To borrow a wrestling term, the outcome was a reversal of sorts. A year ago Rapid City Central squeaked out a narrow victory over Rapid City Stevens in its annual wrestling dual thanks to a quality corp of experienced seniors.
On Thursday night, the veteran experience came from the Stevens side of the mat as the Raiders, ranked second in Class A behind three-time champion Pierre, closed out the regular season with a 47-9 win over the Cobblers before a near capacity crowd at Harvey Naasz Gymnasium.
The Cobblers sent only three upperclassmen to the mat on Thursday night while wrestling seven freshmen in the 14 matches against a Stevens squad featuring 11 junior and seniors, including nine grapplers who placed in last year’s Class A State Tournament.
Adding to the Cobbler disadvantage, seniors Kolby Kost (No. 1 ranked at 170) and Mathias Thompson (No. 3 at 220) were nursing injuries and did not compete.
“Kolby probably could have wrestled with the broken bone in his hand and Mathias could have, too, but we didn’t want to take any chances,” Central Coach Lance Pearson said. “They have much bigger things on their mind with regions coming up.”
One of the most exciting matches of the night kicked off the proceedings with Cobbler freshman Cael Larson (No. 2 ranked at 106) improved to 51-2 on the season, utilizing a flurry of takedowns to outlast Raider sophomore Declan Malone 9-7.
After Cody Stockman (No. 3 at 113) quickly put the Raiders on top with a 14-0 major decision over Central 9th grader Brendan Thompson, Stevens junior Logan Fischer roared back from a second period 7-2 deficit to Cobbler freshman Ethan Thibeault with back points in the final period for a 13-9 victory.
“I kind of underestimated him at the beginning,” Fischer said. “He was a little bigger and stronger than I thought, so I just kept working and trying to do the things we work on in practice. I like to go for a single, so I just tried to get to neutral and get a shot off.”
The Raiders wealth of experienced talent in the mid-weight classes then took control of the match winning five consecutive matches from 126 thru the 152.
Senior Cody Bevier (No. 2 at 126) outpointed Kaden Kraye 8-2, a match Bevier controlled throughout though unable to get the scrappy Kraye onto his back. Another senior, defending state champion Spencer Stockman (29-4), quickly followed upping the Raider advantage to 16-3 with a 25-second pin of 9th grader Cooper Filipek at 132.
“I was pretty pumped up tonight,” Stockman said. “My last dual and I really went after it. Actually, I was going to just try to tilt him and he went on his side and I just flipped over, put my leg in, and pinned him.”
And Brandon Sharkey (No. 5 and 37-11 on season) kept the Raider senior express on track, breaking open a 2-2 match in the third period to post a 6-3 decision over Cobbler freshman TJ Morrison at 138.
Raider sophomore Cooper Voorhees (No. 4, 39-12) added his team’s second pin of the night, dispatching another Cobbler freshman, Nick Preble, with a 42-second stick in the 145 pound match. Junior 152-pounder Nate Allen extended the Stevens’ team lead to 28-3 with an 8-4 decision over Brayden Burrus.
Central sophomore Wyatt Jungclaus (37-21) snapped the Raider string of five straight victories, jumping up 4-0 in the first period and then withstanding the determined attacks of Raider Steele Fuegen to post a 4-3 decision.
“I beat him in Mandan early in the season 8-7, and here tonight I went in too hard in the first maybe, and I thought I might be able to pin him, but a win, I guess, is a win. This is my first year on varsity and it’s been a pretty good season so far,” Jungclaus said. “Our team didn’t come out too well tonight, but they were all close matches.”
The Cobbler winning streak ended abruptly as Raider 10th grader Caleb Brink made short work of Central 9th grader Couper Kulm with a first period pin.
The 182-pound tilt was the feature match of the night, matching No. 1 Raider Dante Colicheski (40-1) against No. 3 ranked Bridger Kraye (48-5). Colicheski used a couple of takedowns for a 4-1 advantage in the first period. Kraye recorded an escape in the second as the match went to the third with Colicheski up 4-2. The third period was all Colicheski as the senior turned an escape, takedown, and five back points for a 12-2 major decision.
Cobbler junior Nolan Smith improved to 37-14, outpointed Raider junior Anthony Knodell 3-2 at 195, the Cobbler’s third win of the night, all coming by decision. And perhaps fitting of a Stevens/Central dual, the 285-pound finale matching a couple of seniors, Raider Zech Patterson and Cobbler Ty Olson, went to overtime knotted at 1-1 before Patterson ended the match with a takedown to close out the Raider victory.
“You can kind of throw the records out when you wrestle these kind of matches, and we knew they would wrestle hard regardless, and they did. They are fourth ranked in the state, and with a young team like they have, that’s pretty impressive,” Stevens coach Travis King said. “Our seniors have been through a lot.
"Two years ago the score in this dual was about the opposite of what you see tonight. But we like where we are at right now going into state competition. We are pretty healthy. Spencer (Stockman) has the bad knee and he’s been nursing it throughout the season, but he’s a tough kid and he really wants the team championship and he’s been really pushing the team toward making that happen.”
Pearson, while not pleased with the outcome, wasn’t surprised nonetheless. and liked the effort expended by his very young squad.
“I asked our kids afterwards what match that we were supposed to win that we lost tonight and nobody said anything,” Pearson said. “As you saw, we are very young, but that’s no excuse we’ve been young all year. We lost some close matches, and where we were really inexperienced, we hit some of their very best kids, and when that happens, the score can get ugly, especially when you lost those close matches.”
The dual concluded the regular season as both teams now await Region 4A action at Stevens Feb. 17.