All the pieces are in place for a historic season from the United North Central wrestling team.
A year ago, the Warriors went 15-8 in dual meets (including a 4-1 record against Park Region Conference foes), reached the Section 8A semifinals and sent two wrestlers to the state Class A meet. A 31-29 loss to Badger-Greenbush-Middle River prevented UNC from advancing to the Section 8A championship match.
The Warriors return a veteran lineup with 15 letterwinners and seven other wrestlers who competed on varsity last season. That group is hoping to take that next step this season.
“We didn't graduate anybody last year, so we are hoping to have a pretty salty lineup from top to bottom,” said UNC head coach Jacob Oyster. “The strength of this team is good numbers and depth and that is a result of the stellar leadership the juniors and seniors have. Last year we had 20-plus kids getting varsity wins, so I can see something similar again this year.”
Returning from last season’s Section 8A team are seniors Vince Dailey, Dakota Meech and Hunter Skaro; juniors Torrey Carlson, Ethan Hendrickson, Eion Ness and Dylan Rasmussen; sophomores Justin Gonska, Gabe Hendrickson, Collin Olson, Marcus Peterson, Reid Pinoniemi, Hank Tellers and Logan Torma; freshman Aaron Lake; and eighth grader Cooper Hasbargen. That group has UNC rated No. 17 in the first state Class A poll behind Section 8A rival BGMR (No. 16) and ahead of Crookston (No. 21).
The Warriors’ lineup from last year’s section team competition featured Lake (106 pounds), Pinoniemi (113), Ethan Hendrickson (120), Skaro (126), Rasmussen (132), Gabe Hendrickson and Tellers (138), Olson (145), Ness (152), Meech (160), Torma and Hasbargen (170), Dailey (182), Carlson (195), and Peterson and Gonska (220 and 285).
At the section individual tournament, two Warriors qualified for state.
Ethan Hendrickson took first at 113 and went on to claim runner-up honors at the state Class A meet to repeat as an all-state wrestler and cap off a 28-3 season. Hendrickson was also the conference champion at 113 and enters this season rated No. 4 at 132.
Tellers also qualified for the state tournament by winning a true-second match at 145 at the section meet. Tellers, who lost both his matches at state, posted a 15-20 record last season.
Four other Warriors just missed qualifying for state after placing third at the section meet.
Skaro placed third at 126 at the section meet after placing fourth at the conference tournament for a 23-18 overall record. Rasmussen lost a true-second match at 132 at the section meet to finish the season with a 19-15 record. Ness capped off a 34-8 season by placing third at 152 at the section meet. Ness was also the runner-up at 152 at the Park Region meet and enters this season rated No. 6 at 152. Carlson also lost a true-second match at 195 at the section meet to cap off a 29-17 season. Carlson also placed fourth at 182 at the conference meet.
Also contending for state berths last season with fourth-place finishes were Meech at 160 and Dailey at 170. Meech was the conference champion at 160 and ended the season with a 33-9 record while Dailey was the Park Region runner-up at 170 and posted a 24-8 overall record. Meech enters this season rated No. 10 at 160.
Lake took fourth at the conference meet and fifth at the section meet at 106 in posting a 25-17 record. Gabe Hendrickson placed fifth at 138 at the section meet to cap off a 9-17 season. Pinoniemi went 12-15 last season, including a sixth-place showing at the section meet at 120. Peterson concluded a 3-10 season by placing sixth at 220 at the section meet. Gonska also finished sixth at the section meet at 285 to end the season with a 6-14 record.
In the section team tournament, Olson won two matches at 145 to end the season with a 4-1 record, Torma went 0-1 at 170 to end the season with a 10-18 record and Hasbargen went 0-1 at 170 to cap off a 1-3 season.
Also contributing on the varsity a year ago and looking to provide depth this season are juniors Spencer Erickson (6-11 record) and TJ Jasicki (6-6); sophomores Shawn Hendrickson (2-4), Joel Isaacson (2-5, including a sixth-place showing at 145 at the conference meet) and Wyatt Olson (1-3); and eighth grader Kevin Dailey (3-0). Zack Hendrickson and Zack Davidson will also battle for varsity time.
“We have three wrestlers (Ethan Hendrickson, Tellers and Ness) back who have participated in the state tournament, but we have many more that are capable of making the trip to state individually and getting on the podium. We are looking forward to seeing how the hard work a lot of these kids put in pays off,” said Oyster. “I believe we are the team to beat in the section, but I’m sure Greenbush, Crookston and Frazee will give us competition. In the conference, we will have some great competition with Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville, Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale/Parkers Prairie and West Central Area. In our section and conference we have three of the six teams that placed at last year’s state tournament, so it will be fun to see how those matches go. I like our chances with everyone.”
LPGE/B won the state Class A team title last season while BHVPP defeated BGMR in the fifth-place match. LPGE/B enters the season rated No. 1 in the state while BHVPP is rated No. 6 and West Central Area is rated No. 14.
At last year’s section tournament, UNC received the No. 3 seed and opened with a 57-18 win over No. 6 Park Rapids in the quarterfinals before being eliminated with a 31-29 loss to No. 2 Badger-Greenbush-Middle River, which had to win the final three matches to rally for the win and advance. BGMR defeated No. 1 Frazee 41-30 in the section championship match.
With a veteran group back, Oyster is looking for the Warriors to wrestle for the program’s first trip to state as a team while sending multiple wrestlers to the Class A tournament.
“We should get to test our team with some of the best teams Class A, AA, and AAA have this year. So come postseason, everyone should be tested and prepared for a record year,” said Oyster. “The goal is to get the team to state for the first time in program history and set a record for number of individuals in the state tournament. I’m ready to watch this team do some awesome things and develop a winning culture that affects the underclassmen and starts a dynasty.”