Cloquet-Esko developing strong wrestling program
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
CLOQUET, Minn. – The Cloquet-Esko wrestling team may have only won three matches this past season, but their overall record doesn’t even come close to the development and success the young three-year varsity program has seen in recent years.
It has been in just those three years of existence that head coach Al Denman and his Lumberjacks have sent five wrestlers down to the state meet in St. Paul – a number most teams would dream of.
Just this season alone, three Lumberjacks – seniors Simon Thill and Jeremy Campbell and junior Jordan Land – were crowned champions in the Great River Conference.
Land advanced to his second-straight state tournament, while Thill was named the conference’s Most Valuable Player – an award given to just one elite wrester in the conference. Eighth-grade sensation Kristina Erickson just recently won the USA Girls Wrestling National Tournament in Oklahoma City.
“Starting from ground zero, the program has gone extremely well,” Denman said.
This season also marked the first-ever wrestling tournament held by the Cloquet-Esko program. The Lumberjacks played host for the Section 7AA Individual Wrestling Meet in February.
It was Denman who heard endless comments from coaches, fans, players and officials about how well the 13-team, 200-participant event was run.
Denman credits the community for the successful event, as well as the surging young Lumberjack program.
“The community is really supportive,” said Denman.. “We’ve seen so much support from the community. It’s just great.”
And though three seniors will graduate this spring, the program is definitely on the upswing and with a number of talented kids coming up through the program next year – including Land – Denman sees his ‘Jacks being stronger than ever.
“In four or five years, Cloquet-Esko is going to have an extremely strong team,” he said. “It takes patience, but it will happen. All the pieces are in place for this team to be great.”
Tags: winter sports wrapup