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Wrestlers are ready to hit the mat

Team looks to build on success of last year’s third place finish at the MN?State Tournament

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | Jan 17, 2021

The Blue Earth Area wrestling team is coming off of a very good 2019-2020 season in which the team took third in the State Tournament. This year’s team includes front row, left to right: Cale Borris, Angel Martinez, Cooper Peterson, Caleb Langager, Carson Sturtz, Brody Anderson, Blair Lunz, Kade Gordon. Middle row: Parker Meyers, Gabe Smith, Mateus Sanchez, Nick Nelson, Ty Peterson, Adam Schavey, Kean Hicks, Max Ehrich. Back row: Luke Mertens, Cory Kitchel, Ian Cornelio, Nick Frank, Logan Johnson, Kale Frank.

Randy Wirtjes begins his 20th year at the helm of the Blue Earth Area wrestling program with 32 grapplers ready to take to the mat and get the season underway.

He and his assistants Dave Pfaffinger, Tim Blagg, Dan Eckhardt, Jake Lee and volunteer assistant Jake Wirtjes have a nice size squad to work with.

“We have six seniors, six juniors, 11 sophomores, six freshmen, one eighth and one seventh grader currently on the team,” Wirtjes comments.

The Bucs are coming off of a very successful 2019-2020 season which saw the team finish with a 24-6 overall record, win the Section Team Tournament and then take third place in the Minnesota State Tournament. Seven individuals also qualified for State.

“We lost five really good wrestlers who graduated last year,” Wirtjes says. “They scored a lot of points for the team.”

While they will miss those five seniors, Wirtjes notes the Bucs have many good wrestlers returning this year.

“We will be a little inexperienced this year, especially at the lighter weights,” he notes. “We will have guys with more experience wrestling at the heavier weights this year which is different than it has been in a while.”

It is part of what makes every year a challenge, the coach says.

“The guys at the lighter weights will have to step up and improve as the season goes on,” Wirtjes comments. “We have more depth at the upper weights and can move some people around if we need to.”

The Bucs have three wrestlers returning who made it to the State Tournament last year.

“Max Ehrich placed fourth last year and Ty Peterson and Luke Mertens also made it to State,” Wirtjes says. “Nick Frank took third at Section in a really tough weight bracket so it is nice to have those seniors back.”

Wirtjes has Peterson down to begin the season wrestling at 138 pounds. Ehrich is a 160 pounder. Frank will weigh in at 185 pounds and Mertens at 220.

The other two seniors on the team are Logan Johnson, who was injured early in the season last year and looks to wrestle at 195 pounds this year, and 285-pound wrestler Ian Cornelio.

Juniors on the squad are Kean Hicks and Elijah Sanchez at 170 pounds, Adam Schavey at 182, Kale Frank at 195, Brody Anderson at 132 and Gabe Smith at 145.

The sophomores are Parker Meyers at 145 pounds, Carson Sturtz at 113, Angel Martinez, Kryen Sunken and Blair Lunz at 126, Cale Borris at 106, Nick Nelson at 152, Mateus Sanchez at 138, Zach Benson and Anthony Vargas at 285. The final sophomore is Gordy Bruellman who is currently injured.

The six freshman include Caleb Langager at 113 pounds, Kade Gaydon at 182, Ethan Oppedal at 132, Cory Kitchel at 145, Ben Anderson at 120 and Cooper Peterson at 106.

Cole Beyer, an eighth grader, is at 120 pounds. Seventh grader Timmy Nagel will wrestle in the 106-pound weight bracket.

“We have great leadership from our senior wrestlers,” Wirtjes says. “They work hard and set good examples for the younger guys.”

The season schedule allows the team to wrestle in 16 events and a maximum of two per week.

“The plan is to wrestle in two triangulars per week which could give starting wrestlers four matches a week and a total of 32 matches during the season, which is the maximum any wrestler can have before Section tournaments would begin,” Wirtjes explains. “We do not have all of the details on what post-season wrestling will look like. It does appear there will be no Big South Conference Tournament.”

There will also be some changes in refereeing.

“The refs are not allowed to touch the wrestlers,” Wirtjes says, “So at the end of the meet the ref will raise his hand with the wristband of the wrestler who won and the winning wrestler will raise his own hand.”

It will not be a traditional season.

“It is too bad we have had to make these changes,” Wirtjes comments. “But I can understand why and at least we get to wrestle.”