The regular season ended with a thud for the Central wrestling team, which dropped a dual to Scott West 72-3 on Friday, Feb. 8.
With the loss, the Raiders finished their conference season with a 1-4 record, good for fifth place in the six-team Minnesota River Conference. Watertown-Mayer was undefeated at 5-0, Scott West went 4-1, Sibley East finished 3-2 and Tri-City United went 2-3. LeSueur-Henderson finished at the bottom of the conference at 0-5.
Central earned the fifth seed for team sections and will compete against No. 4 Windom at 7:15 p.m. in Lake Crystal this Thursday, Feb. 14. The winner of that match will advance to the team section finals in Norwood Young America on Saturday, Feb. 16 beginning at 2 p.m.
Central 3, Scott West 72
It was a grim finish to the regular season for the Raiders, who did not put points on the board until the final match when heavyweight Jordan Stevens posted a 4-3 overtime victory.
“They are who they are. It’s no secret that Scott West is rich in tradition, and the kids they have feel like they have to uphold that tradition,” said Fox. “They just keep doing it year after year. They don’t want to be the group that lets that tradition down.”
Fox saw some good signs, such as a 1-0 loss for Zeke Dodge at 106 pounds and competitive matches that were close until the third period when Central wrestlers were pinned at a number of weights. In all, the Raiders were pinned at eight different weights and also gave up two forfeits due to illness.
While the match was frustrating, Fox said programs like Scott West provide a model for the Raiders to emulate.
“We just don’t have enough experience yet to compete with teams that are that good. There isn’t any magic formula we can come up with for experience,” he said. “What we have to do is concentrate on doing it the way those teams do it. They build from the bottom up, they build with tradition, and their kids take a lot of pride in the tradition that has been set before them.”
Another thing to learn from, he said, is to wrestle with a relentless style and to do everything possible to take matches the full six minutes rather than falling into pins. The Raiders can’t shy away from seemingly overwhelming opponents like Scott West either, Fox said, because the Panthers are going to keep showing up on the schedule.
“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves, because they’re in our conference. Either we stand up and fight against them, or the score is going to stay the same, just as ugly every year. Nobody will win on JV, nobody will win on varsity, we’ll all get pinned and feel sorry for ourselves. So it’s up to us to get better,” he said. “Our kids are capable of it, but a lot of it is mental.
“I told the guys Friday night, “This might make you think about what you do March-November, because a lot of times the results of November through March are made during that time. I think they’re learning that.”
Despite the disheartening ending to the regular season, the Raiders have an opportunity to keep their season alive against Windom.
Windom made it to the state tournament in Class 2A last season, but dropped down to Class A this season after several towns that had been part of a coop departed.
“They have some good kids spread out through their lineup. They’ve also got some places I think we can exploit if we wrestle well,” said Raiders head coach Darrin Fox, adding that the No. 5 seed is about what he expected entering the season.
“We’d like to be a little higher up, but given where we’re at and who we have, that’s probably where we should be,” he said. “With our group right now it can be tough to tell, because I see some flashes of things we’re doing well, and other times I don’t think we’re doing as much as we could be. That’s the sign of an inexperienced team.”
Lake Crystal earned the top seed in the section, with Sibley East (2) and St. James (3) rounding out the top three teams. Behind Central in the seedings are Madelia-Truman (6), LeSueur-Henderson (7), River Valley (8), St. Agnes (9) and Trinity (10).
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