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'Perfect storm' batters Minnesota West wrestling program

WORTHINGTON -- It's no use, says Minnesota West wrestling coach Bob Purcell, to dwell on what might have been. But on Monday, the 20-year Bluejays mentor took a moment to dwell on what might have been. "We'd have a top-five Division III team in t...

WORTHINGTON -- It’s no use, says Minnesota West wrestling coach Bob Purcell, to dwell on what might have been.

But on Monday, the 20-year Bluejays mentor took a moment to dwell on what might have been.

“We’d have a top-five Division III team in the nation if we had everybody wrestling that’s in school this year,” he said with a slight curl to his lip and a faint twinkle in his eye.

Welcome to the perfect storm that is the 2016-17 Minnesota West wrestling squad, which is not a top-five Division III team. In fact, the Bluejays are not a team at all -- yet.

Of the 14 student-athletes who took their weight certification this year, only one -- Brandon Valley, S.D., heavyweight Andrew Sorenson -- is ready to wrestle. Injuries, and a handful of other small issues, have decimated the early part of the Bluejays’ mat schedule. Purcell isn’t expecting to field a full team until at least the first of next year.

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The good news is that Sorensen, who recently completed an outstanding season at linebacker for the college, is a thumbs-up for wrestling. An undefeated state champion during his senior year of high school, Sorensen considered sticking exclusively to the fall sport before telling Purcell that he’s all-in for the winter. He’s back in the wrestling room now after dealing with a medical issue and there’s a chance he’ll compete soon.

There are a few other Bluejays who, with patience, could either develop into stars or shine brightly for a second straight season.

Lamont Cannon placed seventh at 141 pounds last year in the NJCAA national tournament. Unfortunately, he broke a tooth and received other damage to his mouth in a Nov. 3 meet at Rochester and won’t be wrestling again until January.

Another national qualifier last year at 149 pounds, Jesse Regalado, is dealing with a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury and his near-term availability is uncertain. He will probably be wrestling at 165 pounds when he’s ready.

Bo Hunter (125 pounds) has his right hand in a cast due to a damaged thumb ligament. The earliest he could be back is Dec. 10.

As for the other “recruits,” a few recent high school seniors who talked about competing at Minnesota West have not been firm in their intentions. Five would-be wrestlers from the area have changed their minds about wrestling, for various reasons.

It’s easier for local kids to do so, admitted Purcell. Non-area wrestlers are usually more likely to stick to wrestling because that’s what brought them to Worthington in the first place. Student-athletes who live near the Worthington campus find it easier to drop wrestling while they attend school. They can find a job more readily.

“Recruiting every year takes three-fourths more time than it does to coach. It’s frustrating for a coach when you have healthy, talented kids who aren’t wrestling,” Purcell said.

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But Purcell says he’s determined to work through it. He’s not wringing his hands.

“It just beats you up if you look at it that way,” he said, explaining that he’s chosen instead to devote his attention to getting the wrestlers he has ready.

He’s also looking ahead to the future, hoping that Worthington’s well-documented lack of student housing -- which has kept many out-of-the-area recruits from coming -- will improve by the fall of 2018.

That won’t help the program in 2016-17. But it helps to stay positive.

Related Topics: WRESTLING
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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