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Ottawa 138-pounder Devon Jones (back) wrestles Monmouth-Roseville’s Dalton Willett during the third-place match Saturday at the Princeton Invitational. Jones beat Willett 6-5. NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
PRINCETON — Last year was a struggle for Devon Jones.
After the 138-pounder on the Ottawa wrestling team had problems in wrestling, in school and in life, he knew something needed to give and that he needed to change this year.
So he did.
“Last year wasn’t my best year. I’d say it was a pretty bad year all around,” Jones admitted. “But ever since last year, I’ve been working out and training to get better at wrestling and hopefully make it to state this year.”
Jones’ transformation took another step Saturday at the Princeton Invitational Tournament as the 138-pound senior finished an area-best third in the 33-team event.
“Mentally, he is in a completely different zone than he was in last year,” Ottawa coach Peter Marx said. “Last year, he was so hot and cold, and I think he just had some stuff going on in his head and in his life where wrestling wasn’t his main focus.
“I think last season ended in such a poor fashion for him, and he lost to some kids in regional that he beat earlier in the year. It left such a bad taste in his mouth, but from the day the season ended, he was in the weight room lifting every day. He would get in trouble for being in there when he wasn’t supposed to be. He also came to open mats in the summer and was working hard non-stop at getting better and better. He’s definitely in a much better place and much more focused.”
Jones showed that on the mat Saturday.
In the quarterfinals, he rolled to a 9-2 decision before he lost by a 3-1 decision in the semifinals. He rebounded and worked his way through wrestlebacks, where he capped his day with back-to-back wins, including a 6-5 decision in the third-place match.
“Devon wrestled really well today,” Marx said. “He just caught a kid on the semis who is just on fire. … He could’ve shut down and he could’ve packed it in, but instead he came back, wrestled hard and won the next two matches to end up taking third. He did a very nice job.”
While Jones finished third, so too did teammate and 195-pounder Alex Fuentes. In the quarterfinals, the senior won by a 7-0 decision but fell by a 5-2 decision in the semifinals. After his loss, he also responded with a pair of wins, including a pin fall in just 43 seconds in the third-place match.
It was a good showing for Fuentes, who competed in a weight that featured last year’s Class 1A 220-pound state champion and runner-up, both of whom dropped to 195.
“I’m excited,” Fuentes said. “Last year, I came here and wrestled in the third-place match and lost, so I’m really glad that I came away with the win this year. I lost to a pretty tough kid in the semifinals, but I’m glad I got to wrestle him.”
In addition to the two, Ottawa 106-pound sophomore Jakob Weiss finished fifth, 145-pound junior Daniel Close placed sixth and 113-pound freshman Micah Krueger was eighth.
Princeton 160-pound junior Drew Pranka had a good start to his year. In his season debut, the junior finished eighth.
“This is Drew’s first tournament this year so we kind of expected him to wear out — and that’s kind of what we wanted from him,” PHS coach Steve Amy said. “But he just has to be more aggressive and continue to work.”
Notes: Dakota destroyed the PIT field. The Indians scored 270.5 team points to win the team title over second-place Byron (181.5). The Indians had seven wrestlers compete for a championship, three of whom won. In all, 12 Dakota wrestlers placed. … Ottawa finished 16th with 76 points and Princeton placed 31st with 23 points. … Dakota senior Josh Alber was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler for the 106-145 weights. Alber, a Northern Iowa recruit, won the 132-pound weight class. He claimed the MOW at the PIT for the fourth time and became the first wrestler in the 51-year history of the event to win four PIT titles. Dakota junior Carver James won the 152-pound weight class and received MOW for the 152-285 weights.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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