by ADAM GRUENEWALD
The Central wrestling squad concluded their season at the Section 4A individual tournament this past weekend at Le Sueur-Henderson, getting eight place winners, with Steeven Smith advancing to state.
Steeven Smith advances to state
Senior Steeven Smith highlighted efforts for the Raiders, managing through an ankle injury and advancing to the individual state tournament.
Smith sprained it in his semifinal match and wrestled in the final match, getting pinned by Nick Meixell of Lake Crystal.
Head coach Darrin Fox was pleased with the way Smith fought through the injury, trailing in the semifinal match when it happened and getting the fall.
“I thought for him to go out there and at least compete and do those things, showed a lot of guts on his part,” said Fox. “I think it was pretty indicative too of our kids. Our kids are not kids who are going to back down from things and we’ve seen a lot of growth out of our kids this year.”
It marks the third year in a row that Central has advanced a wrestler to the state individual tournament.
“I’m pleased for our program overall,” said Fox. “I think it’s great for our program to have somebody in it.”
Seeded #4, Smith (21-15) will open up against #8 Taylor Carlson (31-2) of United North Central on Friday, Feb. 28, at the Xcel Energy Center.
“He has a chance to experience something that not a lot of kids do,” said Fox. “It’s a big tribute to him to wrestle in the state tournament. There’s a lot of things that he’s gotten past and this is one thing that’s a big step for him and he’s gotten past it.”
Other wrestlers in the top bracket include #1 Tanner Welsch of Dover-Eyota (28-9), #2 Nathan Horn (23-20) of Jackson County Central. #7 Cole Grinsteinner (35-4) of Crosby-Ironton, #3 Trent Esping (20-10) of Minneota-Lincoln, #6 Logan Nibbe (36-4) of Prairie Valley and #5 Ben Feuerhake (32-7) of Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa.
For full schedules and brackets, visit www.mshsl.org.
In addition to Smith, the Raiders had several positives come from the individual tournament as all made it to Saturday.
Third-place finishers included Josh Hendel at 113, Zeke Dodge at 120, Davis Colley at 132 and Jordan Kohls at 195, while fourth-place finishers included Ben Barth at 125, Jared Wickenhauser at 152 and Alex Meeker at 170.
Hendel, a senior, went 4-1 in a tough bracket with a defending state champion to round out his high school wrestling career just shy of the century win mark with 98.
“He really finished his career here very well and in a positive fashion,” said Fox, adding Hendel was down 9-8 in the third period in the semifinal match against Esteban Teigen of Spectrum. “He was really in that match.”
It was the second consecutive third-place finish for Dodge, a freshman. Dodge got pinned by the #5 seed on Friday, but was able to comeback and beat not only that wrestler but the #3 seed as well on Saturday.
“I think he’s really close,” he said. “He was just really solid after Friday. Saturday was a great day for him.”
Colley, a sophomore, lost in his semifinal match, before coming back strong and winning the third-place match.
“I was pleased with the way he wrestled,” said Fox of Colley in a bracket with the second- and seventh-ranked wrestlers in the state. “I think for him to do that two years in a row is good.”
Kohls, a senior, rounded out the third-place finishers beating a St. James wrestler on Friday and Lake Crystal opponent in overtime.
“For him to finish the way he did was a very positive thing for him,” said Fox, crediting Kohls for his constant effort in the practice room. “It was one of the happier occasions I’ve had as a coach to see him get into that match and just try the best he could… I hope he realizes how much he realizes how much he accomplished.”
Fox called Barth, a sophomore, the “surprise of the tournament.”
Seeded #7, Barth won 2-of-3 matches on Friday before wrestling well on Saturday as well to continue to improve as he took sixth last year.
Wickenhauser, a senior, wrestled well in his semifinal match against the winner, Fox said, before losing to a Lake Crystal opponent he had beaten the week prior in the third-place match. It was the second year in a row he was in that match.
“For him to be in that match says a lot about him,” said Fox. “He’s made a lot of good progress here in the last year and a half of wrestling overall.”
Meeker, a senior who didn’t place in the section tournament last year, rounded out the place winners as he lost 1-0 and 2-0 decisions.
“For the amount of good things that Alex had happen to him this year and the amount of improvement he showed over the season, I don’t think he has a reason to hang his head,” said Fox.
Anthony Hennen, a sophomore, took sixth at 106 in a during a successful first year on varsity where he got to 20 wins.
“It was a big step for him,” said Fox. “He’s one of the kids that goes under the radar a little bit, but he’s one of the hardest workers. For him to show the progression says a lot about him.”
Other wrestlers include Josh Lord at 138, Jake Daniels at 160, Alex Farrell at 182 and Nick Forner at 220.
Fox said the experience helps his team understand what it takes to place at the individual tournament.
“We had a lot of good things over the weekend,” he said. “Our kids that didn’t place got experience at that level which is a big thing for us. I hope that that helps us in the next two or three years.”
As Smith moves on, Meeker, Hendel, Wickenhauser and Kohls all placed.
“It says a lot about these seniors as to where they started and where they’ve come to,” he said. “They accomplished a lot which is big for them.”
Other seniors rounding out their high school careers include Lord, Daniels, Dylan Just, Taylor Just and Cody Meisinger.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at email@example.com.