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College wrestling: Big talent on display at Worthington Open

WORTHINGTON -- They came from as far away as Tennessee to compete in the Worthington Open at Minnesota West Community and Technical College Saturday. And it was a Pennsylvania product who earned the Outstanding Wrestler title.Mike Rhone, a redshi...

WORTHINGTON - They came from as far away as Tennessee to compete in the Worthington Open at Minnesota West Community and Technical College Saturday. And it was a Pennsylvania product who earned the Outstanding Wrestler title.
Mike Rhone, a redshirt junior at St. Cloud State University, dominated four opponents to capture the 133-pound weight class. He won his first match with a first-period fall in 2:43, won his next by 17-1 technical fall, won his third by a 10-3 score, then pinned Paul Selman of Minnesota State University-Mankato in just 20 seconds for the crown.
His reputation went before him.
“There were a couple of guys who kind of didn’t want to come near me. It was kind of hard to chase them, so I had to be patient,” said Rhone, who moved his personal record to 8-3 on Saturday.
Rhone, a 2010 graduate from a Pennsylvania high school, is a transfer student from Lock Haven University in his home state. He didn’t feel that Lock Haven was a good situation for him, so he opted for St. Cloud State for the wholesome atmosphere.
“Kind of a family base for me,” he said.
The 26th annual Worthington Open brought nearly 160 wrestlers to Worthington in an event for college freshmen and sophomores and for junior and senior non-starters. Coaches and wrestlers consider it a tough tournament where grapplers can improve their techniques and, sometimes, impress coaches at the next level.
The host school sent two of its wrestlers onto the mats displayed at the Center for Health and Wellness and the adjacent Worthington Area YMCA gymnasium. Lamont Cannon competed in the 141-pound weight class and Jared Nickman wrestled at 157. Both of them had four matches, finishing 2-2.
At least one other competitor is well-known among southwest Minnesota wrestling fans, and that’s the former Windom/Mountain Lake standout Joe Fischenich, now wrestling for Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D. Fischenich, a freshman, ran his 2015-16 record to 8-6 en route to placing second at 141 pounds.
Fischenich received a bye in the first round, and in his next match he took on Cannon. It was a tight one all the way, but the former W/ML star produced a takedown in the final seven seconds and earned a 4-1 decision. Fischenich defeated Wilfred Charbono of Morningside in his next bout via fall in 2:14, which vaulted him into the championship match against Benjamin Brancale of the University of Minnesota.
Brancale proved too strong physically for the former Cobra star to overcome. Brancale won it with an 18-2 technical fall in 6:48.
Fischenich, a redshirt freshman, took the loss in stride, considering the tournament another good learning experience. The second-place finish complements a third-place finish he achieved earlier this year in Moorhead.
“I felt I wrestled pretty tough. I feel I got my speed back. Earlier in the year I felt a little bit slow,” said Fischenich, who ironically felt his quickness - or lack of it - was a weakness in high school.
“In high school, I wasn’t the fastest guy around. Now I feel speed is a strength,” he said, crediting his work in the weight room along with his coaches for pressuring him to get better.
But college is a different kind of wrestling, for sure.
“Everything is just tough. In high school you go out there and you know there’s some guys you can always beat. But in college, everybody’s tough,” said Fischenich, who continues to work toward two goals - first, to crack the Augustana starting lineup, and ultimately to win a national title.
Minnesota West’s Cannon opened with a 10-0 major decision over John Fitzgerald of South Dakota State. Next came the Fischenich loss. He then decisioned Cale Roelofsen of Iowa Lakes 9-2 before finally losing by fall in 2:47 to Zach Scott of Rochester Community College.
Nickman started with a 6-1 victory over Colton Stoddard of Southwest Minnesota State University. He then decisioned Tanner Schreifels of Northland Community College 10-3. He lost his next two, by 12-1 major decision to Preston Stephenson of Iowa Lakes and 10-7 to Dalton Clark of the University of Minnesota. The score of the Clark match was 8-7 with 13 seconds remaining.
Minnesota West head coach Bob Purcell said both his Bluejays wrestled well. Going into the tournament he was determined to see Cannon and Nickman get off to a good start, and both of them did. The 2015-16 season continues to be a comeback trail for Nickman, who missed large portions of the last two seasons with injuries.
“I think they finally wrestled decent first-round matches, and that’s something that we hadn’t been doing,” Purcell said.
Following are the championship round results, by weight class:
125 - Joel Salomon, St. Cloud State, decisioned Andrew McFall, Minnesota State-Mankato, 5-0
133 - Mike Rhone, St. Cloud State, pinned Paul Selman, Minnesota State-Mankato, in 0:20
141 - Benjamin Brancale, Minnesota Unattached, by technical fall over Joe Fischenich, Augustana Unattached, 18-2
149 - Carson Brolsma, Minnesota Unattached, by technical fall over Daniel Close, Minnesota State-Mankato, 20-3
157 - Fredy Stroker, Minnesota Unattached, decisioned Preston Stephenson, Iowa Lakes, 9-3
165 - Kasey Klapprodt, South Dakota State, decisioned Brett Bye, South Dakota State, 3-1
174 - Tanner Schaefer, St. Cloud State, decisioned Hank Swalla, Unattached, 3-1
184 - Martin Mueller, South Dakota State, decisioned William Balow, Minnesota Unattached, 13-8
197 - Atavion Oliver, Ellsworth Community College, decisioned Chaydon O’Fallon, Minnesota State-Mankato, 5-2
285 - Rylee Streifel, Minnesota Unattached, pinned Jeff Velez, Unattached, in 4:21

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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