Bryce and Drew West earn one last chance at gold together

Mount Vernon's Wirfs, Williamsburg's Kesterson and South Tama's Judge among Wamac finalists

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DES MOINES — Bryce and Drew West already have state titles.

The one thing they haven’t done is climb to the top step together in the same year. The Solon seniors gave themselves one last chance.

The top-ranked twins reached the state finals for the third time winning semifinal bouts at the Class 2A state wrestling tournament Friday night at Wells Fargo Arena.

Bryce West earned a shot at a third straight state title, beating Perry’s No. 6 Zachary Thompson, 8-3, at 120. While at Highland, he won the last two 120-pound titles in 1A, finishing third as a freshman.

Drew West advanced to his second straight final with a second-period fall over Denver-Tripoli’s No. 2 Riley Wright at 126.

“It would mean a lot for both of us to get on top in the same year,” Drew West said. “We’ve been working for it all four years.”

Drew West’s berth came with a little more excitement. He held a 4-3 lead in the second. Wright attempted a shot, during the counter Drew West was able to catch Wright’s shoulders to the mat for a pin in the neutral position. The fall came with just one second on the clock.

“It was just knowing the situation,” Drew said. “I knew he was close to his back, so I put a little more pressure into him to get the fall.”

 

 

Bryce was on the mat adjacent to his brother. He had a delay that allowed him to witness his brother get back to the final.

“Actually, when Drew was getting the pin, I could see him because we were in blood time,” Bryce West said. “I looked over there, saw Drew was winning 4-3. I looked back and the kid was on his back getting pinned. That’s pretty good.”

Drew West won the 106-pound 1A title for the Huskies when his brother earned bronze. He was third as a sophomore and had to settle for second last season. The setback motivated him and taught him what was needed to reclaim gold.

“Work harder than everyone else,” he said. “Just wrestle.”

Drew West faces New Hampton’s No. 2 Michael Millage in the final. It’s a key matchup in the team race. New Hampton overtook Solon for first, holding an 88-80 1/2 lead entering the final day.

Mount Vernon’s Tristan Wirfs almost didn’t wrestle this season. The 6-foot-4 offensive lineman started the season more than 320 pounds. He made the commitment to the team and dropped to 285. Now, he’s going to wrestle for a state title.

Wirfs held a 3-2 lead before driving North Fayette Valley’s Ethan Lape from his feet to his back for a fall in 5:17.

“It’s an incredible feeling right now,” Wirfs said. “Everything is paying off. All the hard work I put in to get down to 285.”

 

 

West Liberty’s Bryce Esmoil and South Tama’s Isaac Judge redeemed themselves after semifinal losses and third-place finishes last season.

Top-ranked Esmoil (195) stayed composed after being thrown to his back in the first period and then turned the tables on Atlantic’s No. 5 Zac Stork in the second. Esmoil tripped Stork to his back for a fall in 2:20.

“I got kind of mad,” Esmoil said. “Came up, stepped through, body-locked him right to his back, squeezing like no other.”

Judge, ranked second at 152, used two takedowns to beat Spirit Lake Park’s John Tuttle, 5-2.

“It’s one of the best feelings in the world,” Judge said. “I’ve worked all season to win it. I have the opportunity.”

Judge cleared a major obstacle in the quarterfinals. He avenged a regular-season loss to West Liberty’s top-ranked Joe Kelly with a 10-2 major decision. Once they saw the draw, Judge knew he had his work cut out for him.

“We knew it was going to be tough,” Judge said. “After I got that Thursday match out of the way all the nerves went away. I was able to just wrestle.”

Judge will take on No. 8 Trey Van Weelden, of Washington (Iowa). Van Weelden scored the first takedown and punched his ticket to the final with a 5-4 win over Denver-Tripoli’s Cael Krueger.

Class 3A: Western Dubuque advances three to finals

Williamsburg’s Grayson Kesterson has never won more than one match in each of his first two trips to the state tournament. The top-ranked junior 106-pounder is now one victory away from a state title.

Kesterson blanked ADM’s No. 7 Andrew Flora, 7-0, in the semifinals.

“It’s pretty huge,” Kesterson said. “We haven’t had a state champion in four years. I’m going to be shooting for it.

“I’ve been in the finals of big matches before but nothing like this.”

North Fayette Valley’s Jordan Baumler used some late heroics to keep his title hopes alive. Baumler, ranked eighth, trailed Benton Community’s Blade Durbala, 2-1, late in the third. Baumler took Durbala down to his back and posted the fall with just six seconds remaining.

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

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