Park Rapids wrestlers ready to face a challenge
Matt Clark and the members of the Park Rapids wrestling team face a major challenge this season.
With only six wrestlers back who competed at last year's Section 8AA tournament, Clark knows the Panthers could struggle in dual meets this season. With half the starting lineup being comprised of first-year full-time varsity wrestlers, Clark is challenging his team to concentrate on improving and peaking for the section tournament.
Being counted on to lead the Panthers this season are the six wrestlers who competed at last year's section meet. Headlining that list are seniors Ashton Clark, Cody Dravis, Jack Hensel and Kian Scott. Junior Joe Klein and eighth grader Lucas Kritzeck also return to the starting lineup.
Clark won the Mid-State title at 113 pounds and earned his fourth straight trip to the state tournament after winning the section title at 113. Clark ended up placing second at state for the second straight season to cap off a 38-1 season with 12 pins and raise his career record to 141-21.
Dravis received all-conference honorable mention honors and just missed returning to the state tournament after placing third at 170 at the section meet. Dravis compiled a 36-5 record with 27 pins to raise his career record to 133-36 with 96 pins.
Clark was rated No. 8 at 120 pounds and Dravis was rated No. 3 at 170 pounds in the state Class AA pre-season poll. Those two have the potential to qualify for the state tournament and bring home medals.
Hensel capped off last season by placing fourth at 182 at the section meet. Hensel went 25-18 with seven pins at 182 and 195 and enters his senior season with a 38-35 career record.
Also competing at last year's section meet were Scott at 195, Klein at 13 and Kritzeck at 106. Scott posted a 7-14 record with six pins at 182 and 195. Klein went 9-28 with eight pins at 138, 145 and 152. Kritzeck compiled a 14-18 record with five pins in his varsity debut at 106 and 113.
Also returning after seeing some varsity time last season are juniors Kaden Safratowich (1-1 at 160), Joe Stachowski (0-4 at 170) and Hunter Carnell (0-1 at 285); and eighth grader Micah Snyder (0-4 at 120 and 126).
That group led the Panthers to a 2-3 record at the Mid-State Conference Duals and a 9-14 overall record in dual meets. Park Rapids received the No. 8 seed for the section team tournament and was eliminated with a 36-31 loss to No. 9 Fergus Falls. Perham defeated Detroit Lakes 32-27 in the section title match and went on to place fourth at the state Class AA tournament. Four Section 8AA teams are listed in the state pre-season poll. Perham enters the season rated No. 4 and Pierz is rated No. 11 with Detroit Lakes and Thief River Falls also receiving votes.
Park Rapids has four key positions to fill with the graduation of Landen Burlingame, Zach Hocking, Dwayne Johnson and Dawson Roth. Johnson placed third at 285, Burlingame placed fourth at 145 and Hocking placed fourth at 220 at the section tournament. Burlingame went 26-17 with 14 pins last season at 145, 152 and 160 for a 96-76 career record and 51 pins. Hocking finished with a 29-12 record with 16 pins at 220 for a 59-74 career record and 23 pins. Johnson posted a 34-8 record with 23 pins at 285 to end his career with a 41-16 record and 27 pins. Roth went 6-15 with four pins at 160, 170 and 182 for a 10-26 career record.
Looking to help fill those spots are junior Angel Guajardo; sophomore John Hoefs; freshman Daryl Etter and Isaac Knapp; eighth graders Malik Johnson, Marc Moir, Robert Sherk, Harley Wellman and Michael White; and seventh graders Hunter Safratowich and Henry Thorson.
"It's going to be a very challenging year," said Clark, who will be assisted by Jeff Dravis, Mike Baumgartner, Brett Bishop, Dan Pike and Dan Etter. "It could be a struggle to fill all 14 weights, so we're going to set individual goals and focus on individual successes this season. The kids are going to learn a lot about themselves. We're going to enjoy the small successes."
Dec. 6 - vs. United North Central, Blackduck/Cass Lake-Bena at Blackduck, 5 p.m Dec. 8 - at Crookston Invitational, 10 a.m. Dec. 11 - at Walker-Hackensack-Akeley/Nevis, 7 p.m. Dec. 14-15 - at Big Bear Tournament at Cass Lake, 9 a.m. Dec. 18 - vs. Perham at Area High School, 7 p.m. Dec. 21 - at Crookston, 5 p.m.
Jan. 5 - at Ogilvie Invitational, 10 a.m. Jan. 10 - vs. United Clay Becker at Lake Park-Audubon, 7 p.m .Jan. 12 - at Parkers Prairie Invitational, 9 a.m. Jan. 18 - vs. Parkers Prairie at Red Lake County Central, 2 p.m Jan. 19 - at Thief River Falls Invitational, 9 a.m. Jan. 22 - vs. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, Thief River Falls at Century School gym, 5 p.m. Jan. 25 - Mid-State Conference tournament at Century School gym, 2 p.m. Jan. 29 - vs. Crosby-Ironton, Wadena-Deer Creek at Century School gym, 5 p.m. Jan. 31 - vs. New York Mills at Area High School gym, 7 p.m.
Feb. 7 - vs. Fosston/Bagley at Mahnomen-Waubun, 5 p.m. Feb. 16 - Section 8AA team tournament at Thief River Falls. Feb. 22-23 - Section 8A individual tournament at Hawley.