Pinning down state wrestling tournament
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Stillwater can pride itself on one of the top performing sports for the past few years, wrestling. Wrestling as a sport is a simple concept, with a few easy to understand rules and the end goal of trying to pin your opponent to the mat.
Wrestling allows for participation for everyone interested in the sport. There are different weight categories in this sport, which makes the sport very fair, and only allows wrestling between students of similar weights.
“Wrestling has made me a better athlete, because it works your whole body, and you gain a lot of muscle, and become more explosive,” senior Jackson Dunleap said.
Stillwater’s lineup this year consisted of only 19 wrestlers, which can create problems in filling the spots that need to be filled for certain weight classes.
“We need to find depth, we had to find kids to step up in the line up when kids got injured or sick,” coach Rich Keller said. “Hopefully with our success we can get more kids who want to be part of a winning program,” Keller added.
Recently the wrestling team participated in the State wrestling tournament held at the Xcel Energy Center, where all of the varsity wrestlers competed for Stillwater, and some competed individually for their specific weight class. Compared to high school gymnasiums around the metro area, the Xcel was an entirely new experience.
“Big lights, 10,000 people screaming,” Keller commented. “We tried to keep the kids fresh, not overwork them too much, and focus on technique,” Keller added.
As a team, Stillwater placed 10th in the State for Class AAA, and before that won the Section 4AAA meet, held at Stillwater, to advance to the State meet. This was the first year for the Ponies to advance to State since 2009, and possibly the start of a new powerhouse for Ponies wrestling.
“This was the only year I have been on a team where we qualified for State as a team, and to have it be during my senior year is pretty cool,” senior Captain James Huntley commented. “It’s very hard to prepare for something as big as State, you just have to do the best you can,” Dunleap added.
Individually, Stillwater got 3 podiums this year, starting with 8th grader Reid Ballantyne winning 1st place in Class AAA, for the 106 pound weight class. The last time Stillwater won state at the individual level was in 2003. As an 8th grader, Ballantyne will be a big part of Stillwater wrestling for his next four years of high school.
“We were pretty balanced through our lineup, we started with very strong light weights and some very good kids in the upper weights,” Keller said. “This has been the best record we’ve had in a while as a team,” Huntley added.
In the heavier weight classes, the Ponies pulled two 4th place victories. Both of which were accomplished senior captains of the team. In the 182 weight class, James Huntley brought home a 4th place medal for the Ponies, as well as Conner Weiss, in his weight class of 195 pounds.
“Our future is bright, the team is made up of mostly 9th and 10th graders. We want this year to be the start of a great State run and bring home many team and individual medals,” Keller added. “This is the start of a new dynasty for Stillwater wrestling, this is the start of something big,” Huntley said.
With the upcoming juniors, sophomores and freshman, Stillwater can expect to have a solid wrestling program for the next few years. Although this program will be graduating two state finalists and a great senior class, these upcoming years will likely yield many team and individual medals.