Panthers wrestled with injuries all season
Before the season began, head coach Matt Clark knew it would be difficult for the Park Rapids wrestling team to put a full lineup on the mat. As it turned out, a barrage of injuries resulted in the Panthers being able to fill all 14 weight classe...
Before the season began, head coach Matt Clark knew it would be difficult for the Park Rapids wrestling team to put a full lineup on the mat.
As it turned out, a barrage of injuries resulted in the Panthers being able to fill all 14 weight classes in only one dual meet. Having to forfeit multiple matches resulted in a 3-17 record.
On the positive side, the Panthers were once again represented at the Class AA meet as seniors Ashton Clark and Cody Dravis returned to state.
The Panthers had 16 wrestlers compete in a varsity meet this season. Of those 16, only two competed in all 20 dual meets while two others wrestled in 19 duals and three others wrestled in at least 10 duals. Having to forfeit multiple matches in 19 dual meets prevented Park Rapids from having more team success.
In the season openers, the Panthers forfeited three matches in a 51-30 loss to United North Central and two matches in a 39-36 loss to Blackduck/Cass Lake-Bena.
After placing second at the 10-team Rodd Olson Tournament at Crookston with 142 points (UNC took first with 155.50 points), the Panthers used a full lineup in posting a 48-27 victory over Walker-Hackensack-Akeley/Nevis. Park Rapids then placed 18th out of 39 teams at the Big Bear Tournament at Cass Lake with 73 points as Hutchinson claimed the team title with 177 points.
Nine forfeits led to a 69-9 loss to Perham and two open weights resulted in a 48-35 loss to Crookston before the Panthers placed fourth at the 13-team Ogilvie Tournament with 148 points. St. Croix Falls won that title with 197 points. Park Rapids forfeited six matches in a 45-24 loss to United Clay Becker before placing sixth at the 11-team Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale/Parkers Prairie Tournament with 95 points as Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville took first with 276 points.
At the Red Lake County Central Quadrangular, the Panthers forfeited four matches in losses to BHVPP (62-17) and Roseau (31-28) had had two open spots in a 42-30 win over RLCC. Park Rapids followed by placing 10th at the 17-team Thief River Falls Tournament with 60 points as Detroit Lakes led the field with 181.50 points.
Six forfeits led to a 64-18 loss to Thief River Falls and a 60-18 loss to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton before the Panthers dropped all five matches at the Mid-State Conference Tournament. Park Rapids forfeited eight matches in losses to Crosby-Ironton (48-24), Aitkin (48-30) and Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus (57-18) and had nine open spots in losses to Staples-Motley (45-21) and Detroit Lakes (69-10). Detroit Lakes went 5-0 to win the conference title.
After forfeiting two matches in losses to Wadena-Deer Creek (40-36) and New York Mills (48-30), the Panthers ended the regular season with a 40-39 win over Mahnomen-Waubun despite having four open weights.
For the Section 8AA Tournament, the Panthers received the No. 9 seed and opened with a 56-24 loss to No. 8 Fergus Falls. Park Rapids had eight forfeits in that season-ending match. No. 1 Perham defeated No. 2 Detroit Lakes 48-12 in the section title match and ended a 31-2 season by placing third at the state Class AA Tournament.
"It was deflating. When you thought you're on the right track, somebody dropped," said Clark. "We didn't have the depth to replace anybody. All the injuries we had made it hard in the practice room because nobody had partners. We had more injuries this year than in the last four or five years combined."
Leading the Panthers this season were Clark, Dravis and fellow seniors Jack Hensel and Kian Scott; juniors Max Crist, Hunter Carnell, Joe Klein, Kaden Safratowich and Joey Stachowski; freshman Daryl Etter; eighth graders Lucas Kritzeck, Robby Sherk, Micah Snyder and Harley Wellman; and seventh graders Henry Thorson and Eli Burton. The four seniors served as captains.
Clark ended his high school career by becoming the first Park Rapids wrestler to qualify for state five times. Clark, who was named the Mid-State Conference's Most Valuable Wrestler and the team's Most Determined Wrestler, missed the final 15 dual meets because of a fractured fibula before returning to win the section title at 120 pounds. Clark lost his first match at the state tournament to conclude the season with an 18-1 record with seven pins for a 159-22 career record with 68 pins. The 152 wins rank fourth in school history. Clark also captured titles at the Rodd Olson, Big Bear and Ogilvie tournaments while wrestling at 120, 126 and 132 and received Section 8AA Academic and Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association Academic All-State honors.
Dravis qualified for his fourth state tournament after finishing second at 160 at the section meet. Dravis lost both his matches at state to finish his senior season with a 35-6 record and 21 pins. Dravis compiled a 168-42 career record with 117 pins to rank second in school history in wins (behind Justin Dravis' 189) and earn team Most Valuable Wrestler honors. Dravis also was a Section 8AA Academic All Star. Dravis wrestled in 19 duals and captured titles at the Rodd Olson, Ogilvie and Thief River Falls tournaments while placing second at the Big Bear and BHVPP tournaments. Dravis wrestled at 160, 170 and 182 and was also an all-conference honorable mention wrestler.
Hensel just missed qualifying for his first state tournament by placing third at 182 at the section meet to cap off a 28-15 season with nine pins to raise his career record to 66-50 with 19 pins. The team's Hardest Worker and Section 8AA Academic All Star competed in 19 duals and finished first at Ogilvie, was the runner-up at the Rodd Olson and BHVPP meets, finished fourth at Thief River Falls and placed eighth at the Big Bear while wrestling at 182, 195 and 220.
Scott was named the team's Most Improved Wrestler after going 28-9 with 18 pins at 195, 220 and 285 while wrestling in all 20 dual meets. Scott, who missed the section tournament with a knee injury, was the runner-up at the Rodd Olson and BHVPP meets and placed fifth at Ogilvie and Thief River Falls. Scott ended his career with a 38-26 record and 25 pins.
Carnell competed in 16 duals and took fifth at the Rodd Olson, Ogilvie and BHVPP meets while placing eighth at Thief River Falls to finish with a 13-21 record with seven pins at 285. Carnell wrestled at 285 at the section meet and received the team's Spirit Award.
Crist wrestled at 138 at the section meet and finished his first season with a 5-20 record and three pins while wrestling in 14 duals at 138 and 145. Crist placed sixth at Ogilvie and seventh at the BHVPP meet.
Klein compiled an 11-14 record with six pins while wrestling in nine duals at 152, 160 and 170. Klein, who missed part of the season with a knee injury, was the runner-up at the Rodd Olson meet and placed third at the Ogilvie and BHVPP meets. Klein has a 35-71 career record with 18 pins.
Safratowich wrestled in all 20 dual meets and ended an 18-21 season with 11 pins by placing eighth at 152 at the section meet. Safratowich, who also wrestled at 160 and 170, placed fourth at BHVPP, fifth at the Rodd Olson and seventh at Ogilvie while raising his career record to 34-55 with 20 pins.
Stachowski earned Section 8AA Academic honors and was named the Panthers' Most Improved Wrestler after going 12-4 with seven pins in 14 duals at 195, 220 and 285. Stachowski placed sixth at the BHVPP tournament.
Etter wrestled at 132 at the section meet and finished the season with a 3-13 record while also wrestling at 138. Etter competed in nine dual meets.
Kritzeck posted a 9-5 record with four pins before missing the end of the season with an ankle injury. Kritzeck, who did return to wrestle at 113 at the section meet, won the title at the Rodd Olson meet and placed fifth at Ogilvie while also wrestling at 120. Kritzeck, who wrestled in five duals, raised his career record to 23-23 with 12 pins.
Wellman competed in seven duals and posted a 3-10 record with three pins at 152 and 160 while placing fifth at the Rodd Olson and seventh at Ogilvie.
Sherk, who suffered a collarbone injury, went 0-2 in two dual meets at 106. Snyder posted a 1-5 record with one pin while wrestling in six duals at 126 and 132. Burton had a 3-3 record with two pins in six duals at 113. Thorson went 3-4 in seven duals at 106.
The Panthers have four key positions to fill next season with the graduation of the four seniors, who combined for 431 wins and 229 pins during their careers. However, Clark is hoping the year of experience gained by the returning wrestlers will produce more dual wins next season.
"We definitely need kids to step up next year. The younger kids will have to take bigger roles," said Clark. "We need to start the year with the mentality of making improvement each week and getting better by the end of the season. If we do that, we should have moderate success."