OTTUMWA – After working hard all week in the wrestling room, Eli Slater was ready to put on a show for his teammates.
As it turned out, the show was short but sweet and drew rave reviews. The Ottumwa senior needed just 34 seconds to take down Alex Elfvin and score a fall that seemed to spark the Bulldog wrestling team to an impressive 48-33 dual win over Urbandale at Evans Middle School Gymnasium.
"I just kept telling myself I could do it. I started believing it and I did it," Slater said. "I was pretty surprised to be in that position so early in the match. I just kept fighting, I just kept holding on and I got it."
Ottumwa improved to 14-5 in duals this season, returning from the holiday break to earn a 57-18 win over Des Moines Roosevelt in the first CIML Metro conference competition of the season. Trevor Summers put the Bulldogs on top for good against the Roughriders, scoring the first of two falls on the night by pinning Terrance Wesseh with 1.2 seconds left in the first period.
"Every day has been a grind trying to get better and push myself to go as far as I can go this season," Summers said. "It's been showing on the mat. I've done a lot of work on technique on my feet. I've been able to hit my takedowns a lot easier. Being on top, I've been working a lot on turning kids and working for those pins when the team needs six points."
Jay Guerra (285) and Jasmine Luedtke (106) followed with first-period falls against the Roughriders for Ottumwa. The first Metro dual of the year, however, showcased some impressive six-minute work by Bulldog wrestlers with Mikey Cain (145) and Zachariah Shoemaker (160) each working their way to 10-3 decisions while John Hardin scored a 6-0 shutout of Sam Norris at 220 pounds.
"Everyone got a win, even in the junior varsity matches," Ottumwa head wrestling coach Jeremy Frueh said. We've been working hard. We've got some good, young leadership on this team. It's exciting not just for tonight, but for the future. We've just got to keep working and not let up. You just have to put your foot on the gas and keep going."
Ottumwa figured to be in store for much more drama in the third and final dual of the night after Urbandale earned a 60-15 win over Roosevelt, setting the stage for what figured to be a battle in every match for every possible point. Summers and Shoemaker scored second-period falls for Ottumwa to counter first-period falls from Urbandale teammates Gabe Carver (145) and Kasey Ross (160), leveling the dual at 12-12 heading into the match between Slater and Elfvin.
"It's a match that, on paper, maybe we weren't favored going in," Frueh said. "That changed momentum."
Slater kept circling his at the start in what seemed to be a feeling-out process. The feeling-out went away quickly as Slater hooked Elfvin by the shoulders, taking the Urbandale junior to the mat with a decisive throw before locking in the fall in a matter of seconds.
"I just saw the team get so excited after that," Slater said. "I love every member of this team. I'm glad to see them all smile after that."
The Bulldogs would put away the J-Hawks in the lighter weights with first-period falls by Corbin Grace (113) and Braylon Griffiths (126) securing Ottumwa's most impressive dual win thus far this season. Daltin Doud finished off the night pinning Oliver Towers midway through the second period of the 132-pound finale.
"That's a tough opponent and a good team that's well-coached and disciplined," Frueh said of Urbandale. "You know you're going to be in for a fight when you wrestle them. We were up for the challenge."
Ottumwa will be back on the mat at Evans Middle School Gymnasium on Saturday welcoming in 11 teams for the Bulldogs' annual home invitational starting at 10 a.m. Albia, Davis County, Burlington, Fairfield, Iowa City Liberty, Keokuk, Des Moines Lincoln, Newton, Sigourney-Keota and Missouri school Kirksville are slated to compete in hopes of preventing Ottumwa from winning their own tournament title for the first time since winning consecutive championships in 2015 and 2016.
"I definitely feel like we have the talent on this team to be able to accomplish that," Summers said.