With a big dual win over Rockford and a trip to Thief River Falls for a tournament over the weekend, the Central wrestling squad picked up some valuable experience last week.
The Raiders opened the week with a 58-21 home win over Rockford on Tuesday, Jan. 15, and a 10-member squad took 7th place out of 18 teams at the Thief River Falls tournament on Saturday, Jan. 19.
“It was a good trip for us because almost all of our kids got a win, and the ones who didn’t were in winnable matches. So it wasn’t like we were wrestling competition way above our head, but it was tougher competition and a bigger tournament and kind of an eye-opening experience for some of the younger kids,” said Raiders head coach Darrin Fox. “Hopefully we can use that as a learning tool over the next four weeks because we’re starting to get to that point where things get a little tighter. Overall, it was a good tournament for us.”
Central 58, Rockford 21
The Raiders faced a Rockford lineup depleted by injuries, but Fox said the Raiders took advantage of their opportunities and showed strong effort.
“A couple of their best kids were out with injuries, which was too bad because we wanted to get some matches with them. But overall I think we did some good things,” said Fox. “I was very happy with the energy that we wrestled with. We’ve been talking about picking up our tempo toward the end of January into February, and I thought we did a pretty good job with that.”
Zeke Dodge (106) started the match with a pin for the Raiders, and Ben Barth notched a big win at 126 pounds. Davis Colley returned to the lineup after a month off due to injury and accepted a forfeit.
Grant Mueller picked up a pin at 152 pounds, and Fox said that Alex Meeker (160) wrestled an outstanding match in a losing effort.
“Alex Meeker probably wrestled the best match of his career so far in a loss, which I was really pleased with. He was in a tight match with a position to win in the third period and made a move but got caught,” said Fox. “But he was doing the things we’d been working on. He was going for a move to tie at the end. If he’s going for something, I can live with that.”
Cody Wigfield (171) posted a win, Michael Raatz (182) picked up varsity experience in a loss, and Matt Ditsch finished off the evening’s contested matches with a win at 195 pounds.
“Overall, I was pretty pleased with the score, obviously, but I really liked our energy level and the tempo we wrestled with,” said Fox.
Thief River Falls
With a seventh place finish, the Central wrestlers had one of their better showings at Thief River Falls in recent years, but also were on the verge of a better outcome after losing seven or eight matches by just one point.
Out of 10 individuals on the varsity roster, five ended up as placewinners by the end of the day.
“We placed five, which was OK, but we definitely missed some opportunities throughout the day for our kids to get into some placing matches and get some more team points on the board to get up to that 6th place range,” said Fox.
Mueller had Central’s highest finish, taking third place in the 145-pound bracket.
“He was able to win four out of five matches, but I hope we see some more offense out of him in the next few weeks here because we definitely need that and he’s capable of doing it,” said Fox.
Colley shook some of the rust off from his long injury absence and took fourth place at 126 pounds after losing to the same individual in two separate matches.
“He hasn’t wrestled in a month, so he’s trying to get his legs back under him. It took him a couple of matches to get back into the flow of wrestling live matches. To get into that third place match in his first time back is pretty good,” said Fox. “It’s nice to have him back in the lineup because he’ll solidify us a little bit.”
Ditsch also took fourth place at the tournament in the 195-pound division. After making to the semifinals, he suffered his first loss at the hands of the No. 2-rated wrestler in the state.
“I thought that was pretty good for Matt. He’s at 195 and in essence he’s a 182-pounder. But he’s willing to go up and wrestle some bigger kids and also allow Jordan [Kohls] to get into the lineup and get some experience, which is a sign of good leadership on his part,” said Fox. “If he wrestles all these heavier kids throughout the year, hopefully he’ll be ready come tournament time.”
Dodge took 5th place at 106 pounds, a good showing since he attended the same tournament as a member of the JV team last year and did not earn a place.
“He’s making some good strides,” said Fox. “We kind of expect things out of him now since he’s had good success at varsity this year.”
The final placewinner for Central was Jordan Stevens, who took 6th place at 285 pounds and lost three matches by just one point.
Other wrestlers who didn’t place but won matches to boost the team score included Wigfield (171), Kohls (182) Steeven Smith (220) and Dylan Just (113).
“I thought Dylan had a really good tournament. He didn’t place, but he probably wrestled with the most energy out of anyone on our team on Saturday and won two matches,” said Fox.
Jared Wickenhauser (138) also wrestled at the tournament, but drew the top seed in the first round and was unable to pick up a win.
“Our overall wrestling wasn’t bad, but I think our mental preparation kind of took a hit on Saturday. We went up there on Friday to practice and get the kids used to the arena. But if you don’t prepare mentally to get ready to wrestle every time you go out you have a good chance of losing, and I think some of our kids learned that lesson the hard way on Saturday,” said Fox. “We need to speed up our learning curve before the section championship.”
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