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Worthington Open wrestling this weekend at Minnesota West

College wrestling returns to Worthington Saturday as up to 180 wrestlers come to town.

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WORTHINGTON -- Up until now, it’s been difficult for wrestling fans in these parts to get their fix of seven-minute mat action. The Minnesota West wrestling team, like so many other programs, has dealt with Covid cancellations and athlete withdrawals and the like, and Coach Randy Baker’s hopes of hosting dual meets for the rest of the 2021-22 year seems to have fizzled.

But, college fans, Saturday is your lucky day.

On Saturday (Jan. 15), Minnesota West Community and Technical College will host up to 180 wrestlers for the Worthington Open. The event will bring outstanding collegiate wrestlers from across the Midwest to Worthington, where matches will be held at the college’s Center for Health and Wellness and the Worthington Area YMCA on campus grounds.

The University of Minnesota is sending wrestlers. So, too, is Nebraska, South Dakota State and Augustana. Several other four-year institutions will also be represented as well as two-year schools.

Action begins at 9 a.m. and continues all afternoon.

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“This is the 30th (Open),” said Baker. “There will be some high-level wrestlers here -- some really good wrestlers at the college. These guys don’t take breaks out there. They wrestle every second of their seven minutes. And they have to, because riding time is taken into account.”

It’s also the first Worthington Open in three years. Covid canceled the event last year, and the year before that it was called off because of a snowstorm.

This year’s tournament also affords three Minnesota West wrestlers another chance to compete in front of a home crowd. Their options for 2021-22 have faded with the cancellation of tournaments, in part due to Covid and in part due to their dwindling numbers. One hoped-for tournament in Chicago was recently lost. Nothing seems certain in the age of Covid-19.

“It’s been all over for everybody. And you never know,” Baker said.

That’s why the Worthington Open is especially important this year. The Bluejays expect to have three of their own matmen ready to throw on their singlets.

Ayden Rienhardt, a freshman 133-pounder from Bloomfield, N.M., has three victories this year and, according to Baker, continues to improve. Jacob Vogel, a 141-pound freshman from Dell Rapids, S.D., is a hard worker who always gives it his all.

And another freshman, Damon Ashworth, a 165-pounder from Excelsior Springs, Mo., has been winning consistently. He’s only had two matches since Dec. 8, and his only loss to a junior college opponent was to the defending national champion.

“I think they’re ready. I don’t know how they’re going to do against these Division I guys, but they’re working hard,” Baker said.

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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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