F/MCC wrestling builds toward a more competitive future
The future is brighter for the Fulda/Murray County Central wrestling program
SLAYTON — When Christian Kuball began his varsity wrestling career with the Fulda/Murray County Central team several years ago, the Warriors had only six athletes on the roster.
Today there are 24.
“Our team is working its way up, and it’s nice to see,” said Kuball, the Warriors’ star 182-pounder. “Our youth program is improving, too. I love it.”
Former Fulda star wrestler Nick Henning is the head coach of the co-op. The third-year head coach graduated from high school in 2006 and went on to become a standout on the mat at Augustana (S.D.) University.
Now his main goal is to rebuild his prep alma mater’s wrestling fortunes, and early returns indicate the Warriors are one of the area’s most improved squads.
The Warriors also have talented senior 220-pounder Ryder Henning, promising sophomores Denver Ash (132) and Aiden Lorenzen and (138), fine freshmen Torrin Clarke (113) and Carson Klein (160), and a group of gritty eighth-graders led by Teague Meyer (106).
Rylan Klein, a 6-2, 225-pound junior who played basketball until coming out for the wrestling team this season, is holding down the heavyweight spot.
It’s a solid mixture of athletes from Fulda and MCC.
The Warriors are open at a few weights, including 152, but that might change soon. This past week MCC’s Carter Benda decided to switch from basketball, where he was a reserve guard, to wrestling. Benda, a Globe All-Area running back on the football field last fall, is especially quick and strong. He’s expected to start competing on the mat for the Warriors after Christmas.
“I think he’s going to excel at the sport,” Henning said, “and I think there might be more kids walking around the halls in Fulda and Slayton who could help us. Maybe they aren’t out because of where the program was before. There wasn’t a lot of interest. But now we’re seeing more and more of these kids who want to be a part of it.”
Of course, winning helps. The Warriors, 1-2 in duals so far, will be in Redwood Falls for a tournament this weekend. Last week the squad competed at a strong tourney in Jackson, where Kuball placed third at 182.
“We haven’t gotten to that point where we’ve established a winning culture,” Henning said. “But we’re trying to rebuild the program.”
Why the resurgence?
“Our program, it’s fun-loving. We’re a big family,” Henning said. “The guys support each other. It’s fun to be a part of as a coach and I’d imagine it would be fun to be a part of as a wrestler. So that’s a big reason for this.”
Kuball is one of several Murray County Central athletes on the squad. The senior starred on the excellent Rebel football team last fall and entered this weekend is 11-1 on the mat.
“I’ve relaxed and I’m wrestling a little bit different,” he said. “I’m having a lot of fun.”
Henning said his job is rewarding, and not just because the numbers In his wrestling room are on the upswing.
“I’ve been blessed with really good kids who come from really good parents,” he said. “It’s hard to NOT enjoy being in our room. It’s a good atmosphere.”
The Fulda-Slayton pairing isn’t all that unusual these days. The schools have combined for a wrestling program many years and also share a highly successful cross country program led by head coach Dominick Damm.
But back in the day, there was no love lost between athletic teams from the two towns. The rivalry was a little bitter.
Those days are gone.
“We started a youth program and they’re starting young, practicing together from kindergarten and first grade on,” Henning said. “Once we hit wrestling season, they don’t know any different. There are no ‘Fulda’ kids or ‘Slayton’ kids. It’s one team. We preach that we train together and compete together.
“Our kids look out for each other. I really don’t think they look at it if their teammates are from Fulda or Slayton.”
“We’re all one team,” he said.
Henning said his assistants, including Phil Clarke, have been important to the program rebuild. Also on the F/MCC coaching staff are Kody Kramer, Tyson Crosby, Clayton Hartle and Ryan Olsen.
Said Henning: “We’re not just building one team. We’re building a program. A lot of our kids are starting to develop, both physically and mentally.”
The bottom line seems to be that the Warriors are on the rise. Certainly strength is in numbers where prep wrestling is concerned. To go from a roster of six to 24 in a few years speaks for itself.
“It’s a credit to the kids,” Henning said. “They do a lot of the recruiting themselves.”