Wrestlers living up to early hype
The Cardinal wrestlers knew there was potential for a big season coming into the year and they haven’t disappointed through the first few weeks.
Alexandria got tested early in close wins against good programs in St. Cloud Tech and Sartell. Last Thursday, the Cardinals took all the drama out of the match early as they ran away with a 52-18 win over Sauk Rapids that moved this team to 3-0 in the Central Lakes Conference.
“We’ve started out good,” sophomore Blake Olhausen said. “Some people are rough and need to get into the flow of things, but we started out good, and I think we’re going to just keep doing better throughout the year.”
The Cardinals are still without their full complement of wrestlers with guys like freshman Ben Bogart out of the lineup against the Storm. Bogart had 29 wins as an 8th grader last year, but current 8th grader Gage Zieske stepped in nicely for him against Sauk Rapids at 106 pounds to get Alexandria off to a quick start with a 5-3 win.
Sophomore Ben Johnson followed with another decision win at 113 before the Storm tied the match at six apiece with a pin in 32 seconds by Taylor Rau. The Cardinals responded by running away after that, winning their next seven matches to put the contest out of reach. It was exactly the kind of effort this team was looking for against a young Sauk Rapids team that they knew they should beat.
“I definitely think the team is shaping up real great,” junior Justin Cumberbatch said. “We’re not to our best abilities yet, but as the season keeps going on, we’re going to get stronger. We’re going to work harder and we’re going to progress.”
Cumberbatch was one of four Alexandria wrestlers to win by fall on Thursday night. He has gotten down to 195 pounds after finishing second at the state tournament in the 220-pound weight class a year ago.
Cumberbatch had almost 20 pounds to drop at the start of the season, but he did that with a lot of cardio work and watching what he eats and drinks. He said the new weight class is a good fit for him, and he looked dominant against the Storm, building up a big lead early before ending things with a pin over Blake Keske in 2:37.
“He is learning how to get down to weight and manage his weight,” head coach Tom Ellison said. “So as the season goes on, we’re going to see him adjust to that loss of weight and wrestle with even more intensity.”
He’s part of a deep Alexandria lineup and a group that believe they will only get better as the season progresses. The Cardinals looked good at a lot of spots against the Storm as Olhausen (138, 3:29), Jacob Schiltgen (145, 0:54) and Quintin Kluver-Longfellow (170, 3:40) joined Cumberbatch with pins.
Dylan Kriese won by major decision (9-1) at 126 pounds. Senior Trent Piepenburg followed suit with a 6-4 decision win against a good opponent in Korey Keske at 132 pounds. Shawn Nelson also won by decision (6-3) at 220 pounds, while Alexandria added forfeit wins at 152 and 160 pounds to open things up in the team score.
“We knew that Sauk Rapids was down a little as far as the strength of their team, but they have some awfully good competitors,” Ellison said. “You saw that tonight at 120. Taylor Rau is an excellent wrestler and he showed it tonight. Then Corey Keske, the guy who wrestled Trent Piepenburg, he had a really good season last year, so we knew that would be a tight match as well.”
One thing Ellison wanted his wrestlers to do this season was cut down on the number of pins they take. In tight matches, those are things that can make the difference between a win and a loss.
“We’re getting better with that,” Ellison said. “We gave up a [three] pins tonight, but we had some young guys in there who were maybe a little overmatched. We still don’t have our full complement of wrestlers in our lineup yet. I think once we get there we’ll be in good shape.”
After three straight wins, there wasn’t a lot to complain about for this team. Expectations were high coming into the season and that hasn’t changed after a fast start.
“We’ve definitely changed a lot,” Cumberbatch said. “We’re working harder and pushing ourselves to new limits. Willmar definitely [will be good]. Everyone is going to be a competition. Little Falls will be a good one and then Moorhead will be a good one. We’ll take them one at a time, give them our best and finish this off.”
Alexandria 52, Sauk Rapids-Rice 18
106: Gage Zieske, Alex, dec. Hunter Rajkowski, SRR, 5-3; 113: Ben Johnson, Alex, dec. Zachary Spohn, SRR, 7-2; 120: Taylor Rau, SRR, pinned Adam Johnson, Alex, 0:32; 126: Dylan Kriese, Alex, maj. dec. Tony Bemboom, SRR, 9-1; 132: Trent Piepenburg, Alex, dec. Korey Keske, SRR, 6-4; 138: Blake Olhausen, Alex, pinned David Nelson, SRR, 3:29; 145: Jacob Schiltgen, Alex, pinned Brent Lindgren, SRR, 0:54; 152: Dustin Neu, Alex, forfeit win; 160: Jake Nienaber, Alex, forfeit win; 170: Quintin Kluver-Longfellow, Alex, pinned Tanner Maier, SRR, 3:40; 182: Richard Carriveau, SRR, pinned Jay Kohls, Alex, 3:03; 195: Justin Cumberbatch, Alex, pinned Blake Keske, SRR, 2:37; 220: Shawn Nelson, Alex, dec. Dylan Vait, SRR, 6-3; 285: Adam Gesell, SRR, pinned Dan Oberg, Alex, 1:11