LAKE CRYSTAL —
Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial was one of the few wrestling programs in the area that didn’t need much help when it comes to numbers and talent, but the Knights got some anyway this past fall.
It was October when the decision was made for Nicollet to co-op with LCWM for the 2012-13 wrestling season. The pairing gave the Knights an influx of 11 new wrestlers in grades 7-12, some of whom have already contributed on varsity.
“They’ve been having trouble with numbers for awhile and they approached us last April about possibly joining our program,” Knights’ head coach Andre Harnitz said this week. “We started looking into it but it was a slow process.”
Harnitz knew he would have to get the approval of the LCWM school board for such a move and figured the best way to do that was to get the approval of the LCWM wrestling parents first. As expected, there were some lengthy discussions on the pairing.
The main argument in favor was that student athletes from Nicollet would be able to participate in a competitive program instead of one that was precariously close to being dropped due to lack of numbers. The key argument against was that wrestlers from Nicollet could be taking roster spots away from homegrown LCWM competitors.
“Once our parents approved it I knew we had a chance at getting it done,” Harnitz said. “We were confident the school board would follow suit but the Nicollet school board still had to sign off on the co-op.”
The two schools were already paired in track and cross country so it wasn't a ground-breaking decision. Finally in October, just weeks before preseason practices were set to begin, the Nicollet board agreed and the two programs became one.
“At the moment we’re calling ourselves Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial Area,” Harnitz said. “But that could change. That will be up to the school boards to decide.”
Harnitz said the co-op came just in time. The Knights have experienced a rash of injuries and sickness this winter — to the point where it had to cancel two dual meets — but the new Nicollet wrestlers have helped keep the team competing at a high level.
LCWM, traditionally a southern Minnesota power in Class A, is currently ranked sixth in the state. The Knights have a 12-2 record including wins against Section 4 rivals Windom Area and St. James Area.
Their only losses have come against third-ranked Frazee and fourth-ranked Wabasso/Red Rock Central.
“There’s no doubt (the Nicollet wrestlers) have helped us,” Harnitz said. “We haven’t been at full strength at very many meets so we've had to rely on our depth.”
The Knights, who just lost ninth-rated Levi Marsh to a broken hand on Tuesday, will continue to put that depth to good use this weekend when it hosts the Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial Invitational.
The 12-team tournament includes schools from all three classes and should be another strong test for newly-formed LCWM Area. Wrestling begins at 10 a.m. in the main gym.