With December approaching all winter sports around the state have commenced practice. For Head Coach Brandon Gruchow, his assistants Troy Lohse, Andy Peterson, Aaron Ray, Logan Nibbe and the West Central Area/Ashby/Brandon-Evansville Knight wrestlers this means its time to get back to business.
Over the last few seasons the Knight grapplers have amassed a considerable collection of accolades and achievements. A Park Region Conference title, a pair of conference runners-up, two Section 6A titles, and two 6th place finishes at state are all admirable. With these distinctions comes a target of sorts as with the Knights emerging as a top team in Class A wrestling they find being a top team is always like a king of the hill battle as somebody usually wants what you have. Lets take a look at what the Knights have in store for the coming year.
The Knights begin their season ranked #8 as a team. Having lost senior leadership with the likes of Sid Kamrath, Jake Larkin, Buzz Miller and TJ Waskosky Coach Gruchow believes he will rely on inside guidance for his group stemming from former state qualifiers, place winners and captains. (Sr) Jake Nohre placed 5th a season ago and is currently ranked #4 at 126 lbs., (Jr) Kaden Spindler had a 4th place finish last year and is currently ranked #5 at 138 lbs., (Sr) Drake Swanson was a state qualifier and is ranked #7 at 120 lbs., (Sr) Tyler Onstad was a state qualifier and is ranked #9 at 152 lbs., (Sr) Keaton Long a state qualifier is ranked #6 at 160 lbs. (Jr) Levi Larkin also brings state qualifying experience to the team. Nohre, Onstad and Swanson will captain this years unit.
Coach Gruchow sees others on the team stepping up and also providing major contributions. The 106 lb. weight will be manned by (8th) Jordan Lohse and (7th) Ruebens Swanson. The 113 lb class will see (9th) Kaleb Getz and (8th) Kade Olson. (Jr) Chris Onstad and (So) Hunter Hanson could play key roles at 126 and 132 lbs. As the weights increase look for (So) Hunter Mickelsen, (Jr) John Barber, (So) Alex Butcher, (So) Wyatt Olson, (8th) Deklin Goeden, (Jr) Mason Nibbe, and (Sr) Zach Mattson to all help out.
The Park Region Conference and Section 6A have other talented teams besides just the Knights. Coach Gruchow feels that Ottertail Central and New York Mills will threaten for the conference title and Staples-Motely, Barnesville and New York Mills are all able and willing to challenge for the section championship. When competing with and moving past such teams Gruchow used the words “Controlling the Controllables”. He stated that to move forward and sustain through the grind of a season...”Things like attitude, effort, focus, fitness, preparation, controlling nutrition/hydration, keeping open lines of team communication in order to express thoughts and concerns and keeping emotions in check” all play a part of finding and sustaining success.
This years team has goals, one of which is a third trip to the state tournament and returning with hardware. The wrestlers have been busy this off-season training, getting ready for the months to come. The group occupied gyms and various weight and fitness programs, competed in spring wrestling and traveled near and far to camps, clinics and tournaments in order to brush up on techniques, skills and toughness. According to Coach Gruchow it does not stop at the edge of the mat...”We strive for excellence and we know that working hard is going to help us achieve that. Our wrestlers know that we expect a lot out of them in the classroom, home, the practice room and competition. They are expected to be tough in everything they do.” When asked about his own goals Coach Gruchow responded with “My goal for these guys is to supplement them with all the tools they need to get their own goals accomplished. I want them to enjoy their experience and help prep them for their biggest match ever....LIFE.”
Make no mistake about it, wrestling can be and for the Knights is a team sport. However, individuals compete and with success comes milestones. Several wrestlers are within grasp of reaching career goals. Jake Nohre is approaching 150 wins, Kaden Spindler is closing in on 125, Keaton Long, Tyler Onstad and Drake Swanson are all inching towards 100 victories. Good luck to these young men in their quests.
The Knights will kick off their season with a home triangular Tuesday, December 6 at 5pm vs. the Ottertail Central Bulldogs and the Pelican Rapids Vikings. The team will continue action Saturday the 10 as they host 10 other squads in the Grant County Tournament. Action that morning begins at 9:30 am.
Good luck to the Knights in their 2016-17 season!