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SOLON, Iowa — West Liberty coach Ian Alke called Sam Gingerich’s first match “a little scary.”

As scary as an 18-2 technical fall win can be, at least.

“I felt a little tired,” said Gingerich, the Comets 120-pound wrestler. “I wasn’t really finishing my shots like I usually do on the outside corner.”

That all changed in the championship match.

Gingerich was in control and constantly hitting his shots, resulting in a pin of Louisa-Muscatine’s Marcos Moedano in 3 minutes, 26 seconds to win the Class 2A Section 16 title Saturday at Solon High School.

“It’s a big step from where I was last year,” Gingerich said. “My offense really, that’s all I did. My offense won the match.”

The sophomore is one of seven district qualifiers and four sectional champions for West Liberty. Alex Beaver (106), Will Esmoil (145) and Austin Beaver (160) all cruised to sectional titles while Coy Ruess (152), AJ Lenz (170) and Kobe Simon (220) all advanced to districts with runner-up finishes.

Solon won the team title with 268.6 points and West Liberty placed second with 227.5 points and will advance to regional duals Tuesday at West Delaware. West Liberty will take on Camanche in the opening dual while a potential matchup with No. 1 West Delaware looms.

West Liberty came within one match of qualifying for state duals a year ago in a 37-34 loss to Solon.

“Our seniors still don’t forget about it,” Gingerich said. “It was heartbreaking. We want to come back and go to state duals this year.”

Still, one thing is for certain in Alke’s mind — his team is peaking at the right time. He referenced both Esmoil and Lenz as guys who are wrestling their best. Esmoil, The Predicament’s No. 3 ranked wrestler, pinned both opponents and spent less than four minutes on the mat.

Alke also praised Alex Beaver, and the progress his 106-pounder has made just in the last couple of weeks. It showed, as Beaver, like Esmoil, recorded a pair of pins and spent less than four minutes on the mat.

“He’s really starting to open up and wrestle free on his feet,” Alke said of Beaver. “He’s taking shots and creating angles we haven’t seen. He’s always been good at defense but now he’s starting to pull the trigger and score some more points.”

Louisa-Muscatine coach Tom Mashek was hopeful his team would be able to advance a handful of wrestlers to districts. Instead, the Falcons walked away with five wrestlers just missing the cut with third-place finishes. Louisa-Muscatine still advanced two to districts as Gabe Hayes (285) won the sectional title and Cody Calvelage (132) placed second.

Hayes beat Tipton’s Jessie Lieser in an 8-2 decision in the championship match.

“The other kid wanted to throw a headlock and we had the defense for it,” Mashek said. “Gabe is just really, really athletic for how big he is. He does really well in the scramble.”

Calvelage, who has wrestled at 126 all season, was bumped up a weight class to have a better shot at making it out of districts next week. Mashek said the adjustment was minimal for Calvelage, who was one of the bigger 126-pound wrestlers.

Columbus/Winfield-Mount Union got two wrestlers through in Lane Scorpil (106) and Jarod Kadel (138). Scorpil won his first match in a major decision before being pinned in the second round by West Liberty’s Alex Beaver in the finals.

Kadel continued his dominant season with two routine victories. After a pin in the semifinals in 18 seconds, Kadel posted a 12-2 major decision over Solon’s Aidan Dall in the final.

“He does such a good job,” Columbus coach Joel Keller said. “He’s improving his position to score points and it’s tough to score on him. He’s really sharpened that up over the last few weeks.”

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