After opening the post-holiday portion of the season with a 75-6 win over Maquoketa and a 75-0 whitewashing of Marion, Jan. 3, at Marion, the West Delaware Hawks battled to a strong second-place finish in the Jerry Eckenrod Invitational at Benton Community, Jan. 5.

The 16-team Eckenrod Invitational featured five ranked teams and nearly 40 ranked wrestlers in a field West Delaware coach Jeff Voss said is equal to any meet in Iowa — including the state tournament.

“Our team came out of the break and jumped into competition with some of the best teams and individuals in the state,” he said. “The competition at Benton was state tournament caliber at every weight.”

Class 1A top-ranked Don Bosco went 3-for-3 in the finals to score 227.5 points and overtake the 2A No. 2 ranked Hawks, who won 1-of-6 championship matches and finished second at 214.

Class 2A No. 6 Union was a distant third at 167.5, 2A No. 7 Davenport Assumption fourth at 158.5, Williamsburg fifth at 155.5, and Independence sixth at 141. Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont (112), West Liberty (105), 2A No. 3 Centerville (104), East Marshall (82.5), Vinton-Shellsburg (82), Dallas Center-Grimes (72.5), Cedar Rapids Jefferson (61), North Linn (53), Cedar Rapids Washington (41.5) and Benton Community rounded out the standings.

“I think this tournament is actually tougher to wrestle than the state tournament,” Voss said. “The state tournament only requires you to wrestle that level of competition once or maybe twice a day. At Benton, you might have three or four of them in a six-hour time frame.”

No. 4 ranked Ryan Phillips was West Delaware’s only champion on the day, decisioning No. 6 Jalen Schropp, of Williamsburg, 5-2, in the final to improve to 20-2 on the season.

At 138, Jadyn Peyton lost for only the second time this season, dropping a 7-3 final match to top-ranked and unbeaten Jack Thompson, of Union. Peyton now stands 22-2 in an outstanding freshman campaign.

No. 5 ranked Mitchel Mangold was second in a loaded 152-pound bracket that featured five ranked wrestlers. After defeating No. 8 Coy Ruess, of West Liberty, in the semifinal round, Mangold took a medical forfeit as Union’s Adam Ahrendson (26-1) won the gold. Mangold stands 19-3 on the year.

Jared Voss (106) had a fine tournament, improving to 18-6 on the year. Voss lost a tough sudden-victory bout to No. 8 Cole Davis, (25-4) of Independence, in the final, while

Class 2A No. 5 Jack Neuhaus and 1A No. 2 Thomas Even of Don Bosco met in the 182-pound final with Even (27-1) winning by fall in 0:57.

Jordan Bries (14-7) tangled with two-time state champ and top-ranked Julian Broderson, (31-0) of Assumption, in the 195-pound final, with Broderson winning by fall in 0:55. Wyatt Voelker (17-6) lost a 2-1 semi-final decision to Sage Walker, (33-0) of Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, but bounced back with two consolation round wins to finish third at 170.

Other place winners for the Hawks were: Blake Engel (15-10) fourth at 106, Evan Woods (16-7) sixth at 120, Stavely Maury (10-7) sixth at 126, Cale Meyer (19-5) sixth at 145, Ben Petlon (12-8) fifth at 220, and Carson Petlon (14-7) fifth at 285. Luke Farmer (14-11) competed at 113.

“Keeping mentally strong and focused against this kind of competition is tough to do,” said Voss. “However, that is why we go to these types of tournaments every week so we can grow from the experience. Next week is another opportunity to grow and learn.”

In what was little more than a warm-up for the weekend, the Hawks won 16-of-20 contested matches in Marion by fall to make quick work of the Indians and Maquoketa.

In a final piece of positive news for the West Delaware program, the Hawk JV team won the Gladbrook-Reinbeck JV Duals, Jan. 5, going 4-0 on the day to claim the title.