The Battle at the Big Bear is a wrestling tournament that epitomizes exactly what the name depicts. With 39 teams, 424 wrestlers and 854 matches it is certainly 'Big'. In fact it is one of the largest in the state. When 10 of those teams are ranked in the top 20 and 51 individuals are seated in the top ten in the state, with at least that many more knocking on the door looking to take those rankings the word 'Battle' is most fitting as the athletes go to war for two days to crown the 14 champions and other place winners.
Before matches even began on Friday Coach Brandon Gruchow gathered his Knights together in order to lay strategy for such a large venue. The coaches message to the grapplers was simple, “We talked about three main things. Take it one match at a time, be prepared physically, mentally, and emotionally, and wrestle to win in the most dominating fashion you can to optimize team points.” Gruchow's matmen opened the tournament fairly strong gathering wins, many with bonus points. As the day continued and competition got more intense a few of the wrestlers succumbed to either the grind or level of talent. Following the last match of the day, the Knights found themselves in 9th place. A far cry from a top four spot which is needed to bring home hardware. Out of the 14 athletes just six remained as double elimination removed the other eight. Following the day Gruchow stated, “We were on track but after we got a little deeper into competition on Friday we had too many guys detour from the plan. In a big tournament like this the guys that end up on top might not always be the best wrestlers, it’s just that those guys were able to control the “controllables.” He followed with, “While we had our team meeting Friday back at the hotel, the guys that had lost out and even those who were still moving into Saturday, were all able to identify a time during the tournament when they didn't stick to the plan. It was great they were able to identify those times or situations.”
As Saturdays wrestling began the remaining six wrestled brilliantly, all of them picked up victories putting them in the placing rounds and most did it with bonus points vaulting the teams position. By the end of the day the Knights picked up a Champion in Jake Nohre (his third Big Bear title), a pair of 3rd place finishes by Drake Swanson and Tyler Onstad, a 4th place by Kaden Spindler, a 5th place by Keaton Long and Levi Larkinearned 6th. These points along with the teams efforts from Friday moved the Knights into a 4th overall finish. The 3rd consecutive season WCAABE wrestling was able to capture team hardware. Following the tournament Gruchow said, “I saw many situations on Saturday that we pulled through because we had learned from our mistakes earlier. It's still early in the season and we have time to work on things. Its just a matter of learning from mistakes, correcting them, and putting them to use when we wrestle. We did have a lot of good things happen during the course of the tournament.”
Numbers following hash tags represent team or individual state rankings via the Guillotine.
- 209.5 Hutchinson (#11 AA)
- 161.5 Thief River Falls (AA)
- 142.5 Staples-Motely (#10 A)
- 141.5 West Central Area/Ashby/Brandon-Evansville (#8 A)
- 139.5 Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale/Parkers Prairie (#13 AA)
- 134 Black Duck/Cass Lake-Bena (A)
- 125 Park Rapids (#9 A)
- 112.5 Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (#19 A)
- 112 Mounds View (AAA)
- 111 Hibbing (AA)
106 lb. Jordan Lohse (8th) 1-2 DNP
defeated Trevor Michienzi (Deer River) per decision 1-0, defeated by #6 (AA) Quinn Kern (BHVPP) per decision 8-2, defeated by Connor Eidsmoe (Roseau) per decision 3-2.
113 lb. Kaleb Getz (9th) 2-2 DNP
defeated #10 (AA) Carter Sorenson (Fosston-Bagley) per overtime decision 5-1, defeated by Tucker Gifferson (Hutch) per fall 1:34, defeated Gavyn Dickinson (BDCLB) per fall 2:44, defeated by John Babineau (Andover) per decision 6-5.
120 lb. #7 Drake Swanson (12th) 6-1 3rd Place
defeated Kevin Leecy (Virginia) per fall 3:26, defeated Jack Gravelle (Aitkin) per decision 5-2, defeated by #7 (AAA) Nick Dunagan (MV) per fall 4:23, defeated Joe Hudson (Bemidji) per decision 8-7, defeated Jack Davis (TRF) per decision 10-6, defeated Konrad Blood (Mora) per overtime decision 6-5, defeated Jack Fuchs (Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton) per decision 6-5.
126 lb. #4 Jake Nohre (12th) 5-0 Champion
defeated Joe Klein (PR) per fall 1:30, defeated Justin Mattocks (BHVPP) per major decision 10-2, defeated #6 (A) Owen Bjerga (SM) per decision 8-6, defeated #5 (A) Tyler Bents (BBE) per major decision 12-4, defeated #3 (A) Jamaal Baird (DR) per decision 8-5.
132 lb. Chris Onstad (11th) 0-2 DNP
defeated by Ethan Prachar (Mora) per fall 1:36, defeated by Jayden Seeyle (BDCLB) per fall :46.
138 lb. Hunter Mickelsen (10th) 1-2 DNP
defeated by Logan Dobmeier (BDCLB) per fall 1:35, defeated Mark Jennings (BBE) per fall 3:50, defeated by Daniel Wilson (DGF) per decision 4-3.
145 lb. #4 Kaden Spindler (11th) 5-2 4th Place
defeated Kaven Blazek (Crosby-Ironton) per fall 2:50, defeated Carter Endrizzi (Aitkin) per tech. fall 17-1, defeated by #10 (A) Isaiah Gilbert (BBE) per overtime decision 3-1, defeated Justin Bruss (Nash-Kee-Greenway) per major decision 13-5, defeated Austin Baker (Detroit Lakes) per fall 5:11, defeated Chandler Mooney (Roseau) per overtime decision 4-2, defeated by Brady Tweeton (Barnesville) per decision 2-1.
152 lb. #7 Keaton Long (12th) 5-2 5th Place
defeated Brayden Boe (United Clay-Becker) per fall 1:36, defeated Jon Smith (Mora) per decision 8-7, defeated by Ian Frenzel (BDCLB) per overtime decision 8-6, defeated Zachary Nelson (PR) per fall 4:39, defeated Tucker Cain (Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus) per decision 5-0, defeated by Jack Graham (MV) per decision 6-3, won per forfeit over #10 (AA) Alex Pachan (St. Cloud Apollo) injury.
160 lb. Tyler Onstad (12th) 6-1 3rd Place
defeated Ryan Grant (Andover) per injury default, defeated Sawyer Klatt (Roseau) per fall 5:39, defeated Mason Preston (BDCLB) per decision 10-4, defeated by Brett Kirchner (SCA) 8-1, defeated Noah Hawkins (TRF) per decision 7-5, defeated Toby Hintzman (United North Central) per decision 8-5.
170 lb. Levi Larkin (11th) 4-3 6th Place
defeated Brady Brown (DGF) per fall 2:00, defeated Alec Korby (UCB) per decision 2-0, defeated by #8 (A) Cody Dravis (PR) per decision 8-4, defeated Nick Peterson (Bemidji) per fall :48, defeated Sean Lundeen (DL) per decision 8-3, defeated by Aiden Schiltz (SCA) per decision 7-1, defeated by Zack Waln (BHVPP) per major decision 13-2.
182 lb. Wyatt Olson (10th) 2-2 DNP
defeated by Cedric Farnsworth (Aitkin) per decision 11-9, defeated Gator Bettin (UNC) per fall 2:17, defeated Brandon McCourt (Roseau) per decision 12-9, defeated by Alex Jenison (BARN) per major decision 12-3.
195 lb. Devin Stone (9th) 0-2 DNP
defeated by Dominik Vacura (Badger-Greenbush-Middle River) per fall 1:12, defeated by Jackson Poepping (BARN) per fall 1:28.
220 lb. Mason Nibbe (11th) 2-2 DNP
defeated Joseph Thompson (BBE) per fall :36, defeated by Sam Wamre (UCB) per decision 7-2, defeated Daniel Thomas (Sauk Centre-Melrose) per fall 4:17, defeated by #9 (A) John Smid (BDCLB) per decision 7-2.
285 lb. Zach Mattson (12th) 1-2 DNP
defeated by #5 (A) Brady Berg (BARN) per fall 1:27, defeated Liam Andress (Walker-Hackensack-Akley) per fall 1:27, defeated by Hunter Koski (NKG) per decision 5-2.
The Knights will continue this week with four duals. The first on Tuesday, December 20 in Graceville as they face off with conference and section rivals Border West. Wrestling is scheduled to begin at 6:00pm. Thursday the 22nd WCAABE will host a quad with the Minnewaska Lakers, Ortonville Trojans, and Osakis Silverstreaks. Action to start at 5:00pm. Both nights wrestling will be broadcast on 95.7 KKOK radio.