Panthers put 26 different wrestlers in varsity lineup
Having only five wrestlers with winning records resulted in a 9-16 record for the Park Rapids wrestling team this season.
A combination of battling injuries, relying on young wrestlers to fill varsity spots and facing tough competition prevented the Panthers from repeating last year's 13-13 mark and sending a wrestler to the state Class AA meet.
Head coach Matt Clark used 26 different wrestlers in varsity meets this season. Of those 26, 10 had at least 10 victories while five of those surpassed 20 victories. Of Park Rapids' 17 Minnesota opponents, five (Perham, Thief River Falls and Hibbing in Class AA and Crookston and Staples-Motley in Class A) were rated in the final state polls while three others (Hibbing, New York Mills and Deer River) were ranked at one time during the season. All four of the Panthers' North Dakota opponents were also rated.
"We had the potential to have another .500 record, but it didn't work out in the end," said Clark. "We had to put some kids with little or no varsity experience out there against some good teams. You have to give our kids credit. They did whatever they could for the team."
The Panthers opened the season by defeating United North Central 51-24 and Blackduck/Cass Lake-Bena 39-25. At the Park Rapids Invitational, the Panthers lost to Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale (45-33), Wadena-Deer Creek (42-34) and Hibbing (48-18) and defeated BCLB (47-24).
Following a 49-21 loss to New York Mills, the Panthers ended December by placing 22nd out of 33 teams at the Big Bear Tournament at Cass Lake. Thief River Falls won that tournament title with 212 points.
Park Rapids began January by rebounding from a 49-24 loss to Thief River Falls to defeat East Grand Forks (46-15) and Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus (50-28). The Panthers then lost to Staples-Motley 43-25.
At the Perham Barrel O'Fun Invitational, the Panthers finished seventh out of eight teams with 108.50 points. New London-Spicer took first with 229.50 points.
Crookston defeated the Panthers 62-22 before Park Rapids split matches by defeating Walker-Hackensack-Akeley/Nevis (45-21) and losing to Wadena-Deer Creek (46-29).
The Panthers went 1-4 at the Grand Forks Multiple Duals, defeating East Grand Forks (46-34) and losing to Grand Forks Red River (37-33), Fargo South (54-17), Bismarck (69-9) and Mandan (52-13).
A 46-25 win over Deer River was followed by losses to Detroit Lakes (41-29) and Perham (55-10). The Panthers then placed sixth at the 10-team Northwest Invitational with 114.50 points. Thief River Falls won that tournament with 220 points.
Park Rapids closed out the regular season with a 56-21 win over Crosby-Ironton and a 40-31 loss to Fosston/Bagley.
For the Section 8AA tournament, Park Rapids received the No. 5 seed in the south half and was eliminated by No. 4 Detroit Lakes 47-21.
Leading the Panthers this season were the five wrestlers who posted at least 20 victories: seniors Matt Weaver and Derek Werner and juniors Jared Nash, Kenny Weaver and John Drury. Following with at least 10 wins were senior Tom Drury, junior Dylan Holmer, sophomore Danny Pike, and freshmen Forrest Drury and Zachary Steffen.
Also playing key roles for the Panthers this season were senior Matt Offerdahl, juniors Michael Sandretzky and Cameron Free, sophomores Kevin Just and Adam Branstrom, and seventh grader Laine Jensen. Filling in during the season were seniors Dale Breitweser, Andy Boos, Logan Spears and Brian Pfeifer; sophomores Tyler Barr and Zach Haugland; and eighth graders Joe Hartig, Nick Schulz, Trai Schmidt and Lucas Weaver.
Nash led the Panthers in wins by going 29-10 with 10 pins at 160, 171 and 189 pounds. Nash capped off the season by placing fourth at 160 at the section meet. Nash was also seventh at the Big Bear tournament, first at the Barrel O'Fun Invitational and second at the Northwest Invitational. Nash will carry a 61-17 record with 17 pins into his senior season.
Matt Weaver was second on the team in wins with a 27-13 record and led the team with 21 pins while wrestling at 152 pounds. Weaver finished fourth at 152 at the section meet to end his career with an 82-60 record with 62 pins. Weaver also finished fifth at the Barrel O'Fun Invitational and third at the Northwest Invitational.
Werner capped off his senior season by going 27-11 with 12 pins at 140 and 145 pounds. Werner, who wrestled at 145 at the section meet, was the runner-up at the Barrel O'Fun Invitational and fifth at the Northwest Invitational to end his career with an 87-67 record and 39 pins.
Kenny Weaver was the Panthers' heavyweight and compiled a 23-15 record with 16 pins. Weaver finished fifth at both the Barrel O'Fun Invitational and the Northwest Invitational and competed at the section meet at heavyweight. Weaver will carry a 27-36 overall record with 18 pins into his senior season.
John Drury was fifth in victories with a 22-9 record with 15 pins to raise his career record to 36-18 with 20 pins. Drury, who wrestled at 171 and 189, finished seventh at the Big Bear meet and was second at the Barrel O'Fun Invitational.
Holmer wrestled at 119, 125 and 130 and finished sixth at 125 at the section meet. Holmer compiled an 18-22 record with six pins for a 20-29 overall record and seven pins. Holmer also placed fifth at the Barrel O'Fun Invitational and third at the Northwest Invitational.
Tom Drury capped off his senior season by going 14-23 with eight pins at 189 and 215. Drury, who competed at the section meet at 189, placed eighth at the Big Bear and fifth at the Barrel O'Fun Invitational to raise his career record to 20-47 with 11 pins.
Pike had a 13-13 record with six pins at 160 and 171. Pike placed sixth at 171 at the section meet.
Forrest Drury also placed sixth at the section meet while wrestling at 130. Drury tallied a 12-19 record with eight pins at130, 135 and 140 this season.
Steffen went 10-23 with five pins at 135 and 140 and competed at the section meet at 135.
Offerdahl placed fifth at the Barrel O'Fun Invitational and second at the Northwest Invitational to cap off a 9-9 season with two pins. Offerdahl concluded his high school career with a 37-38 record and 16 pins.
Free earned the starting spot at 119 pounds and went 8-22 with three pins. Free competed at the section meet at that weight.
Jensen held the starting spot at 103 all season, going 7-20 with one pin. Jensen also wrestled at 112 and was a section competitor at 103.
Sandretzky took over the starting spot at 112 and had a 5-17 record at that weight. Sandretzky wrestled at the section meet at 112.
Haugland rounded out the Panthers' section wrestlers, filling the spot at 140. Haugland went 0-8 this season.
Providing depth in the lower weights this season were Lucas Weaver (1-8 with one pin at 112), Joe Hartig (2-4 with one pin at 125 and 130), Branstrom (who went 3-6 at 130 before missing most of the season with a wrist injury) and Just (3-8 with one pin at 130 and 135).
In the middle weights were Schulz (0-1 at 140), Breitweser (2-4 with one pin at 145), Spears (1-3 at 145 and 171) and Boos (1-1 with one pin at 152).
Rounding out the upper weights were Pfeifer (0-2 at 189), Barr (2-6 with two pins at 215 and heavyweight) and Schmidt (0-1 at heavyweight).
Although the Panthers will have to replace four senior starters, Clark is looking for the Panthers to be more successful next season.
"We lose some good seniors, but we have a lot of kids back who gained experience and we have some younger kids who will move into the lighter weights and help us out, "said Clark, who was assisted by Jeff Dravis, Mike Baumgartner and Brett Bishop. "Next year we're going to regroup and try to close the gap on some of the section teams. Hopefully the kids will work hard over the summer. We're looking on building on what we did this year and improve next year."