Wrestling team pins down a successful season

Nick Carlson, Field Reporter

The Stillwater mens wrestling team has finished up their season and are truly proud of what they accomplished. The team may have not seen a complete takedown on their entire season, but certainly flexed their muscles and won many difficult matches.

The wrestling team of 29 started their season in November and had high goals. At the beginning of the season, the team faced the challenge of keeping a steady weight for their class and as the season continued they also faced health problems and as expected, tough matches. However, through hard work and commitment to the team, the team saw a successful year as they walked away with the title of conference champions, something that has not happened since 1997. The team also claimed second in their sectionals and sent seven boys to state. With these accomplishments, the team is exceedingly proud of what they achieved and hopes to go even further next year.

Early in the season, the team encountered challenges as some wrestlers had difficulty maintaining their weight for their class and came in six to twelve pounds over the day before the match. Most of the wrestlers who had difficulty maintaining their weight were new younger wrestlers, in the weight classes of 120 and 138 pounds.

“Guys missed weight early on because they didn’t know how to manage it properly,” junior captain James Huntley explained. “We’d have kids come in six or seven pounds over the day before, which is not a good thing. But as they got experience they got it in check. And for the rest of us, keeping our weight down just gets exhausting after awhile.”

Wrestling is anything but easy, and it’s nice when all the hard work and dedication pays off.”

— Ben Sweet

Health in general was always difficult as illness even lead to rescheduling of matches such as Woodbury early in the season. Many wrestlers also received injuries. Huntley sprained his ankle and burst a bursa sack, senior captain Ben Sweet broke a finger and junior Connor Weiss tore part of his knee. Others experienced minor injuries or soreness throughout the season as well.

Huntley said, “We had lots of adversity this year. We had to shut down the season for a few days due to skin funk. Everyone’s sore most of the time. And injuries hit us pretty bad. Lots of guys had injuries which set us back.”

Health problems were a contributor to the team’s challenges, but the main challenge was always the matches. Tournaments were especially challenging because most of the time they were more individual as the whole team couldn’t be represented due to health problems or match numbers. Overall, the team was unable to win a tournament, but did rank highly in them. This high ranking was mostly due to the team working together and getting the points they needed. At Stillwater’s own Stampede Tournament the team was able to defeat Little Falls, a ranked team, by three.

Sweet explained, “We experienced tough matches and coming through with a win when we needed one. Wrestling is anything but easy, and it’s nice when all the hard work and dedication pays off,” Sweet explained.

Another significant win for the team was their win over Woodbury. Woodbury has always been a tough opponent for Stillwater wrestling as they had knocked Stillwater out of sections in previous years. The team had just come straight from a very successful match against Roseville and wanted another. The Woodbury match was difficult, and it came down to a last second pin by senior Chris Bradley with the final score of 28 to 27 for a Stillwater victory.

Huntley explained, “When we beat Woodbury on their home turf, I felt on top of the world. It was the first time in a long time and I loved it. We came out and did what needed to be done from bottom to top, and it got us the win. That was one of the greatest feelings in my wrestling career.”

One of the reasons the team saw some remarkable victories was their focus on smaller goals and on strategy. One of the focuses of coaching staff for the team was to go for the takedowns and not just the points on their feet or during scrambling. Because of the strength of the team and the skill that they had, they were able to accomplish these technique and strategy goals that paid off in the matches they won.

Head Coach Rich Keller said, “Over the past few years, we’ve been really on the bottom side of takedowns and on our feet. We focused more on scoring points on our feet and having more takedowns than our opponent did. And man I think for the first time in four or five years, that was an accomplished goal, that we did have more takedowns than our opponent.”