And then there was one

Chari Esmoil · Wednesday, February 22, 2017
The 2016-2017 West Liberty High School Comet wrestling season was one to remember, one that ended with its first state champion in Bryce Esmoil since 2000.

The Comets went 19-2 in dual competition, with both losses coming via criteria decisions after tying team scores at the end of each dual.

The team also won the RVC South Division dual title and conquered the RVC Tournament for the third consecutive year. There, the Comets crowned four individual RVC champions.

The Comets were narrowly defeated in the team race by Davenport Assumption at sectionals by a 239-236 team score differential, but still qualified for the 2A Regional Dual Team series where they were barely edged on criteria again for just their second dual loss on the season, 37-36 by West Delaware.

At sectionals, eight Comets qualified for the district meet where three of the eight claimed district titles to earn their own individual state tournament berths.

Number 3 ranked freshman, Will Esmoil, entered the 106 pound division with the hopes of placing in the top three.

His plans were momentarily derailed as he took a heartbreaking 4-2 sudden victory defeat to #6 ranked junior Carter Weeks of Vinton Shellsburg.

On the consolation side of his bracket, Esmoil went on a tear, rattling off five straight wins to end the tournament. Along the way, he knocked off number 2 ranked Jack Thomsen of Union by a 6-2 score, avenging an early season setback.

The win over Thomsen set up a rematch with Weeks in the consolation semifinals. There, he took control early and eventually pinned Weeks in a revengeful 5:16 match.

In the consolation finals, he beat #8 ranked Andrew Flora of ADM by a 5-3 score to secure a third place state medal and close his freshman season with a 43-6 record.

At 152, Joe Kelly aimed to finish higher than his runner up finish from last year. Kelly opened his tournament with a convincing 1:46 pin over #5 ranked and returning state finalist Trae Pecinovsky of Crestwood-Cresco.

This win set up an epic showdown between #1 Kelly and #2 ranked Isaac Judge of South Tama. The first time that the two battled, Kelly put him to his back for the first period fall. This, the second meeting of the season between #1 vs. #2 ended in a 10-2 loss for Kelly.

He would come back with a vengeance on the consolation side with a quick 1:00 pin over Logan Koedam of Maquoketa Floyd Valley.

Next, Kelly knocked off Cody Feldman of Beckman Catholic by an 11-4 rout. #9 ranked Cael Krueger of Denver Tripoli was next in line to be physically overwhelmed by Kelly by an 8-5 decision in the consolation semifinals.

Kelly would then destroy #4 ranked John Tuttle of Spirit Lake by a 2:58 fall in the consolation finals to secure a third place state medal and end his fine junior season with a stellar 43-3 mark.

At 195, top ranked junior, Bryce Esmoil also had aspirations of finishing higher than his third place finish from a season ago.

He wasted little time in his quest to reach his goal. #6 ranked Karlton Skubal wanted little to do with tying up with Esmoil, during their first round match, eventually wearing down and being pinned in 5:47.

Bryce’s second round match with Matthew Landsperger of Knoxville resulted in a 13-0 major decision, in favor of Esmoil. Heading into the semifinals against number 5 ranked senior Zac Stork of Atlantic played right into Esmoil’s plans of wrestling Saturday night for a state title.

Stork had other plans and with a little over :20 left in the first period, Stork threw Esmoil to his back.

Esmoil managed to escape the period but was in a 0-5 hole early. At the beginning of the second period, Esmoil took Stork to his back for the fall in 2:20 to reach the coveted Saturday night Finals.

There, Esmoil faced little resistance as he won the championship match by a 15-0 tech fall over freshman Cody Fisher of Woodward Granger in 3:45 to claim the top prize.

With the win, Esmoil pushed the Comets from the sixth place position to fifth in team scoring to finish the Iowa State High School tournament.

He also became just the seventh state champion in WLHS wrestling history, ending his season with a record of 42-2.

The last Comet to do so was Keith Pearl in 2000. Prior to that, in 1996, Esmoil’s cousin Chad Morrison and Nick Marin won titles for Coach Curt Diemer.

In 1995 Ben Scorpil was a champ as well as Nick Marin back in 1994. Their very first Comet State Champ was John Oostendorp in 1988.
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