Wrestlers open in Ft. Pierre on Saturday
By Jay Davis
The Tiger wrestling team opens the winter sports schedule at the Stanley County Tournament on Saturday in Ft. Pierre.
The Tigers start the season 12 strong with a mix of veterans and new blood.
“We have our core kids,” said coach Spencer Novotny. “We’ll be looking to them for leadership.”
That core includes two wrestlers who competed in the state tournament last season in juniors David Jensen and Chase Schoenhard. Also returning to this year’s squad are senior Brett Lang and sophomores Jaden Madison, Bray Harrison and Killian Warner.
Joining the squad are juniors Justin Nobles and foreign exchange student Andrea Murri, sophomores Joseph Avalos and Quinten Fish and freshman Dalton Martian and Trace Rische.
There is a large group of middle school wrestlers, 25 in fact, that may be fighting for some varsity spots in the not-too-distant future.
Novotny said he will not be taking any middle school wrestlers to Ft. Pierre this weekend or to Linton in two weeks, but some may wrestle in Faulkton on Dec. 14.
“The kids are going to have to earn their way up to varsity,” said Novotny.
Before more on the youngsters, six wrestlers returning from last season had some pretty good success. The problem will be in finding different weight classes for them to compete in. Right now Schoenhard and Jensen are both wrestling at 195 pounds. With Lang solidified at 220, one of the returning state qualifiers will have to work his way down to the 182-pound division. Madison and Harrison are both wrestling at 132 and will have to decide which is going to go up or down a weight.
“We’ll have to move around in some weight classes,” said Novotny. “That’s usually how it seems to be.”
Schoenhard had the most successful season last year. He went 27-12, while winning tournaments in Webster, Faulkton and Stanley County. He also took second in Gettysburg, third in Winner and the Big Dakota, sixth at the Mid-Dakota Monster and seventh in the Lee Wolf Invitational in Aberdeen. He qualified for state by taking fourth at the Region 4B tournament.
Jensen earned his trip to state with the same fourth-place finish at the regional. He ran up a 25-13 record with a first-place finish at Faulkton, second-place finishes at Stanley County and Winner, third-place finishes at Webster and the Big Dakota and sixth at the Mid-Dakota Monster.
Madison and Harrison each had 19 wins and were just one different in losses.
Madison was 19-22 and placed second in Winner, third in Webster, fourth in Gettysburg and seventh in Ft. Pierre.
Harrison was 19-23, while taking second in Gettysburg, third in Faulkton and seventh at Stanley County.
Lang went 12-16 last season and placed in five tournaments. He took second in Winner, third in Faulkton, fourth in Webster, fifth at the Lee Wolf and sixth at the Mid-Dakota Monster.
In his first year in the Tiger wrestling program, Warner learned about the sport and fought for a 5-29 record.
Of the newcomers, Murri has plenty wrestling experience, but very little in folk-style wrestling. At home in Rome, Murri has wrestled freestyle for three years. Novotny said Murri is good on his feet, but has to learn a lot of adjustments to wrestling the American high school style.
The Tigers have eliminated the Lemmon meet that has been the team’s season opener the last few seasons, so the always-tough Stanley County Invitational will be the team’s first competition of the season.
Novotny said he expects the tournament to be tougher this year than it was last season when seven wrestlers placed in the top eight. It is a number that can be attained again, but the Tigers will have their work cut out for them.
“We’re going to find out what’s what,” said Novotny. “There are going to be a lot of ranked kids there.”
After hosting three meets last season, the Tigers will have to spend almost the entirety of this season on the road. The only home meet will be Jan. 21 when the Tigers host Ipswich-Leola, Stanley County and Lemmon-McIntosh at the Mobridge-Pollock Quadrangular.
On Jan 7, the upgrade of the schedule continues with the Milbank Quadrangular. Meets the Tigers hosted last year are in Faulkton and Linton this season.
Along with the season opener, the Tigers will wrestling tournaments in Faulkton, Linton, Webster, Presho (Mid-Dakota Monster), Gettysburg, Winner, Aberdeen and the Big Dakota Conference Tournament in Ft. Pierre.