CANONSBURG, Pa. — Drake Ayala further solidified his stance as the nation’s top-ranked high school 126-pounder with a victory at the prominent Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic all-star exhibition here on Friday night.
Ayala, a Fort Dodge senior and three-time prep state champion, defeated Joey Fischer of South Park (Pa.) by a 7-3 final to help build momentum for Team USA. In the end, Team Pennsylvania rallied for a 27-23 win — its first in the 47th annual event since 2011.
“It was a great experience,” Ayala said. “I wrestled pretty decent, but like always, there’s still a lot of room for improvement. It was good to get the win and both help and represent the team (successfully).
“(Fischer) was a solid opponent. Just having another opportunity to compete (at an elite level)…that challenge is always a positive for me.”
Fischer, a Pennsylvania state champion at 126 pounds, is a Div. I Clarion (Pa.) University recruit. Fischer captured a Cadet Pan Am Games title in 2019, and gold at Fargo Nationals in 2018.
Ayala arrived with future Iowa Hawkeye teammate and Ankeny High School star Caleb Rathjen on Thursday. Rathjen also competed for Team USA, which has invited less than a dozen Iowa natives in the history of the event.
The Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic is widely considered to be the premier all-star exhibition for high school competitors in the United States.
Nearly three dozen Div. I recruits were in action at the grand ballroom of the Hilton Garden Inn in Canonsburg, Washington County. The matches are typically held at the University of Pittsburgh’s Fitzgerald Field House.
“They had really nice meals for us and a banquet to introduce us (on Thursday night),” Ayala said. “It was a very formal and professional setup, even if we weren’t (at Fitzgerald Field House). I can see why it’s known as the ‘Rose Bowl of Wrestling.’”
Ayala, a four-time state finalist with FDSH, won 171 career matches as a Dodger, helping the program earn three team trophies at the traditional state tournament and a championship in 2018. Ayala is a two-time Fargo Nationals champion and a Super 32 Challenge gold medalist as well.
In February, Ayala defeated Ryder Block of Waverly-Shell Rock for the 132-pound title in Class 3A to join Brody Teske as the Dodgers’ only three-time state champs. Teske, a current University of Iowa sophomore and 2021 NCAA National Tournament qualifier at 125 pounds, won four gold medals for FDSH.
Ayala was named the 2021 Dan Gable Mr. Wrestler of the Year award recipient in Iowa — an honor he also took home a year ago after his junior campaign.
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