By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
Back in second grade, Mankato’s Conor Wanderscheid was in his third year of youth wrestling when he went up against a classmate named Tyler Jakes. The match didn’t go well as Wanderscheid suffered a broken arm and opted to quit the sport.
Four years later, however, Wanderscheid decided to give it another shot. He wrestled a couple of years with the junior high team and then graduated to the Mankato West JV/varsity program as a freshman. By his sophomore season he was a full-time starter for the Scarlets.
“I’m glad I came back,” Wanderscheid said. “I’ve had fun. I enjoy getting into the wrestling room and working with the coaches and trying to make myself a better wrestler.”
Today, the senior is entering his final season at West and Jakes is still one of his teammates. Wanderscheid is coming off a 19-19 campaign and would like to improve on that this winter. More importantly, he wants to be a team leader.
“Getting more wins would certainly be nice, but that’s not my biggest focus,” Wanderscheid said. “I want to help bring the younger wrestlers along. If I can be a leader and role model for them, that’s great.”
West head coach Dustin Buttell said Wanderscheid has all the attributes to fill that role.
“Academically, he’s a great student and he’s very much the student in the wrestling room, too,” Buttell said. “On or off the mat Conor is going to try to excel at whatever he does. Those are the kinds of leaders every program needs.”
Wanderscheid wrestled mostly at 220 pounds last year but expects to start this season at 182 pounds. That’s mostly due to the fact that he no longer needs to keep his weight up for football.
Jakes, another West football player, figures to be the team’s winningest wrestler this season after going 42-3 and finishing fifth in last year’s Class AA state tournament. Jakes holds or is nearing a multitude of school records.
He needs 29 more wins to become West’s all-time career leader in victories. He currently stands at 137-57 and Kyle Gauker has the record at 165-72. Jakes is also eight falls away from setting the school record, is in fourth place in career points (440) and already holds the season wins mark (42).
Among the other top returnees for West are seniors Xavier Dahlgren (24-15 last season at 160 pounds) and Aaron Wall (26-12, 145). Sophomores Charlie Dundas (16-17, 106), Noah Lowe (14-21, 113) and Russell Koenigs (6-19, 120), along with freshman Carter Burroughs (8-14) are also expected to be among the team’s win leaders. Junior Jordan Helle (132 pounds) should also be in the mix.
Buttell would like to see the Scarlets improve on their 12-19 record from a year ago but says it’s important that they do so in the proper fashion.
“Basically we want our kids to do things the right way,” Buttell said. “Whether it’s on the wrestling mat or in the classroom or wherever. If everybody does that the wins will take care of themselves.”
The Scarlets open the season Thursday, Nov. 29, with a home triangular against Marshall and New Ulm. Starting time is 5 p.m. at the West gym.