When it comes to a South Dakota state wrestling tournament there is one thing you can count on: A West River team will be in the hunt for the Class A championship – and this year Rapid City Central is the group that will be in the hunt.
A West River team has won 10 of the last 15 Class A titles and took second in four others. This year’s tournament kicks of Friday morning at the Watertown Civic Center with preliminary rounds scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. (CST). Semifinals and wrestlebacks are scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday morning with the finals set for 5:15 p.m.
Rapid City Central, ranked No. 2 in the state, will be going for its first state title since 1984. The Cobblers will be trying to dethrone defending champion Pierre, the top-ranked team.
Both Central and Pierre qualified 13 wrestlers for the tournament with a number of top-ranked ranked wrestlers spread across a large number of classes, meaning the championship could come down to the last match or two of the day Saturday night.
The teams are familiar with each other as Pierre captured the Rapid City Invitational and grabbed a 33-30 dual meet win at the East/West Duals in mid-January. The Cobblers, however, rebounded with a big win at the Brookings Invitational a couple of weeks later.
Rapid City Central comes in with top-ranked wrestlers in three classes – Aero Amo (49-0 at 182 pounds), Jarran Jensen (43-4, 220) and Blake Stone (47-3, 145).
Cobblers coach Lance Pearson said the team needs to have others go deep into the tournament to make winning a reality.
“We need either to get a few more people into the semis and hopefully the finals where you can earn some really big numbers,” said Pearson, hoping for big performances from the likes of Tyler Pfeifle (106, 31-22), Nathan Dressen (113, 31-23), Alan Heidinger (126, 43-12), Marvin Mueller (152, 37-10), or Shane O’Connell (160, 33-9).
“And when we lost matches, and as we tell the kids, that’s going to happen, you are going to lose some matches that perhaps you didn’t expect to lose. Those kids really have to suck it up and remember what they are they for and try to score as many points as they can for the team,” Pearson added.
Pierre coach Ryan Noyes, meanwhile, like the way his team is wrestling and is excited to see his group healthy.
“The postseason is much more intense and difficult, and so to come out the way we did at the regional tournament by wrestling hard and being physical makes us believe that our kids are peaking at the right time,” Noyes said. “Also, we have certain individuals who have gotten quite a bit better during the season, so I think we are gelling as a team and hoping to carry that momentum into this weekend.”
The Governor lineup will feature No. 1-ranked Tanner Monfore (132, 34-3 record) and second-ranked wrestlers Caleb Stoltenburg (138, 33-6), Dawson Monfore (170, 27-12) Trey Maier (195, 30-2) and Lane Lettau (220, 37-4).
Rapid City Stevens, which has shown significant improvement during the season, qualified 12 wrestlers for state and first-year coach Gordon Bye while acknowledging he may be a few spots short of contending for a title is hoping to see his team climb one more rung on the improvement ladder.
“Pierre and Central are loaded this year and should battle it out for the state championship,” Bye said. “As for us, we plan on taking it one match (at a time), wrestle our best, and see what happens. Our goal at the beginning of the season was to improve every week and I think we’ve done that, and hopefully we can continue that this weekend.”
Keaton Ohlson (third-ranked at 120, 29-7), Jordan Moser (fourth-ranked at 126, 31-9), Garrett Peterson (second-ranked at 132, 38-11) and Casey Klapprodt (fourth-ranked at 145, 29-10) look to be the Raiders’ top candidates for a spot in Saturday night’s finals.
Coach Mike Abell’s Spearfish/Lead-Deadwood squad will feature a couple of potential gold medal winners with freshman Tyler Waterson (106, 35-3) and senior Nate Rotert (the defending 195-pound state champion, 38-1). Rotert, a South Dakota State University commit, may be as close to a lock — along with Central’s Aero Amo—as this year’s tournament has to offer.
And while six-time state champion Sturgis most likely will not challenge for a seventh title, Steve Keszler’s 12-man contingent will be led by 106-pounder Zane Joens, (37-5), who is a likely contender.