Wrestling cupboard far from bare
Last year’s Blue Earth Area Buccaneer wrestling team sported a perfect 5-0 South Central Conference record and claimed the conference championship trophy.
They were 23-5 overall.
The question now is, how will this year’s version of Buccaneer wrestling stack up.
The answer is, pretty darn good, according to their leader.
When head coach Randy Wirtjes went to the wrestling cupboard this past week, he found it far from being bare.
“We have 15 returning letter winners on this year’s team,” Wirtjes says. “We are going to have some real good depth to this season’s squad.”
True, the team lost four senior leaders to graduation last year, including Carter Hanson who sported a 36-7 season record and placed sixth in state.
The others and their records were Jesse Alleven (28-14), Chris Ramos (18-17) and Micah Twedt (12-15).
And, the Bucs suffered another big blow when senior Kysten Zierke suffered a knee injury in football and will miss most if not all of this wrestling season. His record last year was 28-2 with a state second place finish.
But, the Buccaneers have a great mix of both experienced upperclassmen and aspiring younger wrestlers to build on for this year.
Plus, they have a couple of seniors out for the squad who were not on the team last year. Both Justin Ritter and Austin Gustafson decided to join the Bucs, and Wirtjes is glad to see them show up.
“We will be using both on the varsity squad right away,” Wirtjes says. “They are going to fill two open spots for us.”
Ritter, who has not been out for wrestling before, will be at the 195 pound slot.
“Justin looks pretty good so far,” Wirtjes says. “We are spending a little extra time with him right now to get him ready.”
Gustafson has some wrestling experience but was not out last season. This year he has some big shoes to fill he will be in the 220 pound position, filling in for the injured Zierke.
Starting with the lower weights, here is how the roster is filling out for the 2013-14 Bucs.
“We have our two 106 pounders back from last year, Adam Legred and Zach Buseman,” Wirtjes says. “They split the duties last year.”
Legred, a sophomore, sported a 6-9 record last season, while eighth grader Buseman was 10-16.
Wirtjes says Legred will start at 106 pounds, but will be pushed by ninth-grader Cole Klinkner for the varsity position.
Buseman, meanwhile, will be fighting for a spot at either 113 or 120 pounds.
He would be competing with fellow eighth grader Wyatt Tungland at 113 and with junior Matt Goodrich at 120.
Tungland had a 1-13 record last year and Goodrich was 3-9 at 120 pounds.
Goodrich is a three year returning letter winner.
Camden Bowers wrestled at 120 pounds last year and sported a 19-19 season record as a freshman. This year, as a sophomore, Wirtjes says he expects him to step up and do well at the 126 pound position.
“He has a lot of desire and is willing to work hard,” the coach notes.
Back is senior Alec Huber, who is a four year varsity wrestler and last year had a record of 16-8.
Huber will anchor the 132 pound slot.
Sophomore Jordan Stelter is a three year varsity wrestler who Wirtjes says has stepped up his abilities each and every year. He had a 19-19 record last season.
Stelter will be the team’s 138 pounder.
Third year varsity wrestler Mike Ankeny, a junior, had a 23-16 record last season.
“Mike is very competitive and works very hard,” Wirtjes says. “He is a quiet leader and we look for him to do good things this year.”
Ankeny is the front runner for the 145-pound spot, but he is going to be pushed by sophomore Tannor Wolf, Wirtjes says.
At the 152 pound slot, junior Luke Schavey has to trim down from 170 pounds for the position. Schavey was 25-13 last season for the Bucs.
“Luke was a conference champ last year,” Wirtjes recalls. “He really came on at the end of the season.”
Backing up Schavey is sophomore Kolt Gorg. Gorg had just one win for the Bucs last year, but it was a big one against United South Central, the coach notes.
Wirtjes says he has no final decision about the 160 pound and 170 pound spots, but he has two of his better wrestlers to use there.
Buc seniors Gus Phillips and David Franta will be the two to wrestle at those weights. Phillips had a 29-8 record last year, while Franta was 29-9.
“It is just a little too early in the year to decide who will be in those two weights,” Wirtjes says.
Phillips is a two time state tournament entrant and is a wrestler who can score from any point on the mat, Wirtjes says, calling him a pinner.
Franta is one of the team leaders, the coach notes.
“David is a great leader, he leads by example,” Wirtjes says. “The kids all look up to him.”
Junior Jacob Johnson will be the Bucs’ 182 pounder this year. He will be pushed by Jared Armon, a ninth grader.
Seniors Ritter and Gustafson fill the 195 and 220 pound spots.
At 285 pounds the Bucs have an experienced junior in Martin Granados to rely on.
Granados was 28-7 last year and has been a great wrestler for BEA since he was in eighth grade.
“He was close to going to state last year,” Wirtjes says. “He is a pinner, and he is a great closer for us.”
The Buccaneer mentor says the team also has a lot of talented seventh and eighth graders on the team and that some of them could be “added into the mix” as the season progresses.
“It all depends who wants to be where,” he notes. “And we need to stay healthy.”
The Bucs will find out how good they are right away by facing a good USC Rebels team in the first meet on Dec. 5 in Wells. They were the top section seed last year and have a lot of good pinners on their team, Wirtjes says.
Just two days later will be the Dick Maher Invitational at Blue Earth Area on Dec. 7.
“We didn’t have too many wrestlers compete in that meet last year, due to the State Football Tournament,” Wirtjes says. “We kept the football players out of that tourney, since they only had a few days practice.”
Besides USC, the coach expects Jackson County Central and New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva to also be tough.
“We plan to be right there on that list,” he quickly adds.
In the conference the coach sees a lot of strong competition.
“We are the reigning conference champs, but the other schools have some good teams,” Wirtjes says. “St. Peter might be the toughest team in the SCC, but St. James and Fairmont will be good, also.”
It all comes down to staying healthy all year and continuing to get better.
“We need to improve a little each day,” the Buc coach says. “We have some really good depth on the team and we have some experienced wrestlers.”
Plus, there are a lot of leaders on the Buccaneers’ team both players and coaches.
Besides Wirtjes, the team returns its solid core of dedicated assistant coaches. Those include Dave Pfaffinger and Tim Blagg and volunteers Travis Krinkie and Paul Carlson.
“We have a great group of guys on this year’s team,” Wirtjes adds. “I’m really looking forward to this season starting.”