From 2005 to 2011, Sturgis and Rapid City Stevens dominated South Dakota Class A wrestling sharing seven titles between them with the Scoopers claiming five titles (2005-07, 2009-10) and Stevens winning twice (2008, 2011).
The 2017-18 season might see the return of a West River school on the top step of the podium come Feb. 24 at the Sanford Center in Sioux Falls according to Pierre coach Shawn Lewis, a guy who knows a little about impressive streaks having won the last three state Class A titles--and five of the last six.
“I definitely think this could be the year,” Lewis said. “Rapid City Stevens and Sturgis are going to have great squads as maybe we are switching a little bit back to the West power that dominated in the past”
The numbers game certainly favor Stevens as the Raiders return ten 2016 state qualifiers including seven state place finishers from last year’s 4th place Raider squad. Defending 126 pound state champion Spencer Stockman heads up a talented group of seniors including Dante Colicheski (42-10, and 2nd at 170), Cody BeVier (33-8, 2nd at 120) and Brandon Sharkey (31-17, 7th at 145).
“Those four guys are all Raiders and have been since they were little kids,” Raider Coach Travis King said. “And with them we have eight seniors coming back all of whom will be big contributors.”
Other Raider state place finishers returning include juniors Hunter McMath (21-20, 7th at 195), Cody Stockman (31-15, 6th at 106) and sophomore Cooper Voorhees (33-15, 8th at 138).
“We do have a lot of place finishers returning but in wrestling it doesn’t matter what you did last year. With all the off season stuff anymore, kids are getting better all the time and you have to continue to improve. Our kids put in a good off season and we should see that improvement as well.”
Sturgis Brown Coach Mike Abell has experience and quality as well with nine state qualifiers, five state place finishers, and two defending state champions in Jacob Wood (43-3, 106) and Bailey Brengle (40-8, 152) who look to improve last season’s third-place finises.
Senior Joel Carpenter, a second-place finisher at 220 last year to Rapid City Central graduate Timmy Paris, gives the Scoopers another potential gold medal winner.
“We have some holes to fill, but once we do that we should be pretty salty up and down the lineup,” Abell said. “I think Stevens kind of has the upper hand. They might not have the pure firepower of Pierre, but they have a lot of solid kids and that’s where they will score a lot of points.”
With the wrestling season kicking into full swing this weekend — most area schools will be competing either at the Mandan Lions Tournament or the Custer Invitational, here’s a brief look at other Black Hills area squads
Rapid City Central
Cobbler coach Lance Pearson lost a talented senior class from last season and will be in rebuilding mode early, trying to fill some holes particularly in the middle of the lineup.
Seniors Kolby Kost (31-2 and second at 182), and Mathias Thompson (24-15, eighth at 195) join sophomore Kadyn Kraye (25-27, seventh at 120, and freshman TJ Morrison (41-13, fifth at 113) as returning state place winners.
“Those guys are returning state placers and are going to have to do some big things for us to be successful, and guys like Tanner Skaare and Nolan Smith have been with us for a while, and now it’s their turn to step up,” Pearson said. “Stevens and Sturgis are both very senior laden and are bringing a lot of state placers back, and will definitely be strong teams along with Pierre and Aberdeen Central. We are hoping to develop and be able to make some noise of our own by the end of the season.”
The Patriots will feature a young team and will be led by junior Colton Jackson (41-12, and a fifth-place finisher at 152) along with fellow juniors and state qualifiers William George (113) and Sherman Taber (120).
“We will be young and scrappy. We are short some spots and hope to fill those by the end of the season and are looking for Jeffrey Stover, Jackson Wilson, Devyn Swezey, Daniel Gleason, Isiah DuBray and Mason Finsterwalder to step up for us,” Patriot coach Sean Gholson said.
Spartan coach John Bokker will build around a quintet of state qualifiers including seniors Tashon Clark (132), Reece Hansen (152), and Matthew Ackerman (145), junior Derick Dower (126) and sophomore Evan Hehr (195).
“We have been working hard in the off season on our strength and wrestling,” Bokker said. "I expect to see more guys placing in the bigger tournaments and state, and we are also expecting a top 10 finish at state.”
Bronc coach Bill Abell will field a very young team with but one senior, Justin Quenzer, and three juniors, Jaredon Dosch, Morgan Garrett and Joe Hanson, on the opening day roster. On the plus side, a bevy of underclassmen will gain valuable experience.
Though a strong Canton team will go into the 2017-18 season as a overwhelming favorite to cop the Class B crown, with defending champion Beresford/Alcester-Hudson having moved up to the Class A ranks, Philip Area will be looking to improve upon last year's third-place effort. Coach Matt Donnelly, entering his 24th season at the helm, welcomes back seven returning place finishers. Junior Hunter Peterson (second at 132), once fully recovered from a midsummer farm accident, will be a factor at state as will McCoy Peterson (second, 106), Jadyn Coller (sixth, 132), Keagan Fitch (fifth, 160), Cody Donnelly (seventh, 152), Jory Rodgers (eighth at 220) and Blair Blasius (third, 106).
St. Thomas More
The Cavaliers return most of the team from last season, including seniors Stone Durham (160) and Jordan Graper (170), with junior Corten Dobesh (170) back after sitting out a year due to injury.
“I am expecting our team to be competitive in the matches we wrestle,” Cavalier coach Nick Durham said. “The guys have been working hard so far, and I have seen some growth in (sophomore) Jesse Jankord, (freshman) Zach Crawford and (sophomore) Logan Sauder, that should translate into more wins this year.”
Coach Beau Voegeli’s Golddigger squad features a flock of returning letter winners. Seniors Dylin Johnson (eighth at 132), Brigham Williams and Wyatt Hess will lead the charge. Joining the trio will be state place finishers Carson Pinske (seventh at 120) and state qualifier Max Johnson. And look for Rob Lester, who recorded 25 pins at 195 as a freshman last season, to make his mark as well.
“We should have a pretty good lineup until about 182, and then we won’t have anybody, but we do have four returners from last year, Brennan Haynes, Eli Mines, Levi Mines and Makael Grace, and two from the previous year, Chance Grill and Blake Kainz,” Wildcat coach Jared Webster said.
State qualifiers Keaton Bissonnette (ninth, 120-126) and Garrett Heil (junior, 195) head up the Bison returnees and will be joined by a couple of seniors, Alex Phelps (145-152) and Kody Hagen (138-145), who have state tournament experience as well.
“If we get our guys spread out, we should be in good position to improve upon our performance in the BHC, Region 4B, and State,” coach Ray Ringstmeyer said.
Notable returnees include senior Kalel Worischek and juniors Tyler Arnold, Cody Homan, and Drew Hanson, while coach Justin Kruse will be looking for big contributions from seniors Clayton Florence and Ismael Munoz, sophomore Jeremy Gillaspie and freshmen Riley Perusich and Jaxon Johnson.
“We have a good group of veteran leadership and youth to continue building the program,” coach Justin Kruse said. “If we stay healthy, we should push three to five kids toward the state tournament.”