Wrestling: Adrian, Worthington to renew storied rivalry
WORTHINGTON — In its heyday, Worthington’s wrestling dual with nearby Adrian was a date both teams circled at the beginning of the season.
It’s still a big rivalry today.
Class A’s fourth-ranked Adrian Dragons will travel to face unranked, but steadily improving, Worthington Thursday night. Both teams are poised to make for an exciting night of wrestling. Wrestling for the B squad begins at 6 p.m. with varsity to follow.
Worthington took on Pipestone Area Tuesday in a Southwest Conference meet and totes a quartet of ranked wrestlers onto its home mat against Adrian including Hser Eh Pwae (106), Anthony Luft (126), Zach Kempema (160) and Carson Hagen (195).With the competition his squad has faced at tournaments in Redwood Falls and Fargo, coupled with a dual meet last week at Class A’s top-ranked Jackson County Central, Worthington coach Mark Prunty is fully confident in the quality of tests his team has taken on so far. Adrian, he said, will be another.
“We are going to be wrestling some good teams coming up. But our kids have already wrestled some very, very tough competition,” Prunty said. “Adrian went to The Clash (a national high school event in Rochester) and saw some of the top teams in the country. As a whole, our schedule prepares us for tough competition. Adrian qualifies as that.”
Adrian comes into Thursday boasting a 13-5 record and a team-focused schedule that includes just one individual tournament, a trip to Jackson in the earliest portion of the season. Adrian’s Skylar Hieronimus (106), Tony Lynn (138) and Jesse Slater (170) are each rated individually in the state.
AHS head wrestling coach Gregg Nelson took over several years ago for longtime coach Jim Carr, who led the team for 30 years and finished with a career record of 333-124-5.
Carr took many strong teams against the Trojans and, no matter what, the dual was always a memorable one for the legendary coach. Since then, Nelson has beaten Carr’s career win total, racking up a record of 356-82-1 over 14 years.
“It was a highlight of the season. In the regular season, that was the big match-up,” Carr remembered on Tuesday. “A number of people who lived in Worthington were related to people in and around Adrian and, a lot of times, it would be cousins against cousins or friends’ kids against friends’ kids. We filled the gym and everybody turned out for it.”
The match against Worthington was always unique for Carr and the Dragons because they faced off against a school much bigger than they. Either way, Carr felt the steepened competition helped his teams.
“It was two close programs and the duals were hard-fought. We had some outstanding matches in our duals,” Carr said. “We were a smaller school. A lot of people thought we were out of our minds that we wanted to compete against a school like Worthington.”
The Trojans, on the other hand, had Kenneth Droegemueller as their coach from 1968-77. While at WHS, Droegemueller — the 14th winningest wrestling coach in the state — put together an impressive 64 consecutive Southwest Conference dual victories and eight league titles. After Worthington, he continued his career at Osseo.
Worthington began this season with two defending placewinners from the 2013 state tournament. Luft, a senior at 126 pounds, won a state title. It was Worthington’s first gold winner at state since 2001.
With Adrian and Worthington sitting a mere 16 miles from each other, the dual has remained a rivalry. Thursday, another chapter will be written.
“Any time you have two towns close to each other with rich traditions in wrestling, it is a big dual,” Prunty said. “These kids know each other very well. Some of them may attend the same churches or work with each other during the summer. They’re familiar with each other. They’ll step onto the mat and have respect for each other’s program, but each team still wants a win. That always makes for a great dual.”