It’s only the first week of December.
And the state wrestling tournament is still more than two months away.
But any questions about how dominant, strong and powerful the Fort Dodge Dodgers are going to be this season were emphatically answered this past weekend.
Class 3A No. 2 Fort Dodge turned in a phenomenal performance in rolling to the championship in the loaded 31-tam Cliff Keen Independence Invitational.
The Dodgers went a perfect 4-0 in the finals. Fort Dodge piled up a whopping 386 points. That was 86.5 points better than runner-up Christian Brothers (Mo.), which also crowned four champions.
Even with his team’s impressive showing, Fort Dodge coach Bobby Thompson was far from satisfied.
“I was real pleased with our level of intensity, especially our young guys with how well they competed in that type of an atmosphere,” Thompson said Monday afternoon. “But at the same time we know it’s still very early in the season. We made a lot of mistakes and we have a lot of things we can work on.”
Fort Dodge senior standout Brody Teske was named outstanding wrestler. The three-time state champion was one of 13 individual state champions in the tournament field.
The top-ranked Teske was joined on the top step of the podium by top-ranked teammates Drew Bennett (132) and Cayd Lara (152) along with freshman Drake Ayala (106).
Teske, a Penn State recruit, improved to a spotless 142-0 in his career. He capped his impressive tournament with a 19-4 technical fall over Jackson Stauffacher of Scott West in the 126-pound finals.
“Brody continues to wrestle at a high level and continues to work on his skill set,” Thompson said. “He has a great work ethic and he is never complacent. He’s always looking to improve and develop. He knows he needs to keep getting better to prepare for the next level.”
Iowa has had 25 four-time state champions in the state’s rich wrestling history. Teske is in line to be No. 26.
“It’s been real special to see what Brody has done,’ Thompson said. “But we’re trying to keep the focus off that.”
For now, Teske is focused on this weekend’s Council Bluffs Classic. He is expected to battle another undefeated three-time state champion, Underwood’s Alex Thomsen, in that event. Thomsen is a Nebraska recruit.
“It’s going to be a great battle between two great wrestlers,” Thompson said. “We’re excited to see what happens. This tournament will be another good test for our team.”
Bennett, a Northern Iowa recruit, downed three wrestlers ranked in the state’s top eight in Indee. He defeated No. 4 Brady Fritz of South Tama by a 12-4 major decision in the finals.
Lara defeated Missouri state champion Alex Rivera of Smithville 12-8 in the finals.
Ayala scored a 12-4 major decision over state runner-up and Class 2A No. 1 Jarod Kadel of Columbus in the finals.
University of Iowa recruit Nelson Brands, son of Iowa associate head coach Terry Brands, put on an impressive display of his own in winning the title at 160 pounds.
Brands, a two-time state champion for Iowa City West, powered to a 16-9 finals win over Class 1A No. 2 Brennan Swafford of Mediapolis.
Brands, a senior, used his physical, hard-nosed approach en route to the lopsided win. He was in control throughout the match. Swafford scored a takedown late while Brands was trying to win by a major, but Brands quickly regrouped to close out the decisive victory.
Brands looked sharp despite missing some time on the mat. He didn’t compete at Junior Nationals in July because of an injury.
He recorded two first-period pins, including one in just nine seconds, on the first day of the event in Independence. Brands scored seven takedowns in his finals win.
“I’m getting better every single day,” Brands said, “and that’s my goal every day.”
Veteran West coach Mark Reiland credited Brands for his performance.
“Overall, I thought Nelson wrestled well,” Reiland said. “His pace hasn’t reached the level of last year, but some of that was related to a recent sickness.”
New Hampton’s Michael Blockhus earned a hard-fought 5-3 win over Joshua Saunders of Christian Brothers in the finals at 145 pounds.
Lisbon’s Bryce Werderman defeated Reymundo Vasquez of Clarion-Goldfield-Dows 9-4 in the finals at 170.
Solon’s Tyler Linderbaum downed Algona’s Dominick Etherington 5-2 for the title at heavyweight.
State champion Jordan Baumler of North Fayette Valley edged Independence’s Hunter Crawford 3-2 in the title bout at 220. Baumler is an Upper Iowa recruit.
The massive tournament at Independence drew rave reviews from coaches.
“It was a great environment to wrestle in to open the season,” Thompson said. “There were three states represented and we wrestled in a beautiful facility. It was a high-quality event. It was an awesome experience for our kids to wrestle against great competition like that.”
“It was a great event,” Reiland said, “with a lot of good wrestling.