Area wrestling teams ready for opening of 3AA playoffs

The Worthington Trojan wrestling team will be facing an all too familiar opponent tonight when it squares off against the Pipestone Area Arrows in the first round of the Section 3AA tournament.

The Worthington Trojan wrestling team will be facing an all too familiar opponent tonight when it squares off against the Pipestone Area Arrows in the first round of the Section 3AA tournament.

The Trojans hosted the Arrows Jan 19., falling 58-24, and two days later met PA again at the Luverne Invitational, with a similar result -- losing 52-28. But the two lopsided losses haven't taken the verve out of the Trojans.

"Our kids are ready to go," Worthington head coach Mark Prunty said. "A lot of our wrestlers are looking forward to wrestling the same opponents -- getting another shot at them. It will be a chanceto see how much they've improved.

In the previous meetings, the Arrows have jumped out to substantial leads, winning the majority of the lower weight classes. The Trojans lack experience at those weights, but have shown steady improvement throughout the season. Where the Trojans have done the most damage has been in the upper weight classes.

Nate Steffl (171) posted a 16-13 record on the year and came back to beat PA's Matt Dunn in their second meeting at the Luverne Invite. The most consistant wrestler for the Trojans has been Matt Cowdin, who has a 19-1 record heading into the tournament. Cowdin (189) will face off against Stanton Kelly, who has given the senior a couple of tough bouts. The 215-pound matchup could be very interesting, as Jordan Schroeder will replace his brother Brian Schroeder in the Trojan lineup. Since joining the varsity, Jordan is 1-1 in his two matches. He will be facing PA's Sean Ennen, who is no slouch, tonight


"He's wrestled well in his matches," Prunty said. "He might surprise a lot of people."

The key for Worthington will be to avoid early pins in the lower weight classes and keep it close through the middle weights.

"If we can go out and pick up two or three wins going into the 160-pound match, we have a shot," Prunty said. "Unfortunately, we still have a couple weight classes (145, 160) we haven't been able to fill."

The Arrows will again look to use their experience to get out to a fast start.

"We have a lot more experience from 103-119," PA head coach Brian Bos said. "We want to get out there and take care of business. Of course the lucky winner gets Adrian."

While the Arrows will undoubtedly feel confident heading into their match with the Trojans, Bos knows wrestling can take a turn any time.

"You don't want to overlook anyone," Bos said. Anything can happen. The Trojans are strong at 189-215. We hope we can hang in those matches, move on and give the Dragons a good match."

MCC/Fulda vs. Luverne


The MCC/Fulda Rebels finished the regular season with a solid 10-6 record and will begin the postseason against the Luverne Cardinals.

The Rebels likely will use their opening match as a warm up for the Windom/Mountain Lake-Butterfield-Odin Cobras, as the Cardinals are a young, inexperienced team.

"They're missing a lot of wrestlers and really don't have the depth to give us a stiff challenge," MCC/Fulda head coach Dan Blankenship said of Luverne. "They wrestle very hard, but they have had some coaching changes and are still a developing team."

While the Rebels aren't looking past the Cardinals, they know W/ML-B-O is waiting in the wings should they beat Luverne.

Throughout the season, the Rebels have excelled at the upper weights with Nick Henning (189), Will Steinmetz (215) and Andy Witzel (HWT) performing well match after match. But Blankenship also points to his lighter wrestlers as having given his team a boost.

"Justin Reinsma (112), Chris Witzel (119) and Tyler Giese (125) have really given us a lift this season," Blankenship said. "Along with our heavier wrestlers and a full roster, we hope to keep pace with Windom."

Blankenship says continuing to work hard and avoiding pins will be the keys to success in the tournament.

"We have to go through our lineup and stay off our backs," Blankenship said. "Last time we wrestled W/ML-B-O, each team was missing a wrestler and they edged us by a couple of points. They have a lot of experience -- if we don't let them pin us, we give ourselves a chance to win."



Being the top seed in the Section 3AA South bracket has its benefits and detractions for the Adrian Dragons.

For one, the team gets to watch as its potential opponent in the second round has to take on an early-round foe today, while the Dragons get to rest.

But, at the same time, the team Adrian draws will have a victory under its belt, and a renewed confidence.

So, is it a blessing or a curse to have a first-round bye? According to head coach Gregg Nelson, it's neither.

"Right now, I think it's pretty neutral," Nelson said. "Our kids could handle it if they had a match. It doesn't help or hurt us."

Adrian enters having beat both of its potential opponents in recent duals. The Dragons defeated Worthington two weeks ago, while they knocked off Pipestone Area just five days ago.

If the Dragons are to advance past either the Arrows or the Trojans, it will be a matter of producing a solid, consistent effort.


"If we do that, we don't worry about winning or losing," Nelson said. "I tell the kids, 'Don't worry about winning or losing. Just wrestle.'"

One wrestler who won't be there for the 28-7 Dragons is Jordan Reker, who is likely out for the remainder of the season due to a right knee injury. What makes the loss more frustrating is Reker missed the beginning of the season after an injury to his left knee.


Windom/Mountain Lake-Butterfield-Odin enters as the sectional's second seed, and is gearing up for a likely match with Fulda/Murray County Central.

And, the Cobras enter with a lot of confidence.

"We're wrestling really good right now," head coach David Elg said. "The kids -- the last three weeks -- have looked real good, consistent from top to bottom."

Three wrestlers who will be counted on to have quality performances today are Sam Fischenich (112 pounds), A.J. Stevens (125) and Colt Bergendahl (130), a trio which leads a team very much at its physical peak.

The central key -- especially if W/ML-B-O draws F/MCC in the second round -- will be to gain a big lead early on, earning as many pins in the early matches before the top Fulda wrestlers all come up at the end.


"We need to do well down low, first two-thirds of the match," Elg said. "Fulda's extremely tough in the last three weights."

W/ML-B-O, by having the No. 2 seed, is also in possession of a first-round bye.


Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove, seeded fourth, opens the 3AA North draw with a battle against No. 5 Redwood Valley in Montevideo.

The teams faced each other early on in the season, with RRC/W-WG pulling out a 45-27 victory in December. However, two wrestlers who were with the team during the early meeting, Brandon Casey (145) and Steven Moore (171) are no longer with the team.

Stepping in for Casey since then has been seventh-grader Ray Hagberg. He was expected to be at the junior varsity level this season (where he was 15-5) until Casey departed. After that, Hagberg went to the coaches and asked to be brought up, something the coaches ultimately agreed with.

Head coach Brett Bartholomaus has been impressed with Hagberg's intensity and consistency, and with how he's adjusted to competing at the highest level.

"The biggest adjustment he's had to make is the mindset of wrestling much older competition," Bartholomaus said.


The key for RRC/W-WG in the opening round against Redwood Valley will be the first four weight classes. Listening to Bartholomaus, how those four go will determine the night's outcome.

"We have the opportunity to win three of the first four weights," he said "We also have the opportunity to lose three of the first four weights."

If RRC/W-WG advances, it will face top-seed Tracy-Milroy-Balaton in the second round, where Bartholomaus knows a huge performance will be needed in order to get the victory.

"We need upsets in that dual, and that's all there is to it," he said. "If you put us two teams on paper, they are -- by far -- the better team, experience-wise."

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