Wrestlers look to put competitive unit on mat
At last year's Section 8A tournament, the Park Rapids wrestling team qualified four wrestlers for state and had nine other wrestlers place.
Head coach Matt Clark is looking for the Panthers to once again peak at the end of the season.
Duplicating last year's 10-13 record in dual meets could be tough since seven seniors graduated. That senior crew combined for 64 pins and 108 victories last season.
Jared Nash advanced to state as the section runner-up at 171 pounds and capped a 34-7 season with 12 pins by placing fourth at the state tournament. John Drury went 26-8 with 20 pins and qualified for state as the section runner-up at 189 and capped off his senior season by placing sixth at the state meet. Kenny Weaver also qualified for state as the section runner-up at heavyweight and finished with a 24-7 record with 18 pins.
Also contributing as senior starters last season were Mike Sandretzky (who had a 3-16 record at 112 and 119), Cameron Free (who had a 6-15 record at 119), Dylan Holmer (who had a 14-12 record with 10 pins at 125) and Caleb Atkins (who went 1-3 at 215). Free and Holmer both placed sixth at the section meet.
Being counted on to give the Panthers another competitive team on the mat are the 11 returning varsity wrestlers: seniors Danny Pike, Kevin Just and Zac Haugland; juniors Luke Hartig, Zachary Steffen, Forrest Drury, Cole Tretbar and Brandon Ritter; sophomore Nick Schulz; freshman Laine Jensen; and eighth grader Ben Baumgartner.
Pike was the Panthers' other state qualifier last season after placing second at 171 pounds at the section meet. Pike went 30-8 with 24 pins last season to raise his career record to 44-26. Pike is expected to wrestle at 189 this season.
Just placed sixth at the section meet at 145 to cap a 9-23 season record with seven pins. Just, who has a 21-55 career record, will wrestle at 171 this year.
Haugland went 6-11 with four pins at 140 and 145 last season. This year, Haugland will battle for a starting spot at 145.
Hartig placed fourth at 130 at the section meet to cap off an 11-21 season with six pins.
Steffen compiled an 18-17 overall record with five pins at 140, 145 and 152 and finished fifth at 140 at the section meet. Steffen, who has a 31-61 career record, will wrestle at 140 this year.
Drury will carry a 23-60 career record into the season after going 8-8 with three pins at 152. Drury missed most of the season with an injury, but returned to place fourth at the section meet. Drury will wrestle at 160 this year.
Tretbar finished sixth at 215 at the section meet and ended the year with a 2-8 record at 189 and 215. Tretbar returns at those weights this season.
Ritter went 8-7 with three pins at 215.
Schulz had a 1-9 record at 145 and will wrestle at 152 this season.
Jensen competed at the section meet at 112 and compiled an 8-13 record with seven pins at 103 and 112 last season. Jensen, who has a 15-33 career record, will wrestle at 119 this winter.
Baumgartner just missed a state berth by placing third at 103 at the section meet. Baumgartner finished with a 26-13 overall record with 16 pins at 103 and 112. He'll wrestle at 112 this season.
Also vying for starting spots will be juniors Caleb Abraham (152), Robert Borger (171), Jeff Hemenway (171), Rylee Smith (189), Logan Schmaus (215) and Trai Schmidt (heavyweight); sophomores Luke Weaver (145) and Kyle Ritter (189); freshman Caleb Gorder (145); eighth grader Zack Tretbar (140); and seventh graders Devon Eischens (103), Noah Schulz (125) and Chris Baxter (heavyweight).
Section 8A will be loaded again this season as Frazee enters the season rated No. 2 in the first state Class A poll while Badger/Greenbush/Middle River is rated No. 9 and Crookston is ranked No. 12.
"Wrestling is a numbers game and we do not have the luxury of good numbers, so we need to keep kids out, recruit more kids, stay injury-free and make sure our athletes stay eligible," said Clark, who will be assisted by Jeff Dravis, Brett Bishop and Mike Baumgartner. "Our section is awful good this year. We will definitely take some lumps this year, but hopefully we can hand out a couple also. This is one of the best bunch of wrestlers coming out of Section 8A in a long time. Our kids are going to have to wrestle hard for the whole section tournament in order to place or to even have a shot at the state tournament."