40th Don Miller Invite next on the mat

Plenty of intriguing wrestling matches are on the slate for Saturday’s 40th annual Don Miller Fort Dodge Invitational.

Start time is set for 10 a.m. Finals will begin at approximately 4 p.m.

Joining the host Dodgers in the field are intra-city rival St. Edmond, Webster City, Emmetsburg, Ames, Sioux City East, Storm Lake, Lewis Central, Nevada, Newton, Clarinda, LeMars, Ankeny Centennial, Bondurant-Farrar and Blue Springs South (Mo.).

Last winter, FDSH captured top honors in its own tournament for the first time since the 1995-96 season in which they eventually placed second at traditional state.

“It should be a real good field of competition if the weather holds out and everyone makes it,” Fort Dodge head coach Bobby Thompson said. “Hopefully, we can have five good rounds of wrestling.

“Looking at the field, (Blue Springs South of Missouri) has about 10 guys with pretty decent records. Clarinda also has about a half dozen solid individuals, and Webster City should be right in the mix, too, with their strong middle to upper weights.”

In their previous outing on Thursday, the 14th-ranked (IWCOA Class 3A) Dodgers split a triangular with North Central Conference programs Webster City and Algona. After suffering a 39-29 setback to the Lynx, Fort Dodge bounced back with a tight 36-33 victory over the Bulldogs.

“I’m hoping we can clean up some of our technique and mistakes from Thursday night,” said Thompson. “We’ve been wrestling better in tournaments so far, but we’re going to have two open weights at 145 and heavyweight (Saturday). We need all 12 of our guys to step up and wrestle hard for a full six minutes.”

Freshman Triston Lara (No. 4 at 106 pounds), junior Erik Birnbaum (No. 4 at 113), sophomore Jonah Egli (No. 9 at 152), sophomore Sam Cook (No. 7 at 182) and senior Riley Prescott (No. 8 at 195) highlight the Dodger lineup.

Leading the way for the seventh-ranked (1A) Gaels are defending state placewinners in junior Ryan Szalat (No. 4 at 113) and seniors Kaden McClintock (No. 2 at 120) and Vinnie Harvey (No. 2 at 220).

SEHS last competed a week ago at the Emmetsburg Invitational, finishing fifth with 134 points. Due to inclement weather conditions, Thursday’s scheduled road double dual with Carroll and Perry was called off.

“We’re pretty excited to get into a tournament of this caliber,” St. Edmond head coach Tanner Utley said. “We’re very appreciative of the opportunity to wrestle in our home town. Our guys missed out on some crucial mat time Thursday, so we need to take advantage of our last opportunity before the Christmas break.

“Hopefully, our top guys get tested and we can use (the Miller Invitational) as a measuring stick.”

Webster City is anchored by fifth-ranked (2A) Connor Larson (170) and No. 5 classmate Dylan Fielder (195).

Clarinda, which is coached by former FDSH state champion Josh Porter, features fourth-ranked (2A) senior Blake Luna (120), No. 7 sophomore J.J. Clark (160) and 10th-ranked senior Dakota Calfee (285).

A total of 22 ranked grapplers are set to compete here today.