After going 38 years without a Class A team wrestling title, Pierre will look to make it two in a row when the Governors enter this weekend’s state meet in Watertown as a slight favorite.
Pierre returned nine of its top wrestlers from a year ago and qualified 13 grapplers for Friday’s opening action with the hopes of pushing as many as possible into Saturday’s championship rounds.
Caleb Stoltenberg, last year’s 132-pound champ, highlights the Govs’ best as the senior has compiled a 33-6 record this season at 138. Freshman Jebben Keyes (36-4 at 113), junior Tanner Monfore (34-3 at 132) and seniors Trey Maier (30-2 at 195) and Lane Lettau (37-4 at 220) round out a formidable group.
“Top to bottom, we have a pretty complete team,” said Pierre coach Ryan Noyes. “We know how difficult of a task (repeating) is going to be, but we have a great bunch of seniors and a group of guys who have done all the right things.”
Although the Govs coasted to a 13-point win over Huron last season, that isn’t likely to be the case as Rapid City Central aims to stop its own drought that extends back to 1984.
The Cobblers, who are also sending 13 wrestlers to the state meet, finished third last season (two points back of second-place Huron) but have their sights set on a title.
While Central is just as loaded with championship caliber talent, senior Aero Amo (49-0 at 182) and junior Blake Stone (47-3 at 145) stand as the Cobblers’ top scoring options.
“Rapid City Central probably poses the biggest threat,” said Noyes. “Our guys are going to have to wrestle well if we’re going to hang with them.”
While Huron, Sturgis and Aberdeen Central expect to slide in behind the top two squads, Roosevelt is hoping to shuffle into the top-5 conversation with a young group. The Rough Riders, 14th a year ago and this year’s Region 1A champs, have found the majority of their scoring at the lower weights and are looking to do so one more time behind a school-record 11 state qualifiers – as well as flying under the radar.
“The thing about being one of the big dogs like Pierre or Rapid City Central or Sturgis is people expect it out of you,” said Roosevelt coach Darrell Kortan. “We don’t feel any pressure. We don’t have anything to prove. Nobody’s expecting a whole lot out of us because we’re so young.”
Junior Troy Kiggins leads the charge with a 23-2 record at 120 pounds after missing the first half of the season, but is looking to close strong with a third consecutive state title. Doing so could mean a Sioux Falls showdown with Washington senior David Potratz (28-5), who claimed the 106-pound championship last year.
Seventh grader Carter Lohr (38-10) could also factor into the 106-pound chase, while freshman Kyle Yasgar (38-7 at 132) and sophomores Kahlen Morris (41-4 at 113) and Zach Determan (31-4 at 138) will be counted on to score as they’ve done all season for the Riders.
“It was more than pressure just to win,” said Kortan of his lower weights, “they had to get the maximum points and that really helped them formulate a pattern because normally those little guys push that pressure off to the big guys.”
Washington, which placed seventh last year, qualified 12 for state, including Grant Rosheim (25-5 at 126), Dan Marlette (33-13 at 182) and Chris Vroman, who is 33-9 at 285 pounds.
Meanwhile, Spearfish/Lead-Deadwood senior Nate Rotert (38-1 at 195) and Dakota Valley senior Tanner Lambert (36-2 at 285) will attempt to close out careers with back-to-back titles.