Bryce is best: Esmoil sets West Liberty all-time wins record

Prep wrestling notes: Esmoil vies for second title; Sigourney-Keota's dynamic duo; Marion lightweight muscle

West Liberty's Bryce Esmoil throws Washington's Karlton Skubal to the mat for a takedown in their 195-pound Class 2A first-round bout at the state wrestling tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. Esmoil won by a fall in 5:47. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
West Liberty's Bryce Esmoil throws Washington's Karlton Skubal to the mat for a takedown in their 195-pound Class 2A first-round bout at the state wrestling tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. Esmoil won by a fall in 5:47. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

WEST LIBERTY — Bryce Esmoil didn’t even think about becoming West Liberty’s most successful wrestler when he entered the program.

He just wanted to wrestle and be the best he could be, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he was unaware when he eclipsed the Comets’ all-time victories record.

“I just like competing and proving myself every day,” Esmoil said. “I didn’t even realize it.”

Esmoil collected his 159th career victory in a dual against host Northeast on Dec. 21, breaking the old mark held by Ben Scorpil (1994-97). The top-ranked 220-pounder in Class 2A has a career mark of 159-10, going unbeaten in 26 matches this season.

“I didn’t think I’d be one of the best wrestlers at West Liberty,” said Esmoil, who has signed to wrestle for Northern Iowa and head coach Doug Schwab. “It hasn’t hit me, yet. Maybe when I look back at it, then it will hit me.”

West Liberty Coach Jeff Wiele said there was a sign to recognize the moment, but Esmoil was surprised by the feat.

“He’s been breaking records left and right,” Wiele said. “It’s another milestone for him.

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“It’s funny (he didn’t know), in a way, because most kids would be fixed on it. He just goes about his business.”

Esmoil is more focused on wrestling than ever. One of the reasons is a long layoff due to a surgically repaired torn meniscus that he overcame last season. He was off the mat in the offseason, sitting out for six months and wrestling again in August. Esmoil still attended practices but being inactive was torture.

“It was pretty tough,” Esmoil said. “It’s good to be back, I learned not to take anything for granted when you get a chance to work hard and wrestle.”

Wiele has noticed a difference from last season. Esmoil was still impressive, becoming the Comets' sixth state champion, but he has demonstrated he is better and stronger this year. Wiele said he has to reel him in at times during practice where he trains through breaks and winning sprints.

“He’s really working hard, right now,” Wiele said. “Seeing him without that injury, maybe we took for granted how special he is. He’s turning it up and pushing harder than we’ve seen.”

Like Scorpil, Esmoil is on pace to become a four-time state medalist, winning the Class 2A 195-pound title a year ago. Esmoil is looking to become West Liberty’s second two-time state titlist, joining Scorpil’s teammate Nick Marin. Both are immediate goals that will set the foundation for bigger ones he already has set for his college career.

“There is another title for me to get it,” Esmoil said. “Short term goals will lead to the long term. They will keep piling up.”

SIGOURNEY-KEOTA’S DYNAMIC DUO

Sigourney-Keota Coach Craig Reeves has bookend hammers in his lineup. Sophomore Mason Dye is ranked fourth at 106 pounds in Class 1A, while senior Kaleb Reeves is second at 220. The duo has a combined record of 38-1 and each won titles at the Mount Vernon Invitational in December.

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Dye qualified for the state tournament last season, winning one match in Des Moines. Kaleb Reeves has reached the state tournament all three seasons, placing seventh the last two years.

Reeves also has been successful on the national scene. He was a Greco-Roman runner-up at Junior Nationals in the summer and posted a winning record in freestyle competition. Reeves was a double All-American in both disciplines as a Cadet in 2016.

MARION MUSCLE

The town of Marion can boast 20 percent of the ranked 106-pounders in Class 3A. Marion sophomore Niyo Gady is ranked sixth. Linn-Mar freshman Bryce Parke is eighth.

Gady has battled injury this season for an 8-0 mark. Parke is 15-2, moving up to 113 to win a couple matches for the Lions.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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