Area wrestlers compete at Elk River Invite
Elk River High School hosted its 14th annual Elk River Wrestling Invite on Jan. 12, bringing together 15 teams. Hutchinson, Prior Lake and Wayzata claimed the top-three spots, while the Royals, Elks and Thunder finished fifth, ninth and 14th, respectively.
“I am not sure but this was probably one of the biggest invites we have had,” Elks head coach Bryan Kulm said about the invite. “The tournament ran pretty smoothly. The team, parents and other volunteers did a great job with setup, running the tournament and cleanup.”
Tyler Benson and Lafayette Bade led the way for the Elks, finishing second place at 152 and 220 pounds, respectively. Elk River also had three other placewinners: Colton Pool (third at 120), Colton Strain (fourth at 138) and Eli Williams (fifth at 113). Overall, the Elks scored 90 points.
The Elks were coming off a wrestling meet against Anoka on the previous day, losing 41-18, but raising $793.50 for the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund as part of Takedown Cancer Night.
“It was kind of a crazy night as it was Youth/Alumni Night and also Takedown Cancer Night,” Kulm said. “Our Booster Club President Tom Osberg does a great job each year with this. Fans from both teams really supported the effort and we raised over $790. I know historically we have raised a great deal of money for Takedown Cancer. There are a lot of good people in the wrestling community and it showed on Friday as Anoka fans and Elk River fans chipped in to make the event a success.”
Rogers had five wrestlers place in the top-five in their weight classes, including Max Ricks (third at 106), Sam Essendrup (fourth at 120), Wil Yasseri (second at 145), Nolan Erickson (fourth at 160) and Donovan Skawiniak (fifth at 195). They scored 109.5 points in a fifth-place finish.
“Our team wrestled all right,” said Rogers head coach Jacob Kolar, whose team extended their perfect dual meet record to 5-0 with a 46-27 win over Monticello on Jan. 10. “Taking fifth out of 15 teams is a great accomplishment, but I think we could have done better.”
As for Zimmerman, Joe Gardas was the lone Thunder wrestler to record a top-five finish, placing third at 138 pounds. Joe Montplaisir came in sixth at 120 pounds. Like Elk River, Zimmerman competed the previous day, defeating Pine City, Rush City and Crosby-Ironton in a quadrangular.
Hutchinson had an invite-high 194.5 points, scoring over 40 points more than runner-up Prior Lake, who had 149.5 points.
Gardas, Kohner place third for Thunder
Zimmerman’s Joe Gardas and Trent Kohner were bright spots in a 14th place finish at the Rogers Holiday Matness.
Gardas placed third in the 138-pound weight class, defeating Elk River’s Colton Strain 10-2 in the third-place match, while Kohner followed suit, besting Park Center’s Gbolahan Oyetunde by fall in the 182-pound weight class third-place match
“Those two wrestled really well,” Thunder head coach Pat Burch said. “They both had real tough semifinal matches against kids who have been to state, so it was good to see how they matched up with them, and then they came back through wrestle backs and won third pretty handedly so they had good days.”
The Thunder placed 14th with 40 points, but only was able to dress five varsity wrestlers due to a plethora of injuries. Already, Zimmerman lost junior captain Will Pouliot for the season with a shoulder injury and have been without a pair of their best wrestlers in brothers Joe and Jack Montplaisir. Burch expects the Montplaisir brothers to be back soon, while he’s looking to get a few more wrestlers back from minor injuries as well.
Zimmerman is 1-6 in an injury plagued start to the season, but Burch said they’ve been competitive in most of their meets and at full strength, they’ve been able to field near a full lineup – something that hasn’t been the case in previous seasons.
“We’re doing alright. We got a lot of kids out,” Burch said about the team’s start to the season. “But we’ve had a lot of close duals, lost a lot of duals by just a point or 2, so we’re very competitive, which is good. We pretty much fill a full squad, which we haven’t done in a lot of years, so it’s making duals a lot more fun. When we get a couple of our kids back that are a couple of our better wrestlers that have been out for almost a month now. ... we should start to get to where we win some of those close duals."
Beyond getting healthy, Burch said he just wants his team to continue to improve, as they look to advance a few wrestlers to the state tournament this season. Gardas, who’s 13-2 on the season, is an early favorite to contend for a spot at state, while Kohner (4-3), Aiden Pardino (13-7) and the Montplaisir brothers also look to be competitive at sections.
“We’re just working on getting better every day. We got 3 or 4 kids that goals are to get to the state tournament at section time in February,” Burch said. “So we just treat this stuff in December and January as practice for the big events that happen in February. So taking a loss here in December isn’t the end of the world, you can learn from it and get better.”
Zimmerman wrestling falls to Onamia
The Zimmerman wrestling team faced off against Onamia in their home opener on Dec. 6, losing a back-and-forth battle 42-41. The Thunder tried to rebound at the Big Lake Invite a day later, but took 10th of 11 teams. Top wrestlers for the Thunder included: Joe Montplaisir (sixth at 120), Jack Montplaisir (sixth at 126), Brandon Schnellman (sixth at 138), Ryan Bouley (fourth at 160), Aiden Pardino (fourth at 182) and Donald Peters (fifth at 195).
Last Year: 5-8
Head Coach: Pat Burch
Assistant Coach: Mark Hayes
Captains: Will Pouliot, Trent Kohner, Joe Montplaisir
Key Losses: Justin Robinson
Key Returners: Brandon Schnellman, Will Pouilot, Trent Kohner, Cody Frederick, Dustin Dittberner, Sam Freeberg, Joe Montplaisir, Joe Gardas, Jack Montplaisir
Potential Breakout Players: Jaden Merry, Ryan Bouley, Steven Weiser, Eli Stellmach, Kellen Martin, Aiden Pardino
Coach Says: “We went 5-8 on varsity as a team last year with some nice wins down the stretch over North Branch, Robbinsdale Armstrong and Monticello. Our kids excelled at the JV level all year and a lot of them will be ready this year to start winning more consistently on the varsity level. Our numbers have grown over the last couple years. Three years ago, we only had 13-14 high school wrestlers on the team. This year we will have 25-30 and as a coaching staff, we are really excited to watch these guys compete this year and hopefully get a few of them to the state tournament.”
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