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Panthers gain experience, finish 11-13

John Kyllonen (right) shared Most Valuable honors for the Park Rapids wrestling team after going 30-11 with 20 pins.1 / 2
Justin Dravis shared Most Valuable honors for the Park Rapids wrestling team after going 31-11 with 21 pins and qualifying for the state Class A tournament.2 / 2

     Despite having a young squad, Matt Clark thought the Park Rapids wrestling team would be competitive this season.

     The Panthers put a competitive team on the mat by going 11-13 in dual meets to equal last year’s win total. Park Rapids was also represented at state again as freshman Justin Dravis qualified for the state Class A tournament. Dravis won the Section 8A title at 145 pounds and went 1-2 in his state debut. In addition, six other wrestlers placed at the section meet.

     All things considered, it was a successful season for the Panthers.

     “At the beginning of the year I thought we could do all right,” said Clark. “We had a lot of kids get a lot of wins and we had some of our younger kids fill in and help the team a lot. We just about finished at .500 with a young team. Overall I thought the season went all right.”

     The Panthers opened the season with dual losses to Blackduck/Cass Lake-Bena (54-18) and United North Central (66-15) before placing fifth at the Park Rapids Invitational with a 67-6 loss to Dawson-Boyd, a 57-24 loss to Little Falls, and a 48-6 win over Wadena-Deer Creek.

     After a 53-18 loss to New York Mills and a 69-3 loss to Perham, the Panthers finished 24th at the 33-team Big Bear tournament at Cass Lake with 56 points. Hutchinson took first with 199 points.

     A 46-30 Mid-State Conference win over Staples-Motley was followed with conference losses to Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus (60-7) and Detroit Lakes (55-15). Park Rapids followed with a pair of 60-18 wins over Virginia and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley/Nevis.

     At the Parkers Prairie tournament, the Panthers claimed runner-up honors with 144.50 points while Benson led the 11-team field with 168 points.

     After a 48-27 loss to Crookston, the Panthers put together a three-meet winning streak by defeating Prairie Valley (58-16), Red Lake County Central (51-24) and Deer River (59-24).

     Park Rapids finished eighth at the 20-team Thief River Falls tournament with 80.50 points. Bemidji took first with 161 points.

     The Panthers dropped a 45-35 decision to Thief River Falls, defeated East Grand Forks 43-24 and lost to West Central Area 45-30 before placing 10th at the inaugural Heart O’Lakes/Mid-State Conference tournament with 58 points. Perham won the title with 207 points.

     The Panthers closed out the regular season with a 57-21 Mid-State win over Crosby-Ironton, a 48-31 Mid-State win over W-DC and a 44-36 loss to Fosston/Bagley for a 10-12 record and the No. 8 seed for the Section 8A tournament.

     Park Rapids opened the section meet with a 42-32 win over No. 9 Red Lake County Central before being eliminated with a 63-10 loss to No. 1 Frazee, which defeated No. 2 Badger/Greenbush/Middle River 46-12 in the section title match. Frazee ended up placing fourth at the state Class A tournament.

     The Panthers faced eight teams that were rated at the end of the season. That group featured Frazee (No. 2), West Central (No. 18) and BCLB (No. 21) in Class A; PL/PRB (No. 11), Perham (No. 13), Detroit Lakes (No. 18) and Thief River Falls (No. 23) in Class AA; and Little Falls (No. 14) in Class AAA. PL/PRB won the state Class AA consolation title.

     Of Park Rapids’ 22 opponents, 14 finished the season with winning records. That group featured BCLB (11-3), UNC (11-6), Dawson-Boyd (27-6), Little Falls (19-12), New York Mills (9-7), Perham (20-8), Staples-Motley (8-7), PLPRB (19-5), Detroit Lakes (17-8), Crookston (10-7), Thief River Falls (13-7), West Central Area (19-5), Fosston/Bagley (9-8) and Frazee (20-3). The other eight teams – WHAN (0-13), Virginia (7-13), Prairie Valley (10-20), RLCC (6-12), Deer River (1-13), East Grand Forks 3-15), W-DC (1-22), Crosby-Ironton (3-16) – had losing records. The Panthers went 10-0 against teams with losing records and 1-13 against teams with winning records.

     For the season, the Panthers had 21 wrestlers win at least one match, 15 wrestlers record at least one pin and 10 wrestlers win at least 10 matches.

     In addition to Dravis, leading the Panthers this season were seniors John Kyllonen and Laine Jensen; junior Zach Tretbar; sophomore Chris Baxter; freshmen Nathaniel Beck, Jacob Bittmann, Nolan Booge, Logan Johnson, Keith McDaniel, Zach Nelson, Jared Sunram and Logan Veo; eighth graders Jacob Berg, Landen Burlingame, Andrew Goltz, Zach Hocking and Dwayne Johnson; and seventh graders Cody Dravis, Toby Ritter, Dawson Roth, Kian Scott and Kaleb Vang.

     Justin Dravis led the Panthers in wins and pins by going 31-11 with 21 pins at 152 and 160. Dravis shared the team’s Most Valuable honor while placing sixth at the Big Bear tournament and winning titles at Parkers Prairie and Thief River Falls. Dravis will carry a 75-31 overall record with 46 pins into next season.

     Kyllonen capped off his senior season by going 30-11 with 20 pins at 182, 195 and 220 to raise his career record to 80-36 with 52 pins. Kyllonen shared the team’s Most Valuable honor while placing sixth at the Big Bear, first at Parkers Prairie, second at Thief River Falls, third at the Mid-State/HOL tournament and third at 182 at the section meet.

     Sunram was third on the team in wins by going 28-13 with 12 pins at 113, 120 and 126 to raise his career record to 61-37 with 28 pins. Sunram finished eighth at the Big Bear, fourth at Parkers Prairie and second at Thief River Falls before capping the season by placing third at 113 at the section meet.

     Cody Dravis had a successful varsity debut by going 21-11 with 15 pins at 145, 152 and 160. Dravis finished sixth at both the Thief River Falls and Mid-State/HOL meets and ended the season by placing fifth at 152 at the section meet.

     Booge also contended for a state berth by placing fourth at 126 at the section meet. Booge went 17-10 with 13 pins to raise his career record to 63-34 with 43 pins. Booge also placed fourth at Parkers Prairie and third at the Mid-State/HOL meet.

     Logan Johnson compiled a 16-19 record with six pins at 138. Johnson competed at the section meet at 138 and will carry a 20-43 overall record with nine pins into next season.

     Baxter placed sixth at 285 at the section meet to cap off a 15-22 record, including 12 pins. Baxter, who finished fifth at Parkers Prairie, raised his career record to 26-46 with 21 pins.

     Tretbar compiled a 14-18 record with eight pins while wrestling at 170 and 182. Tretbar placed sixth at Parkers Prairie before ending the season by placing sixth at 170 at the section meet. Tretbar has a 24-33 career record with nine pins.

     Nelson went 12-23 with five pins at 152, 160 and 170 and ended the season by competing at the section meet at 160. Nelson placed fourth at Parkers Prairie and has a 17-36 career record with eight pins.

     Jensen compiled a 10-6 record with five pins to end his high school career with a 44-62 record and 22 pins. Jensen, who took first at Parkers Prairie, wrestled at 145.

     Veo wrestled at 220 and 285 and compiled an 8-18 record with six pins. Veo finished fourth at Parkers Prairie and wrestled at 220 at the section meet. Veo has a 12-27 career record with six pins.

     McDaniel went 7-11 with four pins at 195 and 220, highlighted by placing fifth at both the Parkers Prairie and Mid-State/HOL tournaments. McDaniel wrestled at 195 at the section meet.

     Goltz competed at the section meet at 120 and compiled a 7-6 record with two pins at 120 and 126 this season.

     Burlingame capped off a 7-14 record with four pins by competing at the section meet at 106.

     Also contributing on the varsity this season were Hocking (3-4 at 170 and 182), Roth (2-11 with one pin at 106 and 113), Bittmann (2-5 at 195 and 220), Beck (1-2 at 220 and 285), Dwayne Johnson (1-1 at 170), Ritter (1-3 at 106), Scott (1-2 at 126), Vang (0-2 at 132) and Berg (0-3 at 160 and 170).

     Kyllonen (at 182), Tretbar (at 170) and Justin Dravis (at 145) were named to the Mid-State Conference team. Also receiving team awards on the varsity were Booge and Sunram (Most Determined), Logan Johnson (Hardest Worker), Nelson (Most Improved), Veo (Quick Pin) and Kyllonen (Team Spirit Award).

     Cody Dravis and Ashton Clark shared the junior varsity’s Most Valuable honor while Jake Poehler and Kaden Safratowich (Up and Coming) and Elijah Hensel (Most Improved) received junior high awards.

     “We should be better next year,” said Clark. “We’re still going to be young, but hopefully we’ll gel as a team, get more dual wins and have some individuals win championships in tournaments. Hopefully the younger kids will start to believe that they belong and start producing some wins for us. This is a good bunch of kids. I’m looking forward to next year. It should be a fun year.”