Park Rapids wrestling team looking forward to challenge in new section
Last season, Matt Clark had 26 different wrestlers compete in a varsity match for the Park Rapids wrestling team.
Of that group, 16 return this season. However, only three produced winning records as the Panthers went 9-16 in dual meets.
Facing another tough schedule and having a group of young wrestlers could make it tough for the Panthers to put together a winning record again this season.
"We have some experience back, but we don't have a lot of wrestlers who have had past success," said Clark. "We have another tough schedule, so duals are going to be a challenge."
Leading the Panthers this season are the three wrestlers who won more than 20 matches last season: seniors Jared Nash, Kenny Weaver and John Drury. All three were Mid-State Conference wrestlers last season.
Nash led the team in wins by going 29-10 with 10 pins, capping off the year by placing fourth at 160 pounds at the Section 8AA tournament. Nash, who will wrestle at 171 this year, will carry a 61-17 career record with 17 pins into his senior season.
Weaver compiled a 23-15 record with 16 pins at heavyweight last season. Weaver, who has a 27-36 career record with 18 pins, will return at heavyweight.
Drury will wrestle at 189 after going 22-9 with 15 pins last season. Drury has a 36-18 career record with 20 pins.
Also returning from last year's team are seniors Dylan Holmer, Cameron Free and Mike Sandretzky; juniors Danny Pike, Adam Branstrom, Kevin Just and Zac Haugland; sophomores Forrest Drury and Zachary Steffen; freshmen Lucas Weaver, Nick Schulz and Trai Schmidt; and eighth grader Laine Jensen.
Holmer went 18-22 with six pins and placed sixth at 125 at the section meet. Holmer, who has a 20-29 overall record, will return at 125 this season.
Pike compiled a 13-13 record with six pins and placed sixth at 171 at the section meet.
Forrest Drury, who is currently injured, had a 12-19 overall record with eight pins. Drury, who will compete at 152, placed sixth at 130 at the section meet.
Steffen had a 10-23 record with five pins and will start the season at 145.
Free wrestled at 119 and went 8-22 with three pins. Free will return at that weight this season.
Jensen compiled a 7-20 record with one pin at 103. Jensen will move up to 112 this season.
Sandretzky had a 5-17 record at 112 and will return at that weight this year.
Haugland went 0-8 last season and will start at 140 this season.
Lucas Weaver went 1-8 with one pin and will wrestle at 130, Branstrom (who was injured most of the season) finished with a 3-6 record and will wrestle at 135, Just had a 3-8 record with one pin and will wrestle at 160, Schulz will wrestle at 140 after going 0-1 last season and Schmidt will provide depth at heavyweight after going 0-1 last season.
Looking to fill in for last year's senior class of Derek Werner (27-11 with 12 pins), Matt Weaver (27-13 with 21 pins), Tom Drury (14-23 with eight pins), Matt Offerdahl (9-9), Dale Breitweser (2-4), Logan Spears (1-3), Andy Boos (1-1) and Brian Pfeifer (0-2) will be seventh grader Ben Baumgartner at 103, seventh grader Zack Tretbar at 125, sophomore Luke Hartig at 130, eighth grader Caleb Gorder at 135, senior Landon Hattaway at 152, sophomores Robert Borger and Jeff Hemenway at 160, sophomore Rylie Smith at 171, sophomore Cole Tretbar and freshman Kyle Ritter at 189, sophomore Brandon Ritter and eighth grader Brandon Haller at 215, and senior Caleb Atkins at 215.
The Panthers will move to Section 8A this season, joining perennial powers Frazee and Badger-Greenbush-Middle River. The other section teams are Crookston, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, Fertile-Beltrami, Mahnomen-Waubun, Red Lake County Central, United North Central and West Marshall. Frazee is rated No. 4 in the first state Class A poll while Crookston, BGMR, and D-G-F are ranked in the top 25.
"The key for us is to keep everyone in the lineup," said Clark, who will be assisted by Jeff Dravis, Mike Baumgartner, Brett Bishop and Ryan Miller. "Hopefully we'll shine in the postseason, get some guys through to the state tournament and bring home some hardware."