DES MOINES — This was supposed to happen.
Woodward-Granger junior Cody Fisher had lost in the 195-pound state finals to West Liberty’s Bryce Esmoil as both a freshman and as a sophomore. On Saturday Esmoil was near matside, hoping to see his old foe meet all the statewide expectations and lay claim to the 2A 220-pound title.
Top-ranked all season, no observer thought Fisher would be seriously imperiled in his quest to claim the first of what many expect to be consecutive championships.
Fisher had, of course, heard all the chatter, was well aware of what so many hoped to see happen. And he had ignored it.
“None of that matters,” he said when interviewed Sunday. “What matters is what happens on the mat, and I knew that came down to me wrestling my match. My goal was to go out there and do my thing. If I do that, I am confident the wins will take care of themselves.”
Have they ever. Fisher finished his third prep season 44-1, his lone loss to the then-top ranked 3A 220 pounder at the Perry Invite. Now 146-10 overall, he toyed with most opponents this season, including his four foes at the state meet.
Fisher began his quest with an 18-3 technical fall before winning by fall. He faced third-ranked Solon senior Mike Hoyle (45-4) in the semifinals, quickly seizing control en route to an 11-4 decision.
In the finals he faced ADM junior Kaden Sutton (35-7) for the third time in as many weeks. Fisher won a 3-0 decision in the sectional tourney and a 13-6 decision in the district tourney. Saturday’s final was a 12-7 decision, giving Woodward-Granger the first state wrestling champ in school history.
Fisher allowed 14 points in four matches, but 12 of those were single-points releases. Sutton’s third-period take down, which Fisher quickly escaped from, were the only two points forcibly scored against him.
“It is such a cliche to say ‘he was on a mission’ but that is exactly what was going on all season,” W-G head coach Dave Smeltzer said. “If I know Cody, I would imagine the next mission is already underway.”
Fisher was congratulated after his wins Friday and again Saturday by Iowa State coaches. The junior has already committed to compete on the collegiate level for the Cyclones, who, of course, could not be more pleased.
The quiet Fisher admitted that, 24 hours after his big moment, that the true impact of his achievement “has probably not set in.”
“I am very honored and want to thank my coaches and everyone who has worked with me,” he said. “It is very satisfying to set a goal and then reach it.”
Fellow Hawk junior Tyler Lawrenson had also qualified for the state tourney. He came back from a 3-1 loss to junior Kobe Claybourne (37-3) of Bishop Heelan to blank Clarinda senior Storm Howard (31-15), 5-0, in his second match Thursday. Williamsburg junior Cole Creemens (34-15) eliminated Lawrenson with a 3-1 win in sudden victory I.
“Tyler gave away an average of something like 30 or more pounds each match,” Smeltzer said. “This was a great learning experience from him. He has a win at the state tourney, so that pressure is off his back. I expect to see him down there again next year.”
Smeltzer said Saturday’s championship preparations were little different from the routine Fisher had experienced each of the past two years.
“We made sure he got a good workout in and warmed up well,” Smeltzer said. “Then it was just a matter of staying calm and focused. It is a long wait from the Grand March through all the other weight classes, but Cody knew what that felt like and (Sutton) didn’t. I don’t know how much of that helped Cody, but it certainly did not hurt him.”
Familiarity with Sutton helped, Fisher said. He had been somewhat cautious in the first period of the semifinals against Hoyle (who he termed “a good wrestler, a strong guy) but, after deducing his strategy, settled into attacking from his feet, Fisher’s preferred position.
“He just goes out there and does his thing,” Smeltzer said. “He doesn’t pin a lot of people, but he doesn’t have to. His style is just to attack and wear the other guy down. Cody has good stamina and can go hard for the whole six minutes, but he just takes the energy and strength out of the other guy. It isn’t real flashy, but it is state-championship good.”