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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa West Delaware's Sam Phillips recognized the hammers were about to take the mat.
So, the junior 120-pounder prepared to try and play the role of final nail in the coffin.
Phillips scored a 12-9 decision over Zack Fiser in the final bout, elevating West Delaware over Cedar Rapids Prairie, 37-36, in the finals of the Five Seasons Duals on Saturday at Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
West Delaware, top-ranked in Class 2A, trailed 36-4 when five state medalists posted consecutive falls, cutting Prairie's lead to two and setting up Phillips' heroics. Phillips analyzed possible scenarios before teammate Jacyn Goebel started the pin streak at 195 pounds.
"I was thinking it was going to come down to me," Phillips said. "I was pretty excited about it. Not too many people get that chance. I was lucky enough to have it."
Phillips was thrust into the situation for the first time. He wrestled junior varsity behind top-ranked Pat Woods (106) and second-ranked 113-pounder Zach Less, who preceded Phillips with first-period falls. He was confident, catching Fiser on his back twice for a 6-4 lead after one that became 10-6 before the third.
"I knew I could wrestle in the varsity lineup," Phillips said. "I had to believe and keep wrestling out there."
It was a major turnaround, losing by fall in his previous two matches. The final-dual win was good experience as a starter.
"Now, he's got his chance," West Delaware Coach Jeff Voss said. "He's learning what he can do and can't do at the varsity level."
Top-ranked duo, Adam Reth (220) and heavyweight Dean Broghammer, scored falls to make it 36-22 Prairie. Reth won his 54th straight match with a pin 1:26 over Jesse Hynek. Broghammer caught Andrew Netolicky, ranked third in 3A, and earned a pin in 2:35.
"My mindset was to wrestle hard and smart," Broghammer said. "I thought it was a matter of me wrestling smart and doing what I needed to do."
The two were caught in a scramble after Broghammer was in low on Netolicky's leg and returned him to the mat. Broghammer said his teammates have recognized his ability to score in those positions.
"I feel very comfortable," Broghammer said. "I get out of weird situations and keep moving."
Voss said he turned to the remaining wrestlers and stressed the need for pins.
"Give our kids credit," said Voss, noting that Less and Goebel each recorded their 100th career win Saturday. "They knew what we had to do as a team to win it."
Fifth-ranked Prairie (7-1) seemed to be in control with seven wins in the first eight matches. Austin Gould gave Prairie a commanding 36-4 lead with 4-0 decision over T.J. Oleson at 182.
The rest of the dual brought a bitter end to what Prairie Coach Blake Williams called a good week.
"I just tell them we had a great week up until those last five or six matches," Williams said. "I think our team fought like crazy for the first three and a half dual meets today. We just gave up easy points and pins, and didn't have the fight we needed."
Josh Wenger (126), Dylan Becker (132) and 138-pounder Trey Blaha opened the meet with three straight pins for Prairie. River Whitters (160) and Cam Rathje (170) had pins, following Skyler St. John's 9-7 win over Jake Voss at 152.
Fiser was filling in for starter Jayden Flege, who is out with injury. He was one of five Prairie wrestlers that went 3-1 Saturday.
"I thought Zack Fiser fought his butt off there at the end," Williams said. "To put him in a situation like that, he probably shouldn't have had to be in there, but reality is we were."
Williams emphasized that the team had numerous opportunities to prevent two points, which was the difference. Williams said some of the late wrestlers may have been complacent, seeing the team up big before their matches.
"The biggest thing is that they learn a lesson from this," Wiliams said. "If this is what needs to happen for our kids to realize it, then so be it."
West Delaware (4-0) had come-from-behind wins to reach the finals. West Delaware won seven of the last eight matches top beat 1A top-ranked Alburnett, 43-28. In the semifinals, the Hawks edged 3A No. 2 Linn-Mar, 34-31, the same way.
"These dual meets are all matchups," Voss said. "We knew there were some certain spots we were going to get bonus points and we had to keep plugging away until we got to them."
Prairie scorched its way to the finals with convincing wins over No. 6 Iowa City West, 52-18, and third-ranked Bettendorf, 39-29, in the semifinals. Against the Bulldogs, Prairie posted six straight wins, including pins from Whitters, Rathje, Casey Becker (195) and Hynek. Gould won by major decision, just two short of a technical fall, and Netolicky capped it with a decision.
Whitters, Rathje and Gould all finished 4-0 to lead Prairie. Rathje scored four falls, while Whitters had three. Williams said Whitters has jumped a couple weights.
"He's gotten a lot bigger," Williams said. "It looks like he can handle it."
Bettendorf edged Linn-Mar, 38-37, for third. The Lions wrestled the final two duals without state champion Matt Wempen. He sat out with an undisclosed injury, and Linn-Mar Coach Doug Streicher decline to comment. Linn-Mar had a three-point lead, entering the final match against West Delaware and had to forfeit his weight.
The Lions opened the tournament with an 80-0 win over West Delaware's JV team and a 54-21 win over Mason City.
"We look at it as potential," Streicher said. "We had potential against West Delaware to win a couple matches and get a couple points here or there and we didn't do it, even without Matt in there. Same thing with Bettendorf. We had a chance to win without him and we didn't click as a team."
Linn-Mar was close to a second dual against Prairie in less than 48 hours. The Hawks won that 35-22, but Streicher said the Lions were improved compared to that loss.
"I thought we wrestled better than we did Thursday night," Streicher said. "As fas as wrestling goes."