Area preview: Bears, Greyhounds on the rise
Jay Reiplinger assumed the head coaching duties at Blackduck-Cass Lake-Bena four years ago and during the time frame the Bears have continually improved the program in victories and number of athletes.
That trend should continue this winter as Reiplinger's team seems destined for a winning record.
"Three years ago we won five duals and last year we were 10-13," Reiplinger said. "This year my hope is that our record will be dramatically better."
The program's numbers also have seen a dramatic rise as the coach was welcomed by 40 wrestlers from Blackduck and eight more from Cass Lake-Bena.
"We have 48 kids competing for 14 varsity spots so we have competition among the wrestlers," the coach said. "Because of our numbers I can see our lineup changing weekly."
BCLB began the season on a very positive note as it finished third at last weekend's invitational hosted by Fosston-Bagley. The Bears scored 162 points, trailed only Detroit Lakes (201) and the host team (172) and placed ahead of Roseau, Crookston, Nashwauk, Otter Tail Central, Mahnomem, Fertile-Beltrami, Deer River and Red Lake County Central.
"We not only finished third as a team but 10 of our kids won medals," Reiplinger said. "I'm excited about this year. I think we have a very good shot at beating some of the teams that we haven't beaten since I've been the head coach."
Serving as captains are senior Alex Goodwin and junior Brady Gross. Other seniors include Butch Strand and Crag Brodeur.
Tuesday the Beavers traveled to Park Rapids and the lineup included Mason Preston and Andrew Nissen at 106, Kyle Michelek at 120, Austin Page at 126, Tanner George at 132, Cooper Jedlica at 138, Trevor Smith at 145, Daven Staples and Nathan Jablonski at 152, Strand at 160, Gross at 170, Tanner Templin at 182, Brodeur at 195, Goodwin at 220 and Nick Grundmeier at heavyweight.
"We have 16 returning lettermen and many of our upperclassmen have been in the program since elementary school seven years ago," Reiplinger said.
"I'm very excited about what we can accomplish this year," the coach continued. "I think we have a shot at sending two or three kids to state this year and that would be fantastic."
Fosston-Bagley began its campaign Saturday by placing second at its 11-team invitational and Pat Wolfe couldn't be happier.
"To say our performance was pleasing is an understatement," Wolfe stated on the Fosston-Bagley high school wrestling website. "Our boys really stepped it up and let it be known that we are a different team this year."
The Flyers collected four individual championships at the tournament. Wyatt LaFrinier won at 160, Blake Olson at 170, Dylan Fjerstad at 182 and Josh Albright at heavyweight.
Jordan Murphy was second at 220 while Ben Marx and Garrett Sander were third at 126 and 145. Roman Bode finished fifth at 120 and Gabe Hanson sixth at 132.
"I think we surprised some people with our finish and have made some of the other teams re-think their strategies to meet us head-to-head in duals," Wolfe stated on the website.
The roster includes seniors Albright, Fjerstad, Paul Frege, Devin Hagen, Wyatt Nordskog, Olson and Sander.
The junior cast includes Bode, Gabe Hanson, LaFriniere and Murphy while the sophomores are Alexi Bode, Marx and Nick Vig.
Also listed on the roster are freshmen Zach Como, Luke Juve and Kyle McClung, eighth graders Isaiah Dvorak, Zach Larson, Connor Lomen, Sam Manecke, Alex Olson and Lane Olson plus seventh graders Levi Hanson, Austin Kindem and Tristen Molden.