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Alexandria’s Adam Johnson (bottom) wrestles Minnewaska’s Joseph Weaver during the third-place match at the 113-pound weight class in the Big Ole Invitational on Saturday afternoon. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

Cardinals fourth at Big Ole

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Cardinals fourth at Big Ole
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The Alexandria wrestling team used a first-place finish from Justin Cumberbatch and six other top-three finishes to take fourth as a team at the final Big Ole tournament at Jefferson High School on Saturday.

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Cumberbatch didn’t disappoint as the third-ranked wrestler in the state at 195 as he went into his finals match against Rocori’s Ryan Vigil as the favorite. Vigil lasted into the second period, but Cumberbatch put him away with a pin once they got there to secure Alexandria’s only individual title of the day.

“Today was a good tournament,” Cumberbatch said. “I also feel very comfortable whenever we’re wrestling at home, so I knew that was kind of an advantage. I just came in and did my best. It definitely felt great. This is the last Big Ole we’re going to have at this school, so we definitely had to do our best. It was just a good feeling coming out here and ending up placing first.”

He was hardly alone on the podium for Alexandria. The Cardinals got a second-place finish from Mike Schluter at 182 pounds. Dustin Neu also finished second, but it came after he had to withdraw before the title match at 152 pounds. Neu won his first two matches, but got tangled up in his semifinal match and suffered an elbow injury as he tried to keep his opponent from rolling him over.

He was able to finish that match and pick up the win, but Neu and his Cardinal coaches decided to err on the side of caution and keep him out with the hope of making sure he is healthy coming down the final stretch of the season.

“He’s having a great year, so we just didn’t want to risk it and put his end of the season tournaments in jeopardy on a weak elbow that was sore,” head coach Tom Ellison said.

Ellison was happy with the way some of his guys bounced back after losses in the semifinals. Both Blake Olhausen and Trent Piepenburg won individual titles at Big Ole in 2013. They both dropped their semifinals matches but didn’t dwell on it and came back to take third.

Piepenburg won 12-0 in his third-place match at 132 pounds. Olhausen won 3-0 at 138 in his final match. Ben Bogart and Dylan Kriese also took third as Bogart won 1-0 at 106 to wrap up his tournament and Kriese won 5-1 in overtime at 120.

Plenty of others also finished on the podium for Alexandria. Adam Johnson was fourth at 113 pounds and Tristan Johnson did the same at 145. Ben Johnson was fifth at 106 and Jake Nienaber finished fifth at 160, while Tryg Burgau was sixth at 126 pounds.

Minnewaska also had an individual champion in Ryan Stottler. He won 10-6 at the 170-pound final. The Lakers’ Joseph Weaver was third at 113 after beating Adam Johnson 14-9 in their final match, while Kashawn Brown also took fourth at heavyweight for the Lakers. Minnewaska finished eighth as a team in the nine-team field.

Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg won the tournament, beating defending champion Moorhead by two points. It’s the third time that the Fighting Saints have won Big Ole since joining the tournament in 2009.

This was the 44th annual Big Ole tournament and the last one ever at JHS. The Cardinals will now turn their attention to their last home match ever at this high school when they host a quadrangular against Little Falls, Fergus Falls and Melrose Area on Friday night.

Ellison said he likes where his team is at with them being relatively healthy coming down the stretch. For Cumberbatch, Saturday’s win was another step in the right direction as he tries to be wrestling his best by the time sections come around on February 15.

“As these last couple weeks come down to sections and hopefully the state tournament, there’s always room for improvement,” Cumberbatch said. “I’ll just be working as hard as I can to reach my goals that I would like to reach this year…it’s a competitive weight class, but I think if I keep working at it and giving it 100 percent every day inside that wrestling room that I will be able to achieve my goals as hopefully the state champ.”

Final Home Match Friday

The Alexandria wrestling team is hosting its final home match ever at Jefferson High School this Friday when Little Falls, Fergus Falls and Melrose Area come to town for a quadrangular starting at 5 p.m. with the Cardinals facing off against Fergus Falls.

To celebrate the many successes this program has seen at JHS, all alumni are invited back for the meet on Friday.

Organizers will have memorabilia of some of the program’s history on display in the hallway and videos from seasons past playing on monitors. Alumni from around the area are asked to help spread the word to former wrestlers who might be interested in coming.

The Alexandria wrestling team will start a new era next winter in its first season at the new Alexandria High School.

BIG OLE INVITE TEAM RESULTS – KMS – 169; 2. Moorhead – 167; 3. Frazee – 154; 4. Alexandria – 138; 5. Rocori – 114; 6. MAHACA – 85; 7. Albany – 68.5; 8. Minnewaska – 68; 9. St. Cloud Apollo – 48

ALEXANDRIA – 106 – Bogart – 3-1, third place; Ben Johnson – 2-2, fifth place; 113 – Adam Johnson – 2-2, fourth place; 120 – Kriese – third place, 3-1; 126 – Tryg Burgau – fifth place, 0-2; 132 – Piepenburg – 3-1, third place; 138 - Olhausen – 3-1, third place; 145 – Tristan Johnson – 3-2, fourth place; 152 – Neu – 2-0, second place; 160 – Nienaber – 2-2, fifth place; 182 – Schluter – second place; 195 – Cumberbatch – 2-0, first place; 220 – Shawn Nelson – fifth place, 0-2

Eric Morken
Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.
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