For most high school sports in South Dakota, the overall divide in quality and talent between classes is noticeable.
Wrestling, however, blurs that line between Class A and B every year with the mixture of classes during the Floyd Farrand Invitational at Lincoln, even if the stigma of one class’ dominance over another looms among spectators.
“You hear stuff, but in my head it’s just another kid out there,” said Parkston coach Jared Digmann, whose team leads with 87.5 points after Friday’s action. “Both classes have really good wrestlers. You take the top kids in both classes and mix ’em up and there’s going to be good matches.”
The Trojans, who have won all three of their meets this season, were the team receiving the majority of the chatter heading into the invite and showed up on Day 1, with seven wrestlers advancing to today’s semifinals.
While having a ‘B’ school come in and dominate a combined tournament would raise some eyebrows, Parkston holds a key advantage over its Class B counterparts this season – depth – which is one of only a few discrepancies Digmann sees between the classes.
“The biggest difference is ‘A’s’ have more kids to choose from so they have deeper lineups,” he said. “Most ‘A’ schools can fill a full lineup. In ‘B’, there’s five or six of us that can fill a full lineup.”
But what about the wrestlers themselves? How do they see the split between classes?
“A lot of people think ‘A’ schools are better because they’re bigger and ‘B’ fans think ‘B’ schools are better because they wrestle each other more,” said 120-pound Howard sophomore Luke Loudenburg, who defeated Sisseton’s Colton Richards by tech fall (16-1) and Sturgis’ Tanner Brengle by major decision (9-1) on Friday. “It’s kind of a toss-up. It’s not ‘A’ or ‘B’, it’s the wrestler.”
The balance of quality between classes has been pretty steady in recent years in terms of top tier wrestlers, with Class B Wagner churning out a pair of elite standouts in five-time state champion Alex Kocer and three-time champ Robert Kokesh, who now wrestles at Nebraska. And then there’s Webster’s Logan Storley (now at the University of Minnesota), who tied a state record with his sixth career state title in 2011.
Meanwhile, former ‘A’ wrestlers Dustin Walraven (Huron, now at South Dakota State) and Seth Lange (Sturgis, now at Minnesota) were recent four-time state champions.
“It’s really the same thing, taking it match-by-match,” said 138-pound Wagner senior Tyler Dion, who pinned a pair of ‘A’ opponents in Washington’s Orlando Ramirez (2:51) and Sturgis’ Caleb Karrels (2:57). “The ‘A’s, they don’t really scare me. You’ve just got to have the mentality that it doesn’t matter where they’re from; just go out there and take it to ’em.”
Others, like 145-pound Canton junior Alex Davies, admit they feel that ‘B’ grapplers have more to prove going into the Floyd Farrand.
“I don’t know why, just because,” said Davies, who pinned O’Gorman’s Andrew Sammons (37 seconds) before advancing to the semis on a forfeit.
While it’s possible that several of today’s championship matches will pit the two classes against each other, the 120-pound title bout holds exceptional bragging rights as Loudenburg and Washington’s David Potratz could square off for a second straight year. Loudenburg defeated Potratz by a decision last season at the Floyd Farrand as both went their separate ways afterward to win the 106-pound state championship in their respective classes.
“If you get beat by him, it’s not like you’re going to see him the rest of the year,” said Loudenburg. “If you beat him, he’s got to hold on to that until next year or vice-versa.”
Potratz, who won both of his Friday matches by pinfall, is ready for another shot at his ‘B’ counterpart if it comes his way.
“Hopefully I’ll get to see him again in the championship,” said the Warriors senior. “It’ll be redemption time.”