South Dakota high school region wrestling puts a slightly different emphasis on winning than regular season competition.
While claiming the top spot on the podium is certainly a goal and and a possible measuring stick for next week’s state tournament in Sioux Falls, every wrestler in regional competition goes to the mat with the primary objective of finishing among the top four thereby earning a trip to Sioux Falls.
No teams did that better in Saturday’s Region 4A action at Stevens High school than host Rapid City Stevens, ranked second in the state, and third-ranked Sturgis, as each school qualified 14 wrestlers for Class A state tournament while crowning five individual champions.
Depth in the consolation brackets proved to be the difference in the team race as Stevens outlasted Sturgis 228.5-201.0 to claim the team title.
A young Rapid City Central team, fourth ranked, claimed four individual titles while qualifying 11 grapplers for the big show, finishing third (189.0) with Spearfish (91.0) and Douglas/RC Christian (61.0) rounding out the top five.
“It was a long day today and we could have had a little more or a little less, but we did qualify all 14 athletes to state, so you have to be pleased with that kind of performance from your kids,” Raider coach Travis King said. “We had a couple of dings coming out, but we just need to heal them up and get ready for next week.”
In Region 4B action, Mobridge-Pollock, though crowning only two individual champions — Jaden Schilling (132) and Stone Jensen (182) — capitalized on veteran depth particularly in the upper weight classes to capture the team title (181.5 points)
A surprisingly strong Custer/Edgemont team that led Class B teams with four individual titles — Jestyn Woodward (106), Levi Mines (152), Chance Grill (138) and Micaiah Grace (160) — finished second (174.0) with defending champion Philip (163), Bennett County (116.5), and Hot Springs (109) completing the top five.
“I’m very pleased with how the kids came out and wrestled today,” Custer coach Jared Webster said. “We were sitting back in seeds, and we came out on top on a lot of matches we weren’t supposed to be in. It was the best wrestleback we’ve had all year. During the year we lost a lot of those matches and today the kids fought hard and won those matches.”
In addition to winning the 160 pound weight class, Custer’s Grace added another distinction as well being selected at the recipient of the Trent Matt Memorial Award.
Other area Region 4B champions included Blair Blasius (Philip, 113), McCoy Peterson (Philip, 120), Kody Hagen (Hot Springs, 145), Keagan Fitch (Philip, 170), Sam Adams (Harding County, 195) and Robbie Lester (Lead -Deadwood, 220).
In Class A, Sturgis Brown flexed the early muscles capturing the first three championship matches — Jacob Wood (106, 12-0 and defending state champion), Tristan Permann (113, 11-4), and Shae Owens (120, 29-10).
Raider experience came to the fore as Stevens swept the next four weight classes behind seniors Cody BeVier (126, 36-6), Spencer Stockman (132, 32-4), and Brandon Sharkey (138, 39-11), with junior Cooper Voorhees (145, 41-12) closing out the string.
Bailey Brengle (37-3, and a defending state champion) continued the Stevens/Sturgis control of the mat defeating Rapid City Central’s Nate Allen (32-14) in a competitive 152 pound match before Brengle executed a takedown in the third period for a 5-3 win.
“It doesn’t get any easier. I think this is the seventh time I’ve seen him this season and he’s figuring me out more and more, and I’m figuring him out more and more, and it’s just a good battle,” Brengle said. “I’ve had a good year and had a lot of exciting matches with East River kids and I’m excited for next weekend.”
Rapid City Central sophomore Wyatt Jungclaus (36-21) finally snapped the Stevens/Sturgis hex with a third period pin (5:50) of top-seeded Jaren Puhlman of Sturgis, and teammate Kolby Kost (36-1 and top-ranked at 170) followed up with a pin of of Raider Caleb Brink. Kost came into the match after a layoff resulting from a broken bone in his hand.
“I guess there’s a little extra pressure being No. 1, and maybe more because of the minor setback I had,” Kost said. “I wasn’t sure coming back that I would be able to perform as well as at the beginning of the season. I was a little worried just being cleared to wrestle on Monday, but the way I wrestled here it feels like the weight if off my shoulders.”
The Raiders’ Dante Colicheski (43-1) will also be carrying a No. 1 tag into the state tournament and as a Region 4A champ as the senior outlasted a game Bridger Kraye of Central to post a 9-5 decision.
“It was a close match and he scared me a little bit,” Colischeski said. “I knew he would be tough after the dual last week. But I knew coming into this that nobody was supposed to beat me and I’ve wrestled everybody and that really motivates me for state.”
Nolan Smith added Central third pin of the night, a third-period stick, in bouncing back from an early deficit to defeat Evan Hehr (Spearfish) at 195. Joel Carpenter (36-1 and No. 1 at 220) closed out his regular season undefeated against South Dakota competition with a second period stick of Spearfish Spartan Marc Williams, and Central’s Ty Olson won 3-2 in overtime over Zechariah Patterson of Stevens.
The state wrestling tournament is set for next Friday and Saturday, and while three-time defending champion Pierre comes back with an experienced, veteran lineup, King is cautiously optimistic about his Raiders.
“I’m always the skeptic, but I have a good feeling going into state,” King said. “I’m hoping our product of work over the course of the year will be enough for us to overcome Pierre. I know one thing. We are right there.”