifinals before falling to New York’s Jordan Titus, 5-4.
- Chris Bono was announced as the new head coach at Wisconsin over the weekend. Bono, a former Iowa State wrestler, spent the last six years at South Dakota State, and guided the Jackrabbits to a 12th place finish at the 2018 NCAA Championships. Bono takes over for Barry Davis, who resigned after 25 years.
- Former Iowa State wrestler Kanen Storr announced his plans to transfer to Michigan this weekend. Storr was given a full release after his ugly departure from Iowa State in February. Storr is originally from Leslie, Michigan, which is 50 minutes from Ann Arbor.
- The Iowa wrestling team announced its team awards over the weekend. Spencer Lee, the 125-pound NCAA Champion, was named the Mike Howard Most Valuable Wrestler for the 2017-18 season. Sam Stoll, an All-American heavyweight, was given the Mike J. McGivern Most Courageous Wrestler Award. Brandon Sorensen, a four-time All-American at 149, was given the John and Dorothy Sill Award for Most Dedicated. Vince Turk, who qualified for the national tournament at 141, was named the team’s Most Improved Wrestler.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.