Young but talented
Blue Earth Area Buccaneer wrestling coach Randy Wirtjes has some high goals for his team this year.
But, then, Wirtjes always has the same goals every year.
“We want to be competitive in every match we are in,” Wirtjes says. “Then our goal is to win the Big South Conference title, and finally, to qualify for state. That is our goal every year.”
In order for that to happen, the coach is going to have to have a few younger wrestlers step up and he thinks they will.
Seven starting varsity wrestlers from last year’s team will not be on the squad this season, either due to graduation or other issues.
But Wirtjes is not worried about fielding a top-notch lineup, from lower weights up to heavyweight.
“We have a real nice mix of experienced upper classmen, down to some younger kids,” Wirtjes says. “And some of our younger wrestlers have spent some quality time on the mat.”
With 40 boys out from seventh grade up to seniors, the Buc mentor has a lot to choose from.
While he does not yet have a set lineup, he is working on his slate of wrestlers for each weight.
At 106 pounds, sophomore twin brothers Jacob and Caleb Beeler, seventh grader Cooper Ochsendorf and freshman Ty Peterson, are all vying for the spot.
At 113 pounds, sophomore Davis Sunken and seventh grader Parker Meyers are in contention.
Sophomore Jack Frundt and seventh grader Nick Nelson are on the slate for the 120 pound slot.
At 126 pounds, it is freshman Max Ehrich listed as the starter.
C.J. German, a junior, and Koby Nagel, a sophomore are contending for the 132 pound spot.
Senior Joe Schavey is listed at 138 pounds, sophomore Jaxsen Klinkner at 145, senior Rylee McGuire at 152, senior Zach Buseman at 160, junior Akeira Morrow at 170, junior Dominic Whitlow at 182 and senior Jordan Huse at 195.
Junior Isaac Martinez is at 220 pounds, backed up by Stendsay Weringa, a freshman.
And, anchoring the team at heavyweight is senior Trevor Oppedal.
Wirtjes begins his 15th year as the Buccaneer head coach. He started at Blue Earth as an assistant in the 1989-90 season, after having been at Elmore High School for two years before that. In 2002 he became BEA’s head coach.
He is assisted this year by Dave Pfaffinger, Tim Blagg, Dan Eckhardt and volunteer Terry Ochsendorf.
Last year the Buccaneers sported a 20-5 season record, went 6-0 in the BSC and were the overall conference champions.
“We went from being a very experienced team last year to a pretty inexperienced team this year,” coach Wirtjes says. “However, we have the talent on the team, we just need to have people step up, and I believe they will.”
The coach says the BSC is again very competitive.
“It is always a tough conference,” he says. “Fairmont will be very good, so will Worthington, Pipestone and St. Peter; all are always strong, and there is good balance throughout the conference. We plan to be right in there with the rest. I think on any given night, any team can win.”
Wirtjes says what the Bucs need to do is win the close meets.
“We need to sneak out a few wins in the close ones,” he explains. “We need to wrestle tough and finish strong. We have been doing extra conditioning just for that reason.”
The coach says the team had a good summer camp.
“We went to the Wartburg (College) camp and did great,” the coach says. “The guys did very well. And they did well in football and that always carries over to wrestling.”
The Bucs started their season this past Thursday night when they traveled over to Wells to take on cross-county rival the United South Central Rebels. Wirtjes says the Rebels are always very competitive.
Then, on Saturday, Dec. 2, the Bucs hosted their own Buccaneer-Dick Maher Invitational Wrestling Meet.
“The Maher Tournament is always a good measuring stick of where we are at the beginning of the season,” Wirtjes says. “There are some real quality teams there, like Lake Mills, Brainerd and Maple River. Brainerd has won the tournament several times.”
The coach says how the Bucs do on Saturday will show the coaches what they need to work on.
“It helps us figure out what to improve on,” he says. “And if something went good, well then, we know to keep doing it.”
The Buc coach adds that while they have lost some good wrestlers they have the kids to replace them.
“It is surprising, but we always have those who step up, and step up big,” Wirtjes says. “And we have several on this team who can do just that. I am very pleased with the kids we have out.”