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Area prep wrestling: Adrian boasts deep, experienced squad

Wrestling is a tough sport. And every year, it seems, it gets tougher for area high school coaches to field complete teams.Even storied programs -- programs with histories of team and individual success -- cautiously count their numbers. Adrian D...

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FILE PHOTO Adrian’s Skylar Hieronimus pins Zach Poleart of Jackson County Central in the 120-pound match of the Dragons’ 47-28 nonconference win last season in Adrian. Hieronimus got the fall in 1:44.

Wrestling is a tough sport. And every year, it seems, it gets tougher for area high school coaches to field complete teams.
Even storied programs - programs with histories of team and individual success - cautiously count their numbers. Adrian Dragons mentor Gregg Nelson can breathe a sigh of relief, at least for now, in the knowledge that he has 10 seniors on his 2015-16 squad. But beginning next year, numbers are likely to take a noticeable dive.
Leaner times may be already here for Jackson County Central’s Randy Baker, another coach who’s led a dominant program over the years.
Not so a little to the south, where northwest Iowa’s Sibley-Ocheyedan Generals, who are ranked No. 2 behind Alburnett in Class 1A, line up six state-ranked wrestlers for the winter.
Here’s a quick rundown of what’s out there:
Minnesota Class A
“Our numbers are real low. Probably the lowest it’s been in quite a while,” JCC coach Baker confessed on Monday.
He added: “Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. I know that.”
Nelson may be in slightly better shape this winter. He has six wrestlers (five seniors) who are ranked among the top 10 matmen in Class A. “This might be our last hurrah for a few years,” he maintains.
Leading the AHS roster is senior Skylar Hieronimus, rated No. 3 in the 126-pound weight class in the latest preseason rankings. Hieronimus earned a state championship in his sophomore year, then ruptured an Achilles tendon prior to the section tournament last year as a junior (he finished third despite essentially competing on one leg). The experienced Hieronimus should be hard to beat if he can stay healthy this season.
Other state-ranked Dragons include Greg Kern (No. 8 at 120), Ryan Elias (No. 6 at 138), Logan Rogers (No. 6 at 152), Matt Slater (No. 3 at 170) and Dylan Gyberg (No. 9 at 220).
“Hopefully we can be just as good or maybe just a little bit better than last year. Hopefully the good senior-itis kicks in,” Nelson said. “We’re balanced. Anytime you put that many seniors on the mat, it’s going to be tough to beat them.”
Adrian posted a strong 24-8 record last season but lost to eventual state champion Minneota 32-24 in the finals of the Section 3A team tournament. This season, Minneota and Jackson County Central will share a section along with other solid area teams Pipestone Area and Windom/Mountain Lake Area.
Despite the fact that JCC may lack its usual depth, probably no one would be willing to count out the Huskies, who went 23-8 last year and won two matches at the state tourney.
The Huskies return two-time state champion Keegan Moore, who hasn’t lost a high school match in two years and is unsurprisingly ranked No. 1 at 182 pounds. Other state-ranked JCC wrestlers include Jacob Tvinnereim (No. 5 at 132) and Dalton Wagner (No. 7 at 145). Baker believes a fourth Husky, 145-152-pounder Ryker VanderWoude, who is coming off an ACL injury, could easily be state-ranked, too.
Pipestone Area, like many other area teams, will not be able to boast of depth, but the Arrows have three state-ranked competitors set to go. Hunter Burnett is rated No. 3 at 106, Michael Suda is No. 2 at 120 and Blake Wolters is No. 5 at 285.
Suda, a sophomore, placed second in the state Class A tourney at 120 last year as a freshman.
Windom/Mountain Lake Area’s fortunes bode well for the future. The Cobras haven’t a single senior on the roster and have 16 between the grades of 7-10. Two of their best wrestlers are freshmen: Zach Spinks, a state qualifier last year at 106, and Alex Borsgard, who’ll toil at 132 this winter. Spinks is an excellent competitor on his feet and a tough rider, and Borsgard is a tireless worker.
“We’re young,” said co-head coach Nick Kulseth. “Bright for the future.”
Minnesota Class AA
While Adrian is ranked No. 7 and JCC No. 8 among Minnesota Class A teams, Worthington is ranked No. 10 in preseason Class AA. Area Class AA teams Luverne, Fulda/Murray County Central, Wabasso/Red Rock Central and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove also bring outstanding wrestlers back for 2015-16.
Luverne is led by Solomon Nielsen, ranked third at 170 pounds in Class AA. Will Natte, Jakob Olson and Adam Fodness could be poised to make a move.
Logan Axford is rated No. 2 at 145 pounds for TMB/WWG. Jared Welch is No. 2 at 220 pounds for Wabasso/Red Rock Central. Fulda/Murray County Central has Clayton Hartle ranked No. 7 at 132 pounds and Ben Blanchette ranked No. 3 at 138.
Both Hartle and Blanchette are seniors. Hartle is a good leader, is dependable and, according to head coach Dan Blankenship, is excellent at digesting information and putting it to good use. Blankenship describes Blanchette as “probably one of the most talented wrestlers I’ve ever coached. Dangerously good.”
Blankenship, a former Worthington High School standout, points out that this season individual state tournament wrestlers will be seeded instead of drawn. “It’ll probably separate those No. 1 and No. 2 wrestlers who are studs. They won’t be wrestling in the quarterfinals; they’ll be wrestling in the finals.”
Northwest Iowa
Sibley-Ocheyedan not only has six returnees who are state-ranked in Class 1A heading into the new campaign, but only one of them is a senior. All six of them qualified for the state tournament last year.
Junior Dylan Schuck is rated No. 3 at 132 pounds according to Iowa Wrestle. Senior Kyle Green is No. 9 at 138. Junior Garrett Sayler is No. 3 at 160. Junior Trent Kruger is No. 3 at 170. Sophomore Hunter DeJong is No. 7 at 182. And junior Matt Naig is No. 4 at 285.
Naig finished sixth last season at 220.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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