PREP WRESTLING: Top-five tangle

Panthers roll past Vikings in conference dual, 49-12

Photo by Sam Thiel TMB/WWG’s Devin Carter tries to pin Minneota’s Troy Vankeulen during their meet on Tuesday. The Panthers defeated the Vikings 49-12.

MINNEOTA – As the spotlight shined down on the mat, a pair of Top 5 heavyweight teams stood facing each other looking to gain not only a key conference dual victory, but a push even further in the right direction towards the rest of their season.

The No. 2-ranked Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove and No. 4 Minneota wrestling teams squared off on Tuesday night in Minneota in search of a mid-season boost. The Panthers quickly made their presence felt on the road, picking up a 49-12 victory over the Vikings.

TMB/WWG coach Karl Campbell said he was extremely pleased with his team’s effort and felt they carried their momentum over from their last performance.

“I was really happy with how we came out and competed. We wrestled four duals on Saturday, the team looked like they did (Tuesday) on Saturday and I think they carried the momentum into this dual. We knew we were up against a really good squad in Minneota, but our guys came ready to wrestle and I’m really proud of their performance.”

The Panthers took control of the match early on and never looked back, winning their first five bouts. Devin Carter picked up a 5-0 decision over Troy VanKeulen before Ayden Horner earned a 6-3 decision of his own against Eric Carrasco at the 113-weight class and major decision win (16-8) for Levi Ellingson over Zack Fier quickly made it 16-0. TMB/WWG then got a pair of pins from both Luis Perez (126-weight class) and Dereck Ellingson (132-weight class) to push its advantage to 22-0.

Campbell said their quick start was a big key for their momentum in the dual and felt everybody started clicking from the opening bout.

“We got a really good start with Devin coming out and getting a win, a big match between Ayden and Eric at 113, they were No. 1 and No. 2 at 106 last year and Ayden wrestled a good, smart match to get that win. Levi then comes out and handles his opponent and gets a major decision and it just kept rolling from there,” Campbell said. “Once you get momentum going, it’s kind of like hitting in baseball, everybody wants to be a part of it and our kids really came out ready to go.”

Minneota would then get on the board in the 138-weight class, as the Vikings’ Jonah Gruenes earned a 4-2 decision victory over Tyler Vandendriessche to make it 22-3, but the Panthers responded with another pin by Anthony Axford over Tate Walerius and a decision victory (15-8) for Sawyer Schwartz over Blake Reiss to extend TMB/WWG’s lead to 31-3 just over the midway mark of the dual.

The Vikings then picked up a decision victory by Cole VanOverbeke (6-4) over Austin Axford and a pin in just 24 seconds by Justin Johnson (182-weight class) over Gabe Krick while TMB/WWG’s Jace Paplow pinned Josh Laleman in 31 seconds at the 170-weight class to bring the score to 37-12 in favor of the Panthers.

That would be the closest Minneota got, though, as TMB/WWG got a 7-2 decision victory from Trevor Eisfeld over Shawn Buysse at the 195-weight class before Travis Willhitte won 8-7 over Layne Lozinski in overtime and Sam Bauer earned a pin over Trey Gronke to close out the match and give the Panthers the 49-12 victory.

Minneota coach Joel Skillings gave credit to the Panthers and felt they have to learn from their mistakes and show what type of team they want to be as they move forward.

“I think we were out-manned; they’re a good team and it wasn’t that we didn’t wrestle hard, we’ve got to fix some things. I still know that we have to work on some things but it’s a night that we have to determine who we want to become and what our identity is,” Skillings said. “Nothing’s easy, but you can’t tell your kids to respect everybody and then not respect what just happened. I respect them, they’re a good team and we’ll learn from it and build on our strengths.”

Minneota will face Wabasso/Red Rock Central on Saturday at 9 a.m. Skillings said their biggest takeaway is using this as motivation and looking to clean up their mistakes heading into Saturday.

“Taking something away from this is not wanting to feel like that again, and that’s a big motivator. If you don’t like what happened, then you have two choices: you can accept it or you can go fix it,” Skillings said. “I think this is a great group of kids and they’ll fix it. They’ll put forth their best effort and that’s all you can ever ask. I’m a notetaker, so I took down a lot of notes on things that we have try and fix, but it’ll boil down to high school kids determining if they want to get a little older and grow up a little bit more.”

TMB/WWG will head to Bemidji on Friday for a two-day dual tournament. Campbell said they’re looking to continue to carry over the momentum they’ve gained heading into a challenging weekend tournament.

“It’s great for our momentum; we go up to Bemidji for a big dual meet tournament on Friday and Saturday and the guys are wrestling with a lot of confidence right now,” Campbell said. “So if we go and compete at that tough tournament, there’s a lot of Class A schools that are ranked in the Top 10 up there as well, I like our chances if we can compete like we did.”