Block, Ayala II to decide state champion

By Jeff Budlong for The Predicament

Drake Ayala

DES MOINES -- The matchup everyone hoped would come to fruition is now set. 

Waverly-Shell Rock sophomore and defending state champion Ryder Block will take on two-time state champion Drake Ayala for the Class 3A state title at 132 pounds Saturday night.

"It is special because everyone has been talking about it the past two weeks," Block said. "It is pretty cool, and this is the matchup everyone wanted to see. Let's put on a show, I guess."

Ayala is 28-1 heading into his rematch with Block, who handed the future University of Iowa wrestler his first loss since his freshman year, 9-7, at the Waverly-Shell Rock tournament. It was the driving force that led Ayala to wrestle the postseason at 132 instead of 126. 

Block is 24-0  this season after winning the 106 title for the Go-Hawks as a freshman to cap a 41-0 season.

Ayala handed Linn-Mar's Bryce Parke his first loss of the season, 22-8, in the semifinals. Ayala led 4-1 after the first period before putting on a takedown clinic to get the victory.

Block was equally dominant in dispatching Indianola's Ryder Downey 5-1, using three near-fall points in the second period and a takedown in the third.

"First period, I couldn't really get anything going, and as soon as I got the wrist he thought I was going one way and I went the other way," Block said.

Getting to this point wasn't easy for Block, who had surgery on his knee to deal with a meniscus issue three days into practice. .That sidelined him for a bit, forcing him to watch his teammates compete without him.

"It has been a long, hard season so just to have a chance to be on top of the podium is pretty special," he said. "It was tough getting surgery and having to watch my teammates wrestle because I love this."

For as seasoned as both wrestlers are, Block said it is matches like this that are why he enjoys the sport so much.

"I still get excited," he said. "It is the big show and what everyone wants to see.

"The best kids have the best mindset and they want to put on a show for everybody. If you think you can beat someone at a weight above or below, I don't know why you wouldn't do it."