Dodgers crown four champs, place second

Erik Birnbaum knows that everything he learns in practice needs to be put on display under the lights for it to be important.

Birnbaum was one of four Fort Dodge wrestlers to earn a title Saturday at the 40th annual Don Miller Invitational inside the Dodger gym.

Freshman Triston Lara, sophomore Jonah Egli and sophomore Sam Cook joined Birnbaum atop the podium, helping the Dodgers to a runner-up showing behind Webster City in the team race.

Birnbaum, a state qualifier who is now 15-1 on the year, earned a fall and two major decisions, including a 10-2 victory over St. Edmond’s Ryan Szalat in the 113-pound finals.

“In practice, you can drill techniques and get better there, but you have to go out and build confidence in tournaments like this,” said Birnbaum, who is ranked fourth in Class 3A. “If you don’t go out and perform, you can’t get that confidence to succeed.

“Everything was really going well for me (on Saturday). It was a good way to finish off the first half of the season.”

Lara pinned his way through to his first invite title on his home mats, including a fall in 2:38 over Koby Hull from Newton in the finals.

For his efforts, Lara (18-1) was given the Tim Ascherl Outstanding Wrestler Award. Now ranked fourth at 106, Lara has claimed invite titles each of the last two weekends.

“Triston and Erik really feed off each other,” FDSH head coach Bobby Thompson said. “They push each other extremely hard in the practice room, and I think that drives them both to perform at a high level once we come out for tournaments and duals.

“They are a really great combination to have at the front of our lineup.”

Egli, ranked ninth at 152 pounds and now 15-4, picked up gold after earning a medical forfeit in the finals over Webster City’s Brandon Jessen. In the semifinals, Egli scored a 3-0 decision over Clarinda’s Luke Strong by earning a late escape and takedown.

“That semifinal match was exciting,” Thompson remarked. “Jonah wrestled a really good tournament and gained some valuable experience.”

Cook (15-3) went the full six minutes with all three of his opponents, including a 6-3 decision victory over Brandon Patton of Webster City in the finals.

“Sam is really opening up his offense more as of late and we are seeing him grow as a wrestler,” Thompson said. “He had another good tournament and can continue to grow from this.”

Cole Detmering went 2-1 to place third at 126 pounds, while Riley Prescott took fourth at 195.

Tim Gailey and Keaton Dorthan both finished seventh for the Dodgers, who return to action in Jan. 3 by hosting Marshalltown and Charles City.