Rush City-Braham edges CEB 38-34, Baker wins individual title in BemidjiTo put it briefly, the Cloquet-Esko-Barnum wrestling team is just hanging on. Coming into the season with thin numbers on the mats, the Lumberjacks recently suffered a handful of injuries, putting the fourth-year program’s success on hold.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
To put it briefly, the Cloquet-Esko-Barnum wrestling team is just hanging on.
Coming into the season with thin numbers on the mats, the Lumberjacks recently suffered a handful of injuries, putting the fourth-year program’s success on hold.
“We’re in a tough spot right now,” said CEB wrestling head coach Al Denman. “Honestly, we’re just way too thin and have too many holes. And our injuries have really hurt.”
Suffering a shoulder injury in Foley to open the season, all-state Cloquet senior standout Jordan Land re-dislocated his shoulder recently. The two-time state participant will forego the rest of his season and have surgery as soon as possible.
“That’s a killer,” said Denman about losing his star. “Jordan is one of the best 112-pound wrestlers in the state. Missing him for the rest of the year will really hurt us.”
Another Cloquet senior wrestling at 160 pounds, Gage Savage, also recently injured himself on the mats and has moved to the sidelines. At this point, the team that started with roughly 30 healthy wrestlers has quickly dwindled to 20.
“We’ve had to forfeit quite a few weight classes this year and our injuries are going to continue to plague us,” said Denman. “But the kids are hanging in there. We’re just doing the best we can with what we’ve got.”
Most recently, CEB (3-13) lost a thrilling home match to Rush City-Braham 38-34 last Thursday night, while they finished seventh out of eight in the individual Bemidji Invitational Saturday.
“We were close against Rush City-Braham,” said Denman about the four-point loss which saw both squads earn a number of pins and decisions. “They just got a few more on the board than we did.”
Earning victories Thursday against their section foes were seniors Nathaniel Schulz (189), who pinned Codi Kruse in 1 minute, 45 seconds, and Cody Hraban (215), who received a forfeit. Junior Colton Inforzato (285) also won by forfeit and junior Justin Koen (152) pinned Johnathan Mielke in 3:25. Freshman Alex Citrowske (145) pinned Johnathan Lindgren in a quick 19 seconds, while eighth-grade standout Reid Borchardt (112) defeated John Welna 9-0.
Saturday in Bemidji, the ‘Jacks were highlighted by Cloquet junior Jake Baker’s championship finish at 171 pounds, while Borchardt claimed third at 103 pounds and Schulz placed fourth at 189 pounds.
Cloquet sophomore Jolynne Denman and freshman Kristina Erickson are also holding their own against the boys.
“Those two are a pair of fighters,” said Al Denman. “I think we’re the only wrestling team in the state that has two girls on their varsity roster. I don’t even know if anyone has one, let alone two. It’s pretty unique.”
To add to the challenges, Denman’s young bunch has faced a number of state-ranked teams and individuals this winter.
“Its maturity by fire around here,” said Denman. “These kids have been forced to grow up much faster in this sport than others. We’ve gone up against some really tough teams and quality wrestlers.”
For his part, Denman remains confident and is looking to the future.
“We’re holding on right now, but it’ll definitely pay off down the road,” he said. “Wrestling is a 10-year process and with the young talent that we got coming up the lines, this group is going to be very strong in the next four or five years.”
CEB will be back in section action Thursday, Jan. 21, when they travel to Hibbing.