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FAIRFIELD, Iowa − The West Liberty wrestling team likes to move quickly.

Eager to make a statement at Saturday's Class 2A District 3 wrestling tournament after a disappointing loss to Solon in the regional duals on Tuesday, the Comets converted eight of 11 opportunities at state-qualifying bids.

"I thought our team wrestled really hard and really well today," West Liberty coach Jeff Wiele said. "Austin Beaver avenged two losses, Kobe Simon avenged a loss from earlier in the year. Coy Ruess pinned his way through it. Joe Kelly ... all of them impressed." 

Ruess won both of his matches with first-round pins at 138 pounds. It took Kelly just 54 seconds to pin his opponent in a semifinal before earning a 20-5 technical fall victory in the 152 championship. Beaver took care of business at 160, recording a third-round pin in the semifinal and an 8-0 major decision in the first-place match. 

Despite losing their finals matches, wins in the semifinals were enough to propel Talen Dengler (120) and Simon (220) to state as both avoided wrestlebacks. 

Will Esmoil (132) and Jackson Gingerich (182) both rebounded from finals losses with first-round pins in their second-place matches. 

And Bryce Esmoil was Bryce Esmoil, pinning both of his opponents at 195 to maintain his perfect record and set him up for an opportunity to repeat as a state champion. 

Before all the awards had been dispersed Saturday, though, the Comets were already looking ahead to what's next.  

"We go back to work and make sure that we get ourselves ready to go (for state)," Wiele said. "We reset our goals, recharge, and let's go." 

Wildcats' Kadel, Rice advance : Jarod Kadel has traveled this road before.

In just three days, the 106-pound wrestler from Columbus Community/Winfield-Mount Union, will return to the same arena that cast him into the spotlight a year ago before sending him home with a 4-0 defeat to Williamsburg's Grayson Kesterson in the Class 2A 106-pound state championship match.

Now, the junior is crafting another attempt at a state title following a pair of wins at Saturday's Class 2A District 3 wrestling tournament.

The underdog storylines from a year ago when Kadel navigated his first season as a varsity wrestler are off the radar.

Instead, they’ve been replaced with the No. 1 ranking in Class 2A at 106 pounds − expectations Kadel has continuously lived up to.

Pitted against the No. 2 wrestler in his weight class, Centerville's Matthew Lewis, Kadel needed to put in extra work in Saturday's 106 final to earn a second straight trip to state.

It took 1½ minutes of overtime to finally declare Kadel the winner with a 3-2 decision.

"You just got to go out there, stay mentally focused and wrestle your match," Kadel said. "You can't let your mind wander somewhere else." 

Now, Kadel will have the marquee victory, experience and a little company when he enters Wells Fargo Arena for the second time.

After winning his semifinal with an 8-3 decision but getting pinned in the final to West Liberty's Ruess, Cam Rice secured his first trip to state with a 4-0 decision in a wrestleback for second. 

"I just had to keep wrestling," Rice said. "Just stick to what I know how to do and hope my gas tank would survive at the end."


Sports Reporter