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WRESTLING: The Big Bear is underway

Blackduck/Cass Lake-Bena sophomore Mason Smid edges Hutchinson's Alex Nelson with a 7-6 decision win in a 170-pound consolation bracket bout Friday afternoon at Cass Lake-Bena High School. (Ryan Pietruszewski | Bemidji Pioneer)

CASS LAKE -- The Big Bear wrestling tournament has returned to Cass Lake, and after the first day, five Blackduck/Cass Lake-Bena wrestlers still have a bid to place in their respective weight classes.

“We’ve got a couple of our good kids out for injuries and whatnot, but the kids that are in are wrestling well,” BCLB head coach Jay Reiplinger said. “We did really well first round. Second round we got a couple kids knocked out. Tough matches, tough competitors from all over the state, so I’m happy with where we’re at right now.”

Among the Bears’ 12 wrestlers competing in the tournament, the five who have one or zero losses so far and are still in the hunt are Trevor Janssen (106), Trenton Juelson (126), Michael Staples (132), Lucas Reiplinger (138) and Hunter Wilcowski (195).

With coach Reiplinger handling the lightest six wrestlers and assistant coach Cody Nord overlooking the six heaviest, Reiplinger said he was pleased with how his half did during Day One.

“Trevor Janssen has been wrestling really well at 106,” he said. “He just had his quarterfinals match and won. And Trenten Juelson is wrestling very well. Really all the kids are wrestling well – some of them just ran into a little tougher competition than they could handle.”

Janssen and Wilcowski are the two Bears still wrestling in the championship bracket.

Janssen cruised through his opponents with a 17-2 tech fall win over Deagen Captain of Bertha-Hewitt/Parkers Prairie/Verndale, a win by fall over Anthony Sykora of West Central Area and an 11-6 decision win over Trevor Michienzi of Deer River. He’s set up to face Minnewaska’s Easton McCrory in the semifinals today.

Wilcowski (No. 4 at 195), on the other hand, will match up against Fosston/Bagley’s Jake Ubert (No. 4 at 182) after pinning Alex Butcher of West Central Area, finishing off Brodie Wensloff in a 20-4 tech fall and topping Tyler VanLuik in a 5-4 decision.

Elsewhere on the mats, Juelson is 2-1 going into today’s action after a third-round loss, while Staples and Reiplinger are each 3-1, having each lost their second match of the day.

The Bears are missing Ian Frenzel and Chase Johnson this weekend due to injuries sustained during football season, but coach Reiplinger is hopeful for a finish among the top quarter of the 40 teams.

“We haven’t really discussed it yet, but I think if we could get a top-10 finish as a team, I’d be happy with that,” he said. “Obviously with Ian and Chase being out – those are two kids that could win the whole thing – so they could add a lot of points to our team. So a top 10 finish, and maybe a couple champions, that would be great.”

Although the team isn’t playing to its full potential with the absence of Frenzel and Johnson, the tournament is still a valuable one for the wrestlers to experience.

“I think it’s a real big thing for them,” said coach Reiplinger. “It’s a big venue, big event, thousands of people watching, teams from all over the state, wrestling kids that you may have never seen before. That’s a big thing, because when you’re up in northern Minnesota, generally we see the same kids maybe three times in a year or something. So it’s good to see new faces and new wrestling styles.”

The action continues at 10:45 a.m. today at CL-B High School and CL-B Middle School.