Wrestlers have new faces mixed with experience
By Jay Davis
The new Tiger wrestling team is an eclectic group. The team has six seniors and five juniors, but at the same time has a bounty of wrestlers with little experience.
“We have a lot of old kids this year,” said coach Spencer Novotny. “Old and inexperienced.”
That is a bit of an exaggeration as three returning seniors qualified for the state tournament last year and another was well on his way before suffering an injury. On the other hand, the team has one senior and four juniors who are new to the wrestling team.
Seniors Teddy Lopez and Brady Spiry return with state meet experience. Jayson Van Vugt qualified, but did not wrestle at the tournament. Daniel Hintz (who is injured again) could not compete in the postseason after suffering a broken jaw last year.
The returning seniors will be the leaders of this year’s squad. Spiry was 27-17 and Lopez was 24-20. Both won a match at state last fall. Spiry is slated to wrestle at 195, Lopez at 182. Van Vugt went 13-10 and will wrestle at 170. Hintz, if his shoulder injury (and subsequent surgery) is healed in time for a late-season comeback, will return from a 22-17 record last season.
“Our upper weights will be the meat of our lineup,” said Novotny.
Also returning from last season are: senior Grant Brewer, 8-33, 152 pounds; junior Brett Lang, 3-4, 285; sophomore David Jensen, 17-28, 170; freshman Jaden Madison, 8-26, 120; freshman Bray Harrison, 1-6, 113; and freshman Killian Warner, 0-2, 145.
“Some of the younger guys, this could be their year,” said Novotny.
That brings us to the newcomers. Senior Taten Rau, juniors Bryan Merkel, Jordan Feist, Connor Stoick and Austin Borah and sophomore Chase Schoenhard (missed freshman season due to injury) are all starting their wrestling careers.
The wealth of new blood has slowed early season progress, but only because extra teaching has replaced some of the time used for conditioning.
“We’re not quite where we want to be with conditioning,” said Novotny. “But with the new kids, we’re spending more time with technique.”
One of Novotny’s key areas of work has been to get his charges to excel in attacking opponents.
“We have to get more aggressive,” said Novotny.
The Tigers will jumpstart the season with their annual trip to the Stanley County Invitational on Saturday. While this will be the season opener for some, it will be career beginner for others.
“This tourney will be a learning experience for a lot of guys,” said Novotny.
Starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, the Tigers will be competing against host Stanley County, Cheyenne-Eagle Butte/Dupree, Potter County, Burke-Gregory, Lemmon-McIntosh, Lyman, Newell, Sully Buttes, Spearfish/Lead-Deadwood and Todd County.
This year’s home schedule will be another two-meets-in-three-days affair. The Tigers will host Lemmon-McIntosh, Ipswich-Leola and Stanley County on Tuesday, Jan. 15 and host Linton-HMB, Sully Buttes and Faulkton Area on Thursday, Jan. 17. The tournament schedule will include dates at Faulkton, Linton, Gettysburg, Webster, Lyman, Winner, Aberdeen, Groton and the Big Dakota Conference in Ft. Pierre. The Tigers will wrestle quads in Highmore and Lemmon.
A new date has been added to the schedule and it is a throwback, as the Tigers will travel to Gettysburg on Dec. 20 for a dual meet with Potter County.
Novotny and the Tigers will have to get a few matches under their belts before they know where they stand and what it will take to have a successful season and postseason, but overall goals will remain the same. Every wrestler will have his sights set on earning a trip to the state tournament.
“Same dream, new faces,” said Novotny.