The I’s of the Tigers – Blaine Wrestling

After the turn of the century, the Blaine Bengals wrestling program was in a holding pattern. The team was winning some matches, but expectations were not to win conference championships or state titles. What Blaine needed was a spark. In 2011 that came – in part – in the form of a young wrestling coach named Josh Prokosch. Prokosch, his staff, and a group of parents who were ready to get involved started the process of bringing the program to places it had not been in years.

Before Prokosch had any designs of sparking a high school wrestling program – he had to find his way onto a wrestling mat.

“I grew up in St. Paul and wasn’t really involved in sports,” Prokosch said. “(In junior high) I just kind of found myself in the wrestling room. I was never pushed into it by my parents. They never really played sports growing up. Wrestling wasn’t a big sport where I grew up. I loved professional wrestling as a kid, so it sounded fun. I walked into the room and fell in love with what wrestling actually was.”

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50 Years of Putting the Team First – Goodhue Wrestling

The Goodhue Wildcats wrestling program has had a total of two head coaches for the last 50 years. Part of the reason former Goodhue wrestling coach Bill Sutter – who amassed the fourth-most wins in the history of Minnesota high school wrestling – had the success he had was his commitment to – above all else – the team. The commitment to the team has continued with Goodhue’s coach for over a decade, Josh Grant.

“For over fifty years – between Sutter’s 39 years and my eleven years, you are talking about 50 years of the team and preaching teamwork to a group of young men,” Grant said. “I think that is something to be proud of.”

The only team Grant was interested in as a kid was the basketball team.

“I was a farm kid. Wrestling wasn’t anything I was even aware of, and I was playing basketball in 7th grade,” Grant said. “We had a new health and PE teacher who went on a recruiting mission. I remember Coach Bill McDonald came up to me and said, ‘You look strong, but you also look pretty short. You should come out for wrestling.’ At the time, I had never seen amateur wrestling. I had visions of Hulk Hogan. So, I joined wrestling. I couldn’t be more grateful to Coach McDonald because wrestling has obviously had a big impact on my life.”

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High School Class AAA Preview

Section 1

Section 1 teams are the same as last year. They include Albert Lea Area, Austin, Faribault, Farmington, Northfield, Owatonna, Rochester Century, Rochester Mayo, Rochester John Marshall, and Winona/Winona Cotter. This section has seen no changes in the head coaching positions from the 2018-2019 season. Last season saw second-seeded Northfield defeat Owatonna in the section final with an impressive final score of 36-22. It would seem that Northfield and Owatonna will battle for the section title again. But, don’t count out Farmington. Coaches Olson and Gerten have four returning state entrants.

Northfield head coach, Geoff Staab, is going to rely on 11 returning starters, including three state place winners in Drew Woodley, Chase Murphy, and Jake Messner. The Raiders will also rely on the senior leadership of Jack Holman, Ethan Johnson, and David Tonjum. Underclassmen that will continue to contribute are Sam Holman, Mason Pagel, David Kuyper, and Nick Lopez, who will look to repeat as a state entrant.

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High School Class AA Preview

Class AA: It is a Numbers Game

Numbers do not win wrestling meets. Winning only comes on the mat, but the numbers Simley brings back as they aim to defend their 2019 state title are pretty impressive. Seven state place winners return for the Spartans. That is seven of the fourteen weight classes in which long-time coach Will Short will be able to pencil in a state placewinner.

Kasson-Mantorville, the state team champions in 2017 and 2018, will be back to challenge Simley with three returning state champions of their own. Both teams are grouped together again in Section 1AA, so the state title may once again be decided in Rochester’s Mayo Civic Center on February 15. Here is a look at the “Dirty Dozen”, the top twelve preseason teams in Class AA:

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High School Class A Preview

Section 1A

Favorites: Dover-Eyota Eagles and GMLOS Bulldogs

Dark Horses: Chatfield Gophers and Goodhue Wildcats

The Eagles look to be the favorites with nine section place winners, including one state qualifier and seven others with a range of experience. They graduated four seniors last spring, including three section place winners, two of which earned state honors. The Eagles put up 14-8 dual meet marks last season. They are still a young team overall, so look for them to continue to improve throughout the season. They were a top-four seed and were defeated by Caledonia in the quarters in a very close dual meet. They should make a strong challenge for section honors. Their key leaders should include Taylor DeFrang (41-8), who earned fourth place state honors, Gavin Gust (38-10), Brody Kellen (38-10), Trenton Theisen (23-17), Reece Lemke (20-18) and Tyler Shea (20-22).

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Weighty Decisions

By Brian Jerzak

Lakeville North senior Bryce Benhart didn’t have to wrestle his senior year. A lot of high school athletes that I have talked to in a similar situation decide not to continue to be a multi-sport athlete. They choose to focus on the sport they will be playing in college. What makes Benhart’s story even more interesting is very few high school athletes – while in similar situations – had as much at stake as the Panthers’ senior. Well before the 2018-19 high school wrestling season has started, Benhart knew he had a football scholarship to the University of Nebraska waiting for him.

Despite the obvious chances he was taking, the benefits of continuing with wrestling, the opportunity to become a state champion and a brief conversation with one of Minnesota’s most successful high school wrestlers convinced Benhart to decide to get back on the mat for one more season.

“I started both wrestling and football in third grade,” Benhart said.

Benhart was motivated to be the best football player he could be from an early age.

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It Just Keeps Growing – Marshall Wrestling

By Brian Jerzak

With numbers beginning to dwindle, the Marshall wrestling program was starting to slide. Although never considered a state power, the Tigers had competitive teams and some solid wrestlers, but around the time head coach Justin Bouwman took over, the program was starting a decline. To start the program on the road back, Bouwman threw himself into the youth program, and once the youth got some footing, there was no stopping them. Tigers’ wrestling has reached a level never seen in the programs’ history.

“It was about getting out and being seen – talking to high school kids, talking to junior high kids,” Bouwman said. “I was getting in with the youth program. I had a young son, so it was easy for me to jump in right away and it was easy to put my face and brand on things. I think the parents liked that I was involved and through word of mouth people started to get involved. We started to get numbers in the youth program, and it just kept growing.”

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