Five Dodger wrestlers advance to state

Fort Dodge’s Triston Lara entered his first district wrestling meet with the mindset that anything can happen.

As it turns out, Lara had very little to worry about.

The freshman navigated his way through the 106-pound bracket inside the FDSH gym during a Class 3A competition here Saturday.

Joining Lara will be Dodger Class 3A district champions Erik Birnbaum and Riley Prescott, along with runner-ups Cole Detmering and Sam Cook.

After putting together a program record-setting 38-3 mark during the regular season, Lara wasn’t taking anything for granted.

“I started (Saturday) with an 0-0 record, just like everybody else,” said the fourth-ranked Dodger. “What happens in November, December and January has nothing to do with what goes down in February.

“All that matters is state and what you do from now on.”

Lara (40-3) earned a fall in the semifinals before scoring an 11-4 decision over Austin Yant of Waverly-Shell Rock to punch his state ticket.

Just moments after his last win, the youngster had already turned his attention to state.

“The goal is to go down to Des Moines and Wells Fargo Arena and win a state title,” Lara said. “That’s the goal.”

Birnbaum, rated eighth at 113 pounds and a returning state placewinner, recorded two falls to improve to 37-5 on the year. He picked up a district title by pinning Cody Huckfelt of Spencer in 1:16.

He did give himself – and the large contingent of FDSH supporters – a brief scare in the finals when Huckfelt scored a quick takedown. Birnbaum regrouped quickly and finished the match moments later.

“I wasn’t really ready – not the way I?needed to be,” Birnbaum admitted. “I’m not sure what happened. He was quick and got in on me, but I just focused on what I had to do and did it.”

Despite feeling confident, Birnbaum – the son of long-time FDSH wrestling coach Ed Birnbuam – has been around the sport long enough to know nothing is handed to you at this time of the season.

“I’ve seen some kids that have a chance to win a state title not make it out of districts, so I knew there would be plenty of pressure,” he said. “I just took it one match at a time and made sure to stick to the plan.”

Like Birnbaum, Prescott placed eighth a year ago at state but understood he would need to prove himself all over again Saturday.

The Dodger senior scored a 4-3 decision over fourth-ranked Thomas Foy of Waverly-Shell Rock to claim his title.

“Being a senior, I didn’t want (districts) to be my last wrestling tournament,” said Prescott, who is now 34-11 on the year. “I wanted to get back to state and see what I could do.

“The Dodger motto is to always be the more fit wrestler, but I don’t think I showed that. I need to work on that here in the days leading up to state if I want to succeed.”

Determing (30-17) will also be making a return to Des Moines after his 11-4 victory over Boone’s Albert Meier in the true second match.

Cook (38-6) followed the same path, pinning Mason City’s Hunter Miller in just over three minutes to earn the runner-up spot.

“Cole and Sam had to show a lot of heart coming back and winning those second place matches,” FDSH head coach Bobby Thompson said. “That’s never an easy thing to do, but they both wanted those state bids and they went out and got them.”

Thompson was pleased with the five qualifiers, but also felt heartbroken for senior Kole Evans, who was not able to advance for a second straight year.

“There’s always a guy or two you want to get down there, but with Kole being in his last season, we really wanted him to qualify,” Thompson said. “I’ve never had a year where I’ve been completely satisfied, and this is no exception.”

Waverly-Shell Rock ran away with the team race, advancing 11 to state and positioning themselves as a favorite to improve upon a fourth-place finish a year ago. Spencer placed second, followed by Mason City, Fort Dodge, Boone, Carroll, Storm Lake and LeMars.

State action in 3A begins Thursday at 2 p.m. The finals are Saturday night.