What a difference a year makes. In 2018, Custer/Edgemont was an also ran in the Black Hills Conference wrestling tournament, finishing seventh in the eight-team meet.
On Saturday, coach Jared Webster’s squad dethroned three-time defending champion Spearfish in capturing the 2019 conference championship in Hill City.
“We have excellent people down below making this program run and I can’t thank them enough,” Webster said. “They keep feeding us kids left and right and we just try to keep them going. And it’s nice to see that we finally have things set in place to give the kids every opportunity to get better.”
Custer/Edgemont grabbed the lead in the early rounds, carried through six grapplers into the finals, and crowned three individual champions. Freshman Logan Graf (106 pounds, 44-6 on season), senior Chance Grill (152, 42-2), and junior Micaiah Grace (170, 40-7) claimed crowns helping their team to 163.5 points. Spearfish finished second (140), followed by Lead-Deadwood (126), Hot Springs (111), Belle Fourche (110.5), Douglas (78.0), St. Thomas More (57.0), Hill City (42.0) and Red Cloud (42).
Grill, currently second-ranked in Class B, led the Custer/Edgemont charge jumping out to a quick takedown and back point for a 5-0 advantage over Belle Fourche’s Jaredon Dosch, before closing out the match with a cradle and pin at 5:22.
“I was hoping to get a pin and help the team out with some big points,” Grill said. “I knew he was going to try and shoot a double (leg) and I knew I had to guard against that. And then I got the takedown and an arm bar and had about four things I could do with it. So I just waited to see what his reaction would be and went from there.”
Like a number of his teammates, Micaiah Grace was feeling a little under the weather coming into the match and with that had to overcome a bit of overconfidence in winning by fall (4:27) over TeeJay Atwood of Hot Springs at 170.
“In my mind, it was supposed to be a little easier,” Grace said. “But he came out wrestling hard, and with my being sick, I probably didn’t wrestle as well as I can, But he’s a tough kid and it was a close match, and I was looking for a chance to get him on his back and get it over as quickly as possible, and luckily was able to counter a move and do that.”
All four Spartans who advanced to the finals emerged victorious. Ninth-grader Clay Donovan (35-13) won by fall (5:33) over top-seeded Thomas McCloy (Belle Fourche) at 113, classmate Oakley Blakeman (33-11) earned a 10-1 major decision over William George of Douglas at 120, sophomore Max Sailor (33-10) pinned Joe Hanson (Belle Fourche) at 132 (1:52), and junior Evan Hehr (30-8) won by fall (2:50) over Marcus Harkless (Hot Springs).
Blakeman’s impressive win over George was a redemptive bounce-back from an early season meeting in which George won by pin.
“He did pin me in overtime,” Blakeman said. “I think my conditioning and training during the season helped a lot. And I tried to not go so hard on the gas pedal early on and just get into as the match went on. I guess I surprised myself a little bit today and it’s a nice time of the season to do that.”
In one of the feature matches of the day, Colton Jackson (35-8) of Douglas (fourth at 152 in Class A) faced off against Custer’s Levi Mines (third at 160 in Class B) in the 160-pound championship match. After a 2-2 first period, Jackson took control in the second before closing it out with a third period fall (5:37).
“I’ve been wrestling at 152 and I just wanted to move up today for the competition and see how I would do at 160 pounds, so I could make a decision at where I wanted to wrestle next weekend (regionals in Belle Fourche),” Jackson said. “I learned a lot from him. I beat him by one or two points last year and I wanted to see how it would go now. I didn’t think I would be able to pin him and was nervous coming into it, so I don’t know if I got lucky or the hard work just paid off.”
Corten Dobesch (27-10) of St. Thomas More had the quickest stick of the evening, disposing of Lead-Deadwood’s Cody Rakow in 39 seconds in the 182-pound title match.
“It was a short one for sure, but I felt good going out and wrestled aggressively and was able to snap him down into a front headlock and finish it from there,” Dobesch said. “I’ve wrestled him twice this year, including last weekend, and both matches went all three periods, so I don’t know, I just felt good today and the confidence probably helped.”
The final match of the day at 285 pounds between Lead-Deadwood’s Robbie Lester (33-2 and second ranked in Class B) and Connor Braun of Douglas had the appearance of a big upset. Braun jumped out 2-0 with a first-period takedown and led 5-3 before Lester rebounded with a pin (4:56) in the third period.
“Yeah, he surprised me,” said Lester who improved to 33-2 with the win. “I tried to force rolls that weren’t really there and that really messed me up. I just caught him finally in a bad position and was able to turn it into a pin.”
Also earning titles for the Golddiggers were Max Johnson (126) and Carson Pinske (138), while Hot Springs also had two winners, as Kody Hagan (145) and Garrett Heil (195) earned titles for the Bison.
Next weekend kicks off the road to the state wrestling tournament in Rapid City (Feb. 22-23) with Region 4 action in both Class A and B in Belle Fourche on Saturday.