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DES MOINES — Kobe Simon climbed higher with each season.
West Liberty's four-time state qualifier finally took that final step and reached the very top of the awards stand.
In his second straight finals appearance, Simon captured the 220-pound title Saturday night at the Class 2A state tournament. He scored a takedown with 19 seconds left to defeat Central Lyon-GLR's Dylan Winkel, 6-4, for the championship.
Simon was a qualifier as a freshman, placed fourth the following season and was second a year ago.
'Every year you're looking to one-up yourself,' Simon said. 'After last year, the only thing on my mind was a title. It means everything that all this hard work I've put in has finally paid off.'
Simon became the eighth wrestler to contribute to West Liberty's 10 state titles. He gave the Comets a fourth individual crown in the last five seasons. Simon, who will wrestle for Grand View in college, amassed 142 career victories and one fitting finish.
'It was a perfect ending for a stellar high school career,' West Liberty Coach Ian Alke said. 'He never won a school-aged state tournament. He improved each year he was in high school, so it's a testament to the process and buy-in he had to the program.
'He's a rare big guy that shoots low singles but can squat a bus. I can't wait to see what he can do at the next level.'
Winkel was first and Simon second in the rankings, but switched spots in the bracket seedings. Simon never trailed in the match, scoring a takedown in the first and reversal in the second. Winkel tied it with an escape in the third until Simon hit the decisive takedown and hung on for the win.
'I came out firing right away, hitting a little slide by to get the match started,' Simon said. 'From there, it's all heart when it comes down to it. The last 30 seconds I was looking for the right shot. I waited, went for it and got it. I had to put on a tough ride there. It was a close call in the end, but I got it done.'
Instead of the tradition where wrestlers jump into their coach's arms, the 5-foot-4 Alke beat the 6-4 Simon to the punch. Alke joked that he had to 'make the first move or he would have squashed' him. Simon was surprised by the spontaneous celebration.
'I got up and he was right there in front of my face,' Simon said. 'He jumped right in my arms and I caught him. It was awesome.'
Future bright at Iowa City High
Iowa City High just missed a top-10 finish, placing 11th in the Class 3A standings. Five Little Hawks qualified with three winning medals. The future looks bright because all of them return next season.
In addition to sophomore Ben Kueter winning his second state title, freshman duo Cale Seaton and Kale Kurtz reached the podium.
Seaton finished third at 113, while Kurtz was seventh at 106. Freshman Carsen Newton (120) and sophomore 145-pounder Ryan Ott also gained state experience. All return next season and Kueter said he could have company in the finals next year.
'We had two little freshmen place,' Kueter said. 'They're two little hammers. We're going to be a young team. Hopefully, next year and the year after we can get a couple more.'
Quartet going for 4 in 2022
Centerville's Matthew Lewis became Iowa's 29th four-time state champion Saturday night. The group could grow much larger next year. Four wrestlers are in position to win a fourth title in 2022.
Lisbon's Robert Avila Jr. and Solon's Hayden Taylor are in that group. Avila has won 145, 132 and 126 titles in 1A. Taylor has been the 2A champion at 160, 145 and 126.
They could be joined by Crestwood's Carter Fousek and New London's Marcel Lopez. Fousek added the 126 championship in 2A to his titles at 106 ad 113. Lopez owns 1A gold at 106, 113 and 120.
Predictions: How'd we do?
The Gazette correctly predicted 28 of 42 individual champions, including 10 in Class 1A. Only nine were correct in both 2A and 3A.
Team champions West Delaware (2A) and Waverly-Shell Rock (3A) were correctly guessed.
The Gazette also predicted the top three 2A teams — West Delaware, runner-up Osage and Independence — in correct order.
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