Ridgewater and Northland Pull The Plug on 2020-2021

By Matt Krumrie

It’s not the type of start new Ridgewater College wrestling coach Joey Brown expected when he took over the wrestling program in May of 2020. But, it’s still 2020, and things are far from normal. So nothing is a surprise.

In mid-November, Ridgewater College and Northland Community and Technical College announced that all winter athletics programs, including wrestling, would be suspended due to growing concerns over the Coronavirus. Ridgewater also canceled spring sports for this season.

“Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges it presents, our season has been suspended,” said Brown. “We would have had a very young team that had one returning wrestler from last year (285-pound national qualifier Charlie Farhat of Willmar). I came on in late May to take over the rebuild of our program, and we got off to a great start adding 12 first-year guys to the roster. We were excited because we would have filled a full varsity lineup for the upcoming season. Once we got word the season was not going to happen for us, we met with our guys and supported them in the option to move on. About half of the guys decided to move on, and one is going to graduate in the spring.”

Northland had a strong team ready to compete in the MCAC and NJCAA this season. “I respect the fact that this was a difficult decision for our institution to cancel winter sports,” said Northland wrestling coach Scott DCamp. “I don’t agree with it, however, because I feel like we had a plan in place that would have allowed us to attend classes, practice, and compete in a safe manner.”

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Can the Mustangs Take It to the Next Level?

By Matt Krumrie

The Southwest Minnesota State University wrestling team heads into the 2020-2021 season with youthful experience. That is an odd combination for many teams, but that’s what you get when you have a team that returns eight regulars with only one senior in the group. Of those eight returnees, five are sophomores, and two are juniors.

“We are a young but experienced team,” said head coach Jesse Nelson, now in his 14th season as head coach of the Mustangs. “This team has great leadership as well. If we can stay healthy, it should be an exciting year.”

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Despite Losing A Lot, Auggies Have High Expectations For 2021

By Matt Krumrie

It was another outstanding season on the mat for the Augsburg University wrestling team in 2019-2020. The Auggies dominated the Upper Midwest Regional and qualified eight wrestlers for the NCAA Division III national championships.

The Auggies entered DIII nationals ranked No. 1 in the nation, but there was no storybook ending to this Augsburg wrestling season, as the coronavirus led to the cancellation of the DIII NCAA championships, leaving many questions unanswered and several wrestlers without an opportunity to finish out their careers with a run at another team or individual championships.

Despite the heartbreaking end to the season, eight Augsburg wrestlers earned NWCA All-American honors. Because there was no national tournament, the NWCA named an 80-member NWCA All-America First Team, with eight individuals named in each weight class. All 80 were among the top eight seeds in each weight class that was scheduled to wrestle at the NCAA Division III National Championships in March before it was canceled. An additional 50 wrestlers were named to the NWCA All-America Second Team, and 50 more were named to the NWCA All-America Third Team. Traditionally, the top eight finishers in each weight class earn All-America honors at NCAA wrestling championships.

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High School Class AAA Preview

Section 1

Teams that comprise Section 1 are as follows: Albert Lea Area, Austin, Faribault, Farmington, Northfield, Owatonna, Rochester Century, Rochester Mayo, Rochester John Marshall, and Winona/Winona Cotter. Joel Messick is the new head coach for Rochester Century. This section has 15 returning state entrants, three returning placewinners, including one finalist, Landen Johnson of Owatonna. The team race will come down to three teams: Farmington, Northfield, and Owatonna. Teams that are clear underdogs are Albert Lea, Rochester Mayo, and Winona/Winona Cotter.

Owatonna has a lot of talent returning. The Huskies have nine returning starters, all with winning records with wins from 23 up to 48 wins from last season. Landen Johnson was a finalist last season and Cael Robb placed 4th in St. Paul. Junior Yves Evillard surprised some by punching his ticket to the state tournament. I’m sure head coach Adam Woitalla wasn’t surprised at all. Seniors Owen Thorn, Matt Seykora, Chase Dallman, and Kaden Nelson should bring a ton of experience. Juniors Jacob Reinardy and Kanin Hable will also add to Owatonna’s success.

Coach Geoff Staab’s Northfield Raiders will be a strong team again this season. They will be led by state entrants Chase Murphy, Beau Murphy, and Sam Holman. Nick Lopez and Gavin Anderson will provide their senior leadership. Junior Jake Messner recorded 45 wins last season and should be contending for a win in all of the Raiders duals. Underclassmen Nickolas Mikula and Jayce Barron will need to perform if Northfield is to win the section title.

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High School Class AA Preview

Class AA: A Different Adventure

A lot of things will be different this wrestling season, but in Class AA, a lot of things will remain the same. COVID-19 precautions will make for a season unlike any other, but at the end of the day, look for Simley to once again dominate the competition. The Spartans return seven state finalists and twelve starters from their 2020 state championship team. Four of those finalists won individual state titles. Simley simply looks unbeatable. It seems the only chance they would have of not winning the state title is if there is not a state meet this year.

The global COVID pandemic is going to change what this season looks like. No decisions have been made about the post-season at this point. Anything from a normal tournament series to no section or state competition is possible. For the fall sports, no individual or team state tournaments were held. Girls tennis had team sections, but not individual sections. Anything is possible. I think it is likely that we could have a team state tournament but no individual state tournament. The Minnesota State High School League has indicated they will make decisions about the wrestling post-season at their December 3rd board meeting.

We do have more answers regarding the regular season. Competition will start on December 10th and finish up by February 13th. The big news for this season is that there will not be any Friday or Saturday tournaments. Only dual meets or triangular meets will occur. That is a big change from years past. For the last thirty years, tournaments have been where our wrestlers and teams have sought out the level of competition they are looking for. With only 16 competition dates and 32 total matches per wrestler, this year will certainly give this season a retro 1970s feel.

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High School Class A Preview

Section 1A

Favorites: GMLOS Bulldogs and Chatfield Gophers

Dark Horses: Dover-Eyota Eagles and Zumbrota-Mazeppa Cougars

The Bulldogs of GMLOS look to be a big favorite as they have everyone back from their 23-5 dual meet campaign. No one graduated from their team; they have ten section placewinners, including eight state qualifiers, of which three were state placewinners. They will have 13 others back with a wide range of experience. Look for the Bulldogs to continue to build on their state tourney experience, where they did drop a pair of very close duals. If they continue to improve through the course of the season, they could be a challenge for anyone in Class A. Their key leaders should include Anthony Romero (44-4) 2nd State, Noah Sayles (43-6) 5th State, Cameron Sneed (33-12) 2nd Section, Rece Voigt (41-11) 2nd Section, Daniel Smith (20-8) 6th State, Donavon Felten (41-9) 3rd Section, Christian Jacobsen (42-7) 3rd Section, Lucas Winfield (29-18) 2nd Section, Cohen Wiste (39-6) 2nd Section, and James Jacobson (22-23) 2nd Section.

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Driven to Win by a Hatred of Losing – Chase DeBlaere

Athletes say they hate to lose more than they like to win, so it is often almost like a cliché. I don’t always believe it. I feel like some athletes say it because it is what they think they are supposed to say. When I talked to two-time state champion Chase DeBlaere, I didn’t get that feeling. When DeBlaere told me how much he hates losing – I believed him.

Wrestling is in DeBlaere’s DNA.

“My dad wrestled in high school in Arizona,” DeBlaere said. “By the time I came around, he got me into wrestling. We moved to Michigan, and I started wrestling.”

DeBlaere didn’t just stroll onto a mat and start winning. He found out about losing early.

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