Wrestlers fall to Royals, host Invite

Central 113-pounder Josh Hendel finds an opening against his Watertown-Mayer opponent on Jan. 3. While the Raiders lost the match, Hendel took third place in his weight class at the Central Invite on Feb. 4. (Times staff photo by Paul Downer)

Central 113-pounder Josh Hendel finds an opening against his Watertown-Mayer opponent on Jan. 3. While the Raiders lost the match, Hendel took third place in his weight class at the Central Invite on Feb. 4. (Times staff photo by Paul Downer)

Central wrestlers saw one of the tougher teams in their conference last Friday, Jan. 3, and the result was a 55-10 loss that may not have been quite as one-sided as the scoreboard indicated.

The Raiders also had a solid showing the following day at the eight-team Central Invitational tournament, where they placed fourth overall.

Central 10, W-M 55
Central head coach Darrin Fox said that he wasn’t particularly surprised by the outcome against Watertown-Mayer, given the Royals’ wrestling prowess.

“That match went about as planned. That was one of those teams we knew was going to be tough to beat in the conference. They’re a very good team,” he said. “We did some good things and I was happy overall with the way that we wrestled a lot of the matches. Our scores in a lot of the matches were very competitive.”

Zeke Dodge jump-started the Raiders with a pin in the first match of the night at 106 pounds, but wins were hard to come by as the evening went on. Grant Mueller (152) was the only other individual to earn a win for the Raiders, picking up a major decision at 152 pounds.

“I was very happy with Grant Mueller. He wrestled a great match against one of their better kids and kind of took it to him. That was good to see,” said Fox.

Fox also noted that Dylan Just had a strong performance at 120 pounds, Cody Wigfield showed some good signs at 170 pounds, and Jordan Stevens had a strong match against the Royals’ heavyweight, a rated individual who wrestled at state last year.

“Jordan wrestled him really well and gave himself a chance to win in the end. He just couldn’t quite get it done,” said Fox. “I was overall very pleased with how we wrestled. Watertown is a really good team. We just have to keep pressing forward. Our competition level needs to get tougher as we go on toward the end of the year. At the same time I think we did some good things. We had a great crowd there. Overall, it was a good meet.”

Central Invite
While Stevens didn’t quite pull off the upset on Friday night, he emerged from the Central Invite with the heavyweight title in tow the following day as Central’s lone individual champion.

“Ever since he came here he hasn’t been able to wrestle the Central Tournament, so for him to go out as a senior and win his last match of the tournament, I was very happy for him with that,” said Fox. “He’s wrestled much better since Christmas break. He got freshened up a little bit. We changed a couple of things with him, and that showed on Friday and in the tournament.”

Mueller and Ditsch finished second in their weights at 152 and 195 pounds, respectively.

“Grant had a really solid opponent in the finals who won a couple of matches at state last year and is rated this year. He was down 1-0 in the second period and got a little greedy, but he’ll learn from that mistake. He wrestled a good weekend,” said Fox.

Ditsch came close to a title, settling for second place after being edged out in a 3-2 decision by a Sibley East opponent who also wrestled at state last year.

In other action, Josh Hendel (113) took third place, as did Jared Wickenhauser at 145 pounds. Alex Meeker (160) and Cody Wigfield also took third place, which Fox said was a good accomplishment for both.

“Alex has been coming around and doing some good things, so I’m happy with where he’s at right now,” he said, adding that Wigfield notched a couple of pins that should be good confidence-builders going forward.

Fourth place finishers for Central included Dodge at 106 pounds and Steeven Smith at 220 pounds.

Brett Kleindl (106) took fifth place along with Jordan Kohls (182), and Ben Barth took sixth place at 106 pounds.

“We placed second [at the Central Invite] last year, but lost a lot of individual firepower, so I was pleased with the fourth place finish,” said Fox. “I thought our guys recovered well from Friday and did some good wrestling across the board. We had some JV kids step in and some other kids step in just to get them some opportunities. We left some points out on the mat at a couple of weights that might have made a difference in the team result, but we wrestled a pretty solid final round overall.

“It was a great tournament. We had really good fans and I appreciate all the workers and fans who came out.”

The Raiders are in action on Thursday and Friday this week with a dual at Madelia on Jan. 10 and a road battle at Tri-City United on Friday — both matches that Fox said were winnable if the Raiders wrestled to their potential.

“We need to keep working to get better this week,” he said.

Contact Paul Downer at paul.downer@ecm-inc.com

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