The high school wrestling season is still more than a month away, but Billings West senior Drake Rhodes is already making headlines.
The Golden Bears senior and two-time state champion has decided to continue his wrestling career in the Big Ten at the University of Iowa.
“Iowa was pretty much always number one. I’ve always wanted to go there since I was young... mainly just making good connections with them at camps and stuff," Rhodes said. "Also getting better here with Hernandez’s camp he throws on that usually has a couple of the Iowa guys.”
“Drake is a good example of what we want in the program. The kid works his butt off whether it be running laps in the halls or being a leader in the room wrestling tough," Billings West head wrestling coach Jeremy Hernandez said. "The younger kids look up to him, and that comes down from our club kids as well.
Rhodes has one more season to impact the younger wrestlers at West. Before he can become a Hawkeye, he’ll have his focus on state title number three.
“He just loves to wrestle, so he’s done all that. He’s been in the weight room doing kettlebell work putting muscle and strength on his body," Hernandez said. "He’s done everything right and it proved that when he went undefeated last year and won his second state title.”
The reason Rhodes isn’t going for four? He couldn’t quite get over the hump as a sophomore. He silenced any doubters last season, finishing unbeaten en route to his second individual title.
Rhodes has matured as a wrestler since breaking down the wall as a freshman, and his impact on the West program will be felt long after he’s gone. Rhodes says he’s been hard at work in the weight room and on the wrestling mats as he hones his craft ahead of his final season.
“Obviously losing that year sucked and the goal was to win four, but after that year I was motivated just to work hard and keep getting better, put it behind me and use it as motivation. Good motivation not bad," said Rhodes.
“Drake going to Iowa just opens the door for these other kids to believe they can do the something by working just as hard as Drake. It’s been an honor to have him in our program," Hernandez said. "Drake leading by example, the kids just follow in his footsteps. That’s someone you really want leading the team is Drake Rhodes.”
A third title would put Rhodes among not only the Billings West greats, but the Montana greats, as well.
“He’ll be one of the best to ever go through the program. Hands down. If things work out, he’ll win his third state title. He’s the epitome of what we want here. The program will be just fine without him, but it’s still going to sting a little bit without him," said Hernandez.