The freshman wrestler in the 195-pound weight class wasn’t supposed to do much this weekend, but he muscled his way into Saturday night’s championship lineup, capping a stellar season with a silver medal.
Woodward-Granger’s Cody Fisher took second at 195 pounds in Class 2A. He finished his season 46-6, an exceptional feat for a program that rarely makes noise at Wells Fargo Arena this time of the year.
“It went all right for just starting my high school career,” Fisher said. “I wanted to just give everything I had and hopefully come out with a state title. I guess not this year, but next year, hopefully.”
Fisher attends Madrid high school, but wrestles for Woodward-Granger because Madrid doesn’t have a wrestling program. He racked up 43 wins entering this week’s state tournament, but went unranked and unnoticed by most everybody.
That quickly changed. After reaching the quarterfinals by way of a pin, Fisher beat two ranked opponents en route to Saturday’s finals. He beat fourth-ranked Jackson Mikkelson of Creston, 5-2, and followed by beating seventh-ranked Sam Moore of Mount Vernon, 8-5, in the semifinals.
“There’s a reason those guys are all ranked top 10 in the state,” Fisher said. “They’re all damn good. But that mental toughness part comes into play, and I just needed to finish each match.”
Fisher ran into West Liberty’s Bryce Esmoil in Saturday’s championship. Esmoil, the weight’s top-ranked wrestler, rolled to a second-period technical fall. It was not the ending Fisher envisioned for himself, he said, noticeably quiet and frustrated afterwards.
Underneath Wells Fargo Arena, Fisher fiddled with his silver medal. He’s proud of it, he said, but he added that it’s a sign that there’s still work to be done.
“I’ll be back,” he said.
Solon clinches first team title in program history
As Davenport Assumption’s Julien Broderson rode out New Hampton’s Ryan Gorman to win the 160-pound final, a group of wrestlers and coaches clad in orange and black began jumping and screaming underneath Wells Fargo Arena.
Their fearless leader, however, was nestled inside the media room just a few feet away.
“I think a couple of the reporters figured it out,” Solon wrestling coach Blake Williams said and laughed. “As that third period started ticking down, I started making some noise.”
Broderson beat Gorman, 4-2, which helped Solon to its first-ever team state championship on Saturday evening. The Spartans totaled 96.5 points, edging out New Hampton by a half-point in the Class 2A team race.
“Obviously, you’d like to have it under your control,” Williams said. “Having it not under your control is something that’s pretty hard to do.
“But hey, a state championship for Solon — that’s awesome.”
Solon entered Saturday night’s finals with a slim lead in the team race after a 2-1 showing in the medal rounds.
After reclaiming the team lead on Friday night, three Chickasaw wrestlers went a combined 0-5 on Saturday morning.
Bryce West padded Solon’s lead with a 15-5 major decision over Denver-Tripoli’s Blake Steege in the 120-pound finals. West capped his career with three state titles and tied Union’s Max Thomsen for the state’s all-time win total with 210 total victories.
The race grew intense after New Hampton’s Michael Millage edged out Drew West, 3-2, in the 126-pound final, bringing the Chickasaws within 4.5 points with still two finalists left to wrestle. Keaton Geerts closed the gap to a half-point when he beat Ballard’s Skyler Noftsger in the finals at 138.
It all came down to Gorman at 160 pounds. He had beaten Broderson earlier in the season by a close 5-4 score. Broderson had other plans on Saturday, scoring on a reversal in the second period and a takedown in the third to seal his first individual title and Solon’s first team championship.
“I’m so happy for these guys,” Williams said. “They worked so hard and busted their butts. They had a goal at the beginning of the year. We came up a little short in the dual, getting runner-up. But even after Friday night, we got done and said it wasn’t over yet.
“We left some points out there — and everybody does in a tournament like this — but every one of the eight guys that was down here scored points. It was a complete team effort.”
Leisure, Shiltz both win third titles
In addition to West, two other Class 2A wrestlers won their third state titles on Saturday night.
Clear Lake’s Ryan Leisure beat PCM’s Xavier Miller, 5-0, to win the 145-pound title. The Iowa State commit caps his career as a four-time finalist and three-time champ, and finished this season 39-0.
“That wasn’t my best performance,” Leisure said. “It might’ve been one of my sloppiest matches of the season, but I got the job done and I felt like I dominated everything. I wanted to score more points, but, hey, three-time state champ. Now onto the next thing.”
Creston’s Chase Shiltz capped his career in similar fashion, winning his third state title in his fourth state championship appearance. Shiltz rolled to an 11-3 major decision over Ballard’s Ben Lee at 182 pounds, capping his season at 56-0.
Albia’s Reeves wins wild 113-pound bout
Albia’s Aden Reeves remembers sitting in the stands last year and watching the state championship matches. This year, the sophomore wanted in on the action, and made the most of his chance on Saturday.
Reeves won a wild 8-7 bout over Webster City’s Drake Doolittle in the Class 2A 113-pound state championship bout. Reeves capped his season at 52-1 overall, ending it with his first state title.
“I’ve never felt anything like this,” Reeves said shortly after winning. “It feels good. Last year, things didn’t play out how I wanted, but this will get the ball rolling. I’m real excited.”
Reeves got to his offense quickly, scoring two takedowns in the opening 30 seconds for a 4-1 lead. Doolittle responded with an escape and a takedown of his own, but Reeves escaped for a 5-4 lead after the first period.
After a relatively quiet second period, Reeves struck again in the third, scoring another takedown for an 8-5 lead. Doolittle nearly stole the gold from Reeves after nearly securing a tilt after a reversal in the waning moments, but the refs didn’t award two back points.
“The kid’s tough,” Reeves said. “I have so much respect for Drake. He’s a tough kid. But I knew I could get to his legs, and I got to them twice early. I knew if I got my offense rolling early, I knew it would still be there late.
“There were a lot of sleepless nights between last year and this year, but this feels awesome.”
Taking third the hard way
Exactly half of the 224 wrestlers that qualified for this week’s Class 2A state tournament lost Thursday in the first round. Two of those first-round losers battled all the way back to take third place.
At 106 pounds, West Liberty’s Will Esmoil dropped a 4-2 overtime decision to Vinton-Shellsburg’s Carter Weeks in the opening round. Esmoil took his anger out on the backside of the bracket, piling up five straight wins, including two by fall — one of which was over Weeks — to finish third.
“I came to get top three, and that’s what I did,” said Esmoil, a freshman who went 43-6 this season. “I had to fight back and finish. The first day was tough. That first match wasn’t good, and I was sure I could make improvements.
At 145 pounds, West Delaware’s Mitchel Mangold lost to Creston’s Mitchel Swank, 9-6, in Round One. Mangold proceeded to pin his way to the medal rounds, then muscled out three more wins by a combined score of 10-4 to take third. The sophomore finished the year 44-7.
Local wrestlers wrap up medals
A slew of local wrestlers ended their seasons by earning all-state honors in the 2A tournament.
A trio of area competitors finished in the top eight at 106 pounds. ADM’s Andrew Flora took fifth, Grinnell’s Brock Beck placed sixth and Winterset’s Bryce Hatten took eighth.
Two Perry wrestlers also reached the podium at their respective weight classes. Kaleb Olejniczak placed fourth at 113 pounds while Zachary Thompson placed third at 120.
PCM had a pair of wrestlers grab top-five finishes. Xavier Miller reached the 145-pound finals, where he fell to Leisure of Clear Lake. At 160, Lucas Roland dropped his first-round match on Thursday but battled back to take fifth place.
Fisher wasn’t the only Woodward-Granger wrestler to find success this week as senior Tanner Vermaas placed sixth at 182 pounds.
Cody Goodwin covers high school sports, college basketball recruiting and Drake athletics for the Des Moines Register. Reach him at (816) 582-0633, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send him a tweet at @codygoodwin.