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No. 23 Fort Dodge opens strong with title at Independence Invitational

A rather strong 30-team field came to the Independence Invitational on Friday and Saturday in Iowa, and after the two days of competition, No. 23 Fort Dodge were the decisive champions. Their effort was anchored by nine wrestlers that advanced to the upper bracket, and all finished in the top eight, plus freshman Kody Cook (120) who won the lower bracket to take ninth. All that came without state qualifier Triston Licht (182/195) in the lineup.

Leading the way for the Dodgers were four weight class champions: freshman Drake Ayala (106), No. 4 Brody Teske (126), Drew Bennett (132), and No. 20 Cayd Lara (152). Ayala majored returning state runner-up Jacob Kadel (Columbus Junction) 12-4, while Lara beat two-time state champion Alex Rivera (Smithville, Mo.) 12-8 in their final bouts. Other top five placers were Desmond Lockner (145) and Kaden Smith (170) in third, Drevon Ross (138) and Levi Egli (160) in fourth, and Carson Taylor (113) in fifth.

Finishing second was No. 24 Christian Brothers College, Mo. with 299-1/2 points despite the absence of No. 6 Malik Johnson at 126 pounds. Four Cadets won weight class titles, Vincent Zerban (113), Cevion Severado (120), Kyle Prewitt (138), and No. 4 (at 170) Emille Shannon (182). Of note was Zerban beating Caleb Rathjen (Ankeny, Iowa) 6-5 in a championship match battle of top 20 overall freshman, while Severado beat state champion Cael Happel (Lisbon) 10-6. No. 14 (at 132) Josh Saunders finished runner-up at 145, losing to No. 15 (at 138) Michael Blockhus (New Hampton) in the tournament's feature bout, 5-3 was the score.

Additional weight class champions were No. 8 Nelson Brands (Iowa City West) at 160, Bryce Werderman (Lisbon) at 170, Tyler Buesgens (Scott West, Iowa) at 195, Jordan Baumler (North Fayette Valley) at 220, and Tyler Linderbaum (Solon) at 285. Buesgens pinned 2016 state champion Tanner Sloan (Alburnett) in the final, after Sloan upended Junior freestyle All-American Tyrell Gordon (Waterloo East) 6-0 in the semifinal.

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