By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
All they wanted was a chance.
When preseason drills began for the Sibley East wrestling team back in November, head coach Chad Johnson looked around the practice room and thought his team had a shot. Not necessarily a better shot than some of the other area teams, but a shot nonetheless.
“I told the kids that if we get healthy and get people to their right weights, we have a chance to win the section and go to state,” said Johnson, a Nicollet native and former wrestler at Minnesota State. “It didn’t look good early on when we started out 2-7, but guys started getting healthy and we started filling the right spots and we turned it around. Since Christmas break I think we’re 18-2.”
Despite the strong last half of the season, Johnson knew it was still going to be tough to make it to state. With teams such as Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial and St. James Area and Windom/Mountain Lake in Section 4A, Johnson figured it would simply come down to which team wrestles the best in the semifinals and finals.
“We got to the last day and I thought any one of the four teams could win it,” he said. “We just came out and wrestled well and we were the ones to get it done.”
Sibley East has three wrestlers ranked individually in the state, including defending Class A champion Nathan Rose (1st, 38-0) at 195 pounds. The other two are Aaron Bates (3rd, 38-2, 170) and Austin Brockhoff (7th, 23-0, 132). Hunter Retzlaff is also a 30-match winner (34-7, 145) as is Miah DuFrane (32-8, 195).
Johnson says the addition of Retzlaff and the improved performances of Mitch and Jake Wentzlaff have been keys to the team’s success. Mitch Wentzlaff is 27-12 at 145 and Jake is 22-17 at 152.
“Hunter transferred in from St. Peter and he’s obviously been a big addition,” Johnson said. “Mitch and Jake were basically alternates or fill-ins last year but they’ve really stepped it up this season. They’ve become two of our better wrestlers.”
The Wolverines take a 22-8 record into Thursday’s Class A team competition. They will wrestle second-ranked Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City in the opening round at 9 a.m.
Class AA individuals
Among the area entrants in this year’s meet is one undefeated wrestler. He is second-ranked junior Skyler Petry of Waterville-Elysian-Morristown/