Prep Wrestling: Becker Provides Boost in Prairie Win Over Linn-Mar

By K.J. Pilcher, Reporter

Cedar Rapids Prairie's Josh Wenger (right) flips Linn-Mar's Damon Griffin in their 126-pound bout at Linn-Mar on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, in Marion. Wenger won 8-0, and Prairie won 35-22. (Liz Martin/The Gazette-KCRG)

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By Grant Burkhardt

MARION, Iowa - Dylan Becker has been down before, but was never out for good.

So, when the Cedar Rapids Prairie senior found himself in a hole late in a pivotal match for his team it was no surprise he displayed toughness and overcame adversity again.

After missing last season to injury and being a week removed from having his right pinky finger casted, Becker scored seven points in the final period for a come-from-behind win, helping Class 3A fifth-ranked Prairie beat No. 2 Linn-Mar, 35-22, Thursday night at Linn-Mar.

Becker trailed 3-2 in the final period, taking Manny Jeffery down to his back with an outside fireman's carry for four points and adding three nearfall for a 9-3 decision. The win gave Prairie a 20-15 lead instead of being down a point.

"I was down, but it was all that hard work we do in practice, pushing ourselves to keep going," Becker said. "I just had to go. I had to go out there and get them for the team."

The match was indicative of Becker's journey for the Hawks. He missed last season after tearing ligaments in his right elbow during practice and had Tommy John surgery last December. This season started with an injured ligament in his finger.

"It really hit me hard," Becker said. "It made me want to wrestle really bad.

"I've been working as hard as I can, because this is my last year. You've got to go hard."

Becker has been a varsity wrestler, battling some of the Hawks state qualifiers. He has hard luck, including the injury a year ago. Becker has sacrificed for the team, and continues to do so dropping down to 132.

"He earned his time and paid his dues," Prairie Coach Blake Williams said. "Now, he is getting the shot to do what he knows and we know he can."

Becker demonstrated his toughness and the last year he has shown perseverance.

"It shows a lot about a guy not giving up, cashing it in and feeling sorry for himself," Williams said. "Hopefully, this is just a start for him."

The swing match came after Prairie's third-ranked Josh Wenger scored a crucial victory at 126. Wenger defeated No. 4 Damon Griffin, 8-0, in a bout of state medalists, giving Prairie the lead 17-15.

"I came out and did what I needed to do and let things fall into place," Wenger said. "I stayed in position, let the match go and left everything out there."

Wenger scored takedowns in the first and second, adding two nearfall in the second and a third-period reversal.

"I knew if I stayed in position that sooner or later he was going to make a mistake," Wenger said. "I just capitalized on his mistakes."

Almost everything the Hawks needed for a team victory went their way. They won a number of toss-up matches, including three of the four matches between ranked wrestlers and bonus points in four wins.

Eighth-ranked freshman Sam Uthoff scored an impressive 8-0 win over No. 9 Noah Ajram at 106. Senior Austin Gould, ranked fourth, dropped No. 6 Andrew Holladay, 12-8, to close the dual.

Heavyweight Andrew Netolicky and Cam Rathje (170), both ranked third, scored falls for Prairie. Rathje's pin sealed the Hawks win.

"Before the dual, we said if we have 14 guys who fight from whistle to whistle, good things are going to happen and you guys are going to be tough to beat," Williams said. "For the most part, 14 guys put out the effort."

Casey Becker (195), fifth-ranked Trey Blaha (138) and 160-pounder River Whitters added decisions for Prairie (3-0).

The Lions (2-1) were their own worst enemy, according to Linn-Mar Coach Doug Streicher. They needed to make better decisions, and improve their holds.

"We had opportunities to score and didn't," Streicher said. "We gave points away. We didn't wrestle the edge of the mat very well. ... A lot of it was tactical."

The Lions won five matches they were favored, including consecutive pins from top-ranked Matt Wempen and Alijah Jeffery at 106 and 113. The duo gave Linn-Mar a 15-13 lead.

Ross Lembeck, top-ranked at 152, posted a 5-1 win over No. 5 Skyler St. John, and second-ranked 145-pound Joel Northrup won by major decision.

Third-ranked Justin Green scored a 3-2 decision over Jesse Hynek at 220, tying it at three apiece. Green burst for a takedown with 1:40 remaining in the match, which proved to be the difference.

"They were expected to win those matches," Streicher said. "All the ones we thought were swing matches we couldn't hold it together mentally and wrestle a good six-minute match. That was the difference for quite a few of those."

Both teams will compete in the Five Seasons Duals on Saturday co-hosted by Cedar Rapids Kennedy and Cedar Rapids Washington.
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