Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit

Drake Ayala was ready, willing and now he's the 125-pound starter for top-ranked Iowa [The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa]

  • 0

Jan. 14—IOWA CITY — Don't view Drake Ayala as a college freshman.

Lose the qualifiers like redshirt, first-year starter or even young. Forget that about this time last year, he pinned East Marshall/GMG's Dom Ridout to win a high school tournament at Benton Community a month before his third state title for Fort Dodge.

Ayala is an Iowa Hawkeye. He is simply a college wrestler, contending for an NCAA title on a team looking for its second straight national team title. So, when Iowa Coach Tom Brands called on him to take on the 125-pound spot to replace three-time NCAA champion Spencer Lee last weekend against two ranked wrestlers, he was ready to roll.

"It's big here that we always need to stay ready, no matter if we're a freshman, sophomore, senior (or) not in the lineup," said Ayala, who is 11-3 this season and 1-1 as a starter. "We always have to stay ready. I thought that's what I did. I stayed ready, so now my time is here."

Ayala is expected to face his third straight top-10 opponent when top-ranked Iowa opens a weekend road trip Friday night at Northwestern. The Hawkeyes (8-0, 2-0) cap the weekend at Illinois on Sunday.

Ayala embrace the tough schedule, facing Minnesota's No. 8 Patrick McKee and Purdue's Devin Schroder, who was ranked fifth before dropping to 14th. The Wildcats' seventh-ranked Michael DeAugustino (2-0) awaits.

"I wouldn't say I was really thrown in the fire," Ayala said about his first starts. "I was just preparing like I always do for each match.

"Nothing really changes. Just another match and I have to get ready for Friday."

Coaches, Ayala and his family were all on the same page about the decision to enter the lineup. Brands didn't have to mince words or ease Ayala into the move. It was full speed or no speed.

"If we're going to go, let's go," Brands said. "Those were his words and my words and his family's words. That is a really good partnership with the philosophy of the program, whether you're a true freshman or not.

"We embrace him. He embraces us without even talking about it. There's just so much upside to having a relationship like that."

Brands and his staff recognized his hustle in matches and his effort in practice. He demonstrated the drive to record bonus-point victories and dominate foes. Brands and staff realized Ayala was primed to start.

"We know that his capability is there," Brands said. "Just based on the energy in his approach, his training, his attitude, what kind of teammate he is (and) his reputation."

All-American teammate Max Murin referred to Ayala as one of the "coolest guys on the team," nicknaming him after the rapper Drake. Murin said he and Ayala built a friendship around wrestling and faith, attending church together when Ayala arrived on campus. Murin said Ayala is just as good of a person as a wrestler.

Murin said he is glad Ayala is a teammate and not on the opposition.

"Drake Ayala is so good at wrestling," Murin said. "That single (leg attack) he hits is so fast. He could be one of the top guys in the country as a true freshman.

"His maturity as a 19-year-old, you really don't see that a lot. He's able to scrap with anyone."

Ayala is the third wrestler to start less than a year removed from high school, joining Lee and Abe Assad. All have occurred in the last four years of Brands' 16 seasons with the Hawkeyes. Brands said he isn't sure his approach has changed, but admits it has become more frequent. He provided various scenarios like more prepared wrestlers, better recruiting, the right personality in recruits or lineup needs.

"The No. 1 decision has always been, and always will be, what's best for the athletes first and we're not going to do something that is a gamble," Brands said. "In this case with Drake Ayala, it's not a gamble. We know his approach. We know his attitude. We had dialogue with him, really, throughout the year."

Wrestlers don't get to this level without skill. The biggest transition hasn't been as much physical as it is mental. Ayala has adapted to the different partners, feels and battles in the room.

"It's so tough," Ayala said. "Nothing's really given in the college room. It's like you're learning so much each and every day. You have to be a sponge and soak it all up."

Ayala closed a stellar career at Fort Dodge as a four-time state finalist. He posted a 171-3 career record. Ayala was also a Cadet freestyle and two-time Junior freestyle national champion. Brands called him a priority recruit and a competitor he wanted in black-and-gold.

"He's someone that was top tier for us," Brands said. "Just take care of your business, stud, and go do what you do best. That's the bottom line."

___

(c)2022 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

Visit The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) at thegazette.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

KeyWords:: CR-Drake-Ayala-was-ready-willing-and-now-hes-125-pou CR Drake Ayala was ready willing and now hes 125 pou

Tags

Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

Jan. 23—IOWA CITY — Iowa's 30-25 halftime lead over Penn State Saturday in men's basketball looked somewhat like fool's gold.

You can't get out-rebounded 22-10 over 20 minutes and pretend you're playing winning ball.

"We were all upset with ourselves because we let that happen," said Hawkeye forward Kris Murray.

"We missed 15 shots in the first half and didn't get any back," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. "Our defense was pretty good if you look at the numbers, but we just got destroyed on the glass. That had to change if we were going to win."

It didn't merely change, it took a 180-degree turn. The Hawkeyes had 27 second-half rebounds to the Nittany Lions' 12. Iowa won 68-51 before a Carver-Hawkeye Arena sellout crowd of 15,056.

The Hawkeyes evened their Big Ten record at 4-4 and improved their overall mark to 14-5.

"We say it all the time: The tougher team sets the rules," said Penn State Coach Micah Shrewsberry. "We were probably the tougher team in the first half and they flipped it and they were the tougher team in the second half."

"We're really tough," Murray said. "We're not going to let anyone out-tough us."

Defense is predicated on toughness, too, and that wasn't a problem area for Iowa in either half. After three straight games of opponents shooting at least 50 percent, Iowa held Rutgers to 31 percent in its 48-46 loss Wednesday, and let Penn State (3-5, 8-8) make just 33.3 percent of its shots.

The Lions got as close as three points early in the second half, then the Hawkeyes methodically pulled away. Kris and Keegan Murray combined to score 19 of Iowa's 21 points from the 11:26 mark of the second half to the 2:20 mark, and the Hawkeyes' lead grew from 43-38 to 64-49 in that time.

The final three points of that stretch was on a Keegan Murray 3-pointer, his first make from that distance in seven tries.

"It's crazy that he was able to do that because he was just off a little bit," McCaffery said. "I thought the threes that he took were good shots. I don't think he forced anything. He doesn't typically force anything. That's not how he plays. But he didn't hesitate on that. Just drilled it. I think that was the dagger."

Keegan Murray had a game-high 15 points and Kris added 13, with Kris sinking 3 of 5 threes. Patrick McCaffery and senior guard Jordan Bohannon also made three 3-pointers. Both scored 11 points.

Bohannon was coming off a 2-for-10 night from beyond the arc at Rutgers, and had his head down as he left Iowa's locker room for the team bus.

"This was probably one of the first times in my career I kind of doubted myself," Bohannon said. "(At Rutgers) I was getting the ball late in the shot clock and I wasn't my normal self.

"I've got to credit (Iowa assistant coach Kirk) Speraw. He brought me in his office right before the game here and he just showed me some of my clips through years, all my big shots I've hit and the cockiness and swagger I played with.

"I think it was putting too much pressure on myself. I want this final year of mine and on this team that we have to be special. I think we have the group that will make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Right now we just have to keep building, one game at a time to keep building a resume."

Iowa's next game is a potential resume-builder. The Hawkeyes stay home for an 8 p.m. Thursday game against No. 4 Purdue (4-3, 15-3).

Comments: (319) 398-8440; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

___

(c)2022 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

Visit The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) at thegazette.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

KeyWords:: CR-Iowa-Hawkeyes-go-from-empty-to-full-glass-down-P CR Iowa Hawkeyes go from empty to full glass down P

Jan. 22—IOWA CITY — About the same time the calendar flipped, Caitlin Clark's game shifted.

From December to January; from second gear to overdrive.

Iowa's dynamic sophomore guard, Clark has rejoined the women's basketball national-player-of-the-year discussion with a recent six-game tour de force.

Here's what she has been up to lately:

An average of 32.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 9.2 assists, which has included back-to-back triple-doubles.

A field-goal rate of 52.4 percent (it was 38.3 percent in the first nine games). An assist-to-turnover count of 2.50-to-1 (it was 1.71-to-1 before the holidays).

"When you start playing good competition, it brings out the best in a competitor," said Clark, who certainly fits that bill.

Clark's statistical surge has coincided with the 25th-ranked Hawkeyes' four-game winning streak, which has included road wins at Nebraska, Purdue and Minnesota.

She is the only player in NCAA women's basketball history to notch back-to-back triple-doubles in which more than 30 points were scored in both games.

Last Sunday, she recorded 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists as Iowa overcame an early 16-point deficit and beat Nebraska, 93-83, at home.

Then on Thursday, it was 35, 13 and 11 as Iowa destroyed Minnesota, 105-49, at Minneapolis.

After saying, "I'm still trying to take this all in," in the Minnesota postgame, Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder followed with, "Caitlin showed why she is one of the most special, exciting players in America."

Perhaps the most promising aspect for Clark at Minnesota was her 3-point shooting — 4 of 6. She came into the game shooting from 22.7 percent from distance.

"I'm the type that's going to keep shooting," Clark said. "All six of them were really good looks. I got my toes to the line, and it was good to see some of them go down."

Iowa (11-4 overall, 5-1 Big Ten) will be heavily favored to extend its winning streak Sunday against Illinois (6-10, 1-4). Tipoff is 5 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

The Illini were a late replacement on the Sunday menu after No. 6 Indiana was forced to bow out due to COVID-19 issues around the Hoosiers' program.

Bluder indicated mid-week that she and Barbara Burke — Iowa deputy director or athletics and senior women's administrator — had been searching for a Sunday opponent. And early Friday morning, the university released that Illinois would be coming to town.

Illinois originally was slated to play at Carver on Jan. 2, but that fell through to COVID and was rescheduled for Feb. 12, then bumped up to Sunday.

The Illini's last win at Carver was during the 2006-07 season, and the Hawkeyes have won 18 of the last 21 games in the series.

Comments: jeff.linder@thegazette.com

___

(c)2022 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

Visit The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) at thegazette.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

KeyWords:: CR-Caitlin-Clark-has-shifted-to-overdrive-and-Iowa-wo CR Caitlin Clark has shifted to overdrive and Iowa wo

Jan. 25—No bigger moment than many people's dreams coming to reality when the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union announced Iowa would be the 34th state with sanctioned girls' wrestling. Austin DeSanto returned against Ohio State. UNI and Iowa State handled NDSU. High schools competed in the last big tournament weekend before championship season. This is the Wrestling Weekend That Was.

IGHSAU ANNOUNCES MOVE TO SANCTION GIRLS' WRESTLING

Word of the impending announcement slithered through the grapevine before Saturday's public statement, but it didn't diminish the reaction to the news that girls' wrestling will be sanctioned.

IGHSAU Executive Director Jean Berger made the announcement prior to the Iowa High School Coaches and Officials Association girls' state tournament finals at Xtream Arena. The achievement marked the end of many hours of blood, sweat, toil and tears over the years, attempting to make this happen.

"We think there's a great foundation in place for the success of this sport and we intend to fully support these Iowa Girls as they continue their pursuit of championships," Berger said in a news release. "As the sanctioning process unfolded, the Board was able to quickly approve this new opportunity for our girls and schools across the state. The increase in participation, the growth in youth wrestling and the willingness of our schools to commit to the sport all factored into this decision."

Remember four years ago? The IWCOA and other organizers put together the first girls' state tournament in a matter of a few weeks. It was held at Waverly-Shell Rock's gymnasium with less than a 100 athletes and at the same time as a boys' tournament.

The tournament has grown and evolved rapidly in four years, becoming a two-day tournament with 695 competitors in 17 weight brackets at a neutral arena with most of the bells and whistles their male counterparts have in Des Moines. The girls' competition still is connected to its root on a Saturday that was impacted by a snow storm.

AGWSR's Ali Gerbracht became the event's first champion, beating Bettendorf's Ella Schmit, who just won the 125-pound title and joined Iowa Valley's Millie Peach as a three-time champion.

Peach, who graduated last year, won titles in the first three IWCOA events. Now, her sister has picked up right where she left paving the way. Emma Peach, a freshman for the Tigers, capped a 21-0 season, pinning Waverly-Shell Rock's Annika Behrends in 5:53 for the 140 title.

The Go-Hawks, who have been at the forefront of the girls' teams, won the team title Saturday. They remain the only team to win the event.

The skill level on display has improved as well. Some might point to numerous early-round pins and argue otherwise. It isn't unexpected, considering some program wandered the hallways at school to recruit wrestlers to try the sport. Some have had the fortune to wrestle from a young age but others are new to wrestling. Some mismatches will occur.

Iowa Coach Clarissa Chun attended the tournament. She said the style of wrestling was tough and physical, which is cornerstone to the state's approach to the sport.

"It's ingrained in the fabric of Iowa," said Chun. "It shows here."

Like any tournament in any sport, as the field dwindles the competition becomes tougher. There was plenty of proof when four past state champions were unable to even reach the finals.

There are examples of wrestlers, continuing to dominate, like Decorah's 170-pound champion Naomi Simon. The sophomore won her second crown, winning at 145 a year ago. In addition to Simon and Schmit, Waverly-Shell Rock's Eva Diaz and Lilly Luft, of Charles City, repeated as champions.

Saturday marked a major hurdle, but the work has really just started as the IGHSAU and wrestling leaders begin to mold girls' wrestling for the future and what direction to go from here.

This was a huge win for wrestling and for the Iowa Girl.

DESANTO RETURNS

All-American Austin DeSanto returned to the Iowa lineup Friday against No. 6 Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio. DeSanto was dominant, rolling to a 19-4 technical fall over Dylan Kuntz at 133 pounds. He needed just 4:21 to notch his team-high eighth technical fall of the season.

The appearance should put to rest a lot of the buzz surrounding his recent absence.

Speaking of Ohio State, the top-ranked Hawkeyes won six matches. In the world of "should have, could have," Iowa was not far away from a sweep. The Hawkeyes dropped two matches that ended regulation tied and decided in sudden victory. They also lost two 3-2, leading by one in the waning moments. Iowa still recorded a solid 21-12 dual win, but had the chance to skunk the Buckeyes.

UNI, ISU THUMP BISON

University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State were not gracious hosts to North Dakota State during the weekend. The Panthers won, 29-13, taking seven bouts including five with bonus points.

Cael Happel (141) notched one of UNI's three major decisions, whipping No. 21 Dylan Droegemueller, 15-5. Brody Teske was in the lineup at 125 and scored a fall, while Parker Keckeisen had a techncial fall at 184.

Iowa State claimed eight matches, beating the Bison, 26-9. Ninth-ranked Marcus Coleman continues his strong year, earning a 16-0 technical fall over D.J. Parker at 184.

The Cyclones also earned the program's 1,100th all-time victory, joining Oklahoma State as the only NCAA Division I wrestling program to reach the win plateau.

In case you haven't noticed, Iowa State has climbed into the top 10 nationally with a 9-1 record and 2-0 in the Big 12 Conference. Things are coming together for Iowa State and Coach Kevin Dresser.

SLOAN POSTS UPSET

South Dakota State's Tanner Sloan defeated Missouri's fifth-ranked Rocky Elam, 5-2, at 197 pounds, highlighting the Jackrabbits' 21-12 upset of No. 9 Missouri in Columbia, Mo.

Sloan, a two-time state champion for Alburnett who was ranked 22nd, used a takedown late in the second and a third-period escape for the difference. He avenged a loss to Elam earlier this season, improving to 11-4.

It was SDSU's first win over a top-10 opponent and its first victory over Missouri since 1970-71 season.

Sloan wasn't the only 197-pounder with a big upset. Michigan State's Cam Caffey defeated Penn State's second-ranked Max Dean, 3-2.

WARRIORS WOW IN WINS

Cedar Rapids Washington had a marquee end to its week. The Warriors knocked off Cedar Rapids Prairie, receiving three straight falls from Zach Novak (220), heavywweight Tate Sykora Matthess and Brennan Geers at 106 for a 41-37 dual win over the Hawks.

The Warriors followed that with a tournament title at Anamosa's Denny Christiansen Invitational on Saturday. Washington won the nine-team field with 159 points and nine finalists.

Geers, Charles Rust (126), Nick Foreman (132) and Erich Rinderknecht at 145 placed first to lead Washington.

LINN-MAR LEADS THE LUEDERS

Linn-Mar captured the team title at Clinton's Bob Lueders Invitational on Saturday. The Lions crowned three champions and topped Class 1A second-ranked Lisbon, 190-175.5, with third-place Fort Dodge at 171.5.

Brayden Parke (126), Kane Naaktgeboren at 132 and heavyweight Luke Gaffney won titles.

Naaktgeboren was impressive again, pining his way through the bracket for the second straight weekend. He has been crushing foes, recording falls in his last nine straight matches. The third-ranked sophomore is 26-1 with 24 pins. He also has a technical fall.

Parke and Gaffney beat ranked foes in the final. Parke, No. 4 in 3A, topped Lisbon's third-ranked Quincy Happel, 3-0. Third-ranked Gaffney pinned Lisbon's No. 8 Wyatt Smith.

Lisbon did have champions in 120-pounder Brandon Paez and Cade Siebrecht at 138.

Cedar Rapids Prairie's Blake Gioimo moved to 35-0. The top-ranked 113-pounder won two matches by technical fall and scored a 12-4 major decision over Fort Dodge's No. 3 Max Bishop in the final.

MUSTANGS ROMP TO CLYDE BEAN TITLE

Mount Vernon won the team title of the Clyde Bean Duals at Iowa City High. The Mustangs went 5-0 Saturday, beating Cedar Rapids Kennedy, 45-32, in the finals.

Even more impressive is how the took control in the championship dual. The Mustangs record five straight falls from 220 to 120 to take the lead for good. Clark Younggreen started the streak and Riley Mudd capped the run.

Younggreen, Mudd, Jackson Jaspers (138) and 152-pounder Henry Ryan went unbeaten Saturday. Ryan had three pins, a technical fall and major decision. Younggreen had four pins and a decision, while Jaspers had three pins and a technical fall.

SOUTH TAMA WINS TIGHT BATTLES

South Tama also came a way with a dual tournament title Saturday. The Trojans won the EM/GMG Duals.

South Tama was 4-0, beating Benton Community, 40-37, in the finals. The Trojans received pins from Boden Koehler (170) and 182-pounder Koley Kelly for the comeback victory.

The Trojans also topped Union Community, 39-38, when Kohler won by injury default in the last match.

___

(c)2022 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

Visit The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) at thegazette.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

KeyWords:: CR-Iowa-Wrestling-Weekend-That-Was-IGHSAU-announces-p CR Iowa Wrestling Weekend That Was IGHSAU announces p

Jan. 21—Minnesota had a plan to stop No. 25 Iowa on Thursday. Talked about it, worked on it in practice. It wasn't as if the plan didn't work — it just plain didn't happen.

Caitlin Clark had 35 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, and Watertown's Monika Czinano added 23 and six rebounds as Iowa handed Minnesota its worst loss of the program's NCAA era, 105-49, at Williams Arena.

"Sometimes you just have those special nights, and tonight was one of them," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.

Not for the Gophers, who didn't do anything well. Sara Scalia scored a team-high 15 points, but Minnesota's leading rebounder was Rose Micheaux with four, and Gadiva Hubbard had a team-high three assists.

"Clearly not a good night for us," Gophers coach Lindsay Whalen said.

Minnesota wanted to keep a body on Clark, harass Czinano in the block and get back in transition. "Obviously things that we talked about for a few days, talked about for a few days, and we weren't able to get it done," Whalen said.

Clark finished with her fifth triple-double, and while the Gophers kept Czinano in check early, she made five of her last six shots and 9 of 10 free throws. As for getting back on defense, well, Iowa scored 23 fastbreak points and 14 points off 11 Minnesota turnovers.

"They're a really good transition team. That's what they do," Whalen said.

It didn't help that Iowa rarely had to take the ball out of the basket to get going; Minnesota shot 33.3 percent from the field (21 for 63). The Hawkeyes shot 59 percent (40 for 68).

The Gophers fell to 9-10 overall and 2-5 in the Big Ten.

Their worst Big Ten loss remains a 93-37 setback to Indiana in 1974-75, before the NCAA began sponsoring women's basketball, and their worst loss overall was 114-53 at Texas on Dec. 4, 1978. But in the NCAA era, Thursday's loss margin surpassed the previous program record of 55 set Nov. 29, 1986, in a 101-46 loss to fourth-ranked Auburn, then matched in a 99-44 loss to No. 7 Maryland on March 1, 2020.

It was Iowa's largest margin of victory in a Big Ten game in program history and third largest overall. The Hawkeyes (11-4, 5-1) have won four straight.

"I'm still trying to take it in," Bluder said. "I really didn't find anything that was poor out there."

Clark, a sophomore guard who was a second-team All-American as a freshman, registered her fifth career double-double and surpassed her scoring average of 25.7 points a game, which leads the nation. She was 14 of 21 from the floor and 4 for 6 from 3-point range but finished well shy of her career-high of 44 points set Jan. 2 against Evansville.

Her 13 rebounds were a game-high.

"When I get the rebound and push in transition, that's when we're at our best," Clark said. "Because it's hard to pick me up, and it's really hard to find my other teammates on the floor — and that's really when we're at our best."

Gabbie Marshall's layup off a steal by teammate Kylie Feuerbach gave the Hawkeyes a 97-48 lead with 7 minutes, 4 seconds left in the game, and it only got worse from there. Minnesota was 1 for 15 from the field in the fourth quarter.

Asked if she thought her team gave up, Whalen said, "I'm not going to say that. Obviously, the fourth was tough. I thought we had guys trying to make some plays, and it just didn't go our way. ... Guys were still trying to do the right thing."

Starting point guard Jasmine Powell was scoreless for the first time in her college career.

Asked how the Gophers can regroup in time for Sunday's 1 p.m. tip at Michigan State, Scalia said, "We've just got to bring (the team) together more."

"I mean, you can kind of tell we're not playing connected, and sometimes not really for each other," the junior from Stillwater said. "The biggest thing is just getting everyone on the same page and at least giving 100 percent effort."

___

(c)2022 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.)

Visit the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.) at www.twincities.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

KeyWords:: SP-Womens-basketball-Iowa-hands-Minnesota-worst-loss SP Womens basketball Iowa hands Minnesota worst loss

A record-setting audience saw IU knock off No. 4 Purdue in a thriller.

Fox Sports announced 954,000 people watched the Hoosiers and Boilermakers on FS1, a record audience for a college basketball game on the network.

Doyel: Assembly Hall had waited for a moment like this. And Rob Phinisee made it happen.

Insider: Seven coaching decisions by Mike Woodson that helped IU finally beat Purdue

A game between IU and Michigan in January 2020 FS1 was watched by 811,000, which was the previous record.

Follow IndyStar trending sports reporter Matthew VanTryon on Twitter @MVanTryon and email him story ideas at matthew.vantryon@indystar.com.

©2022 www.indystar.com. Visit indystar.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

KeyWords:: IN-IU-VS-PURDUE-SET-COLLEGE-BASKETBALL-RECORD-FOR IN IU VS PURDUE SET COLLEGE BASKETBALL RECORD FOR

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

Breaking News