Cloquet-Esko wrestlers blanked 80-0 by AitkinIn wrestling, technically, it can’t get any worse. Cloquet-Esko opened their wrestling campaign with a rare goose egg, a shutout out 80-0 by Aitkin Tuesday on the road. Lumberjacks coach Al Denman said a blanking like that doesn’t happen too often.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
In wrestling, technically, it can’t get any worse.
Cloquet-Esko opened their wrestling campaign with a rare goose egg, a shutout out 80-0 by Aitkin Tuesday on the road. Lumberjacks coach Al Denman said a blanking like that doesn’t happen too often.
“That’s the first one of my career,” said Denman, who has been involved with the sport for over a decade. “That’s the worst you can be shut out.”
The Lumberjacks were given just five minutes to warm up, while Aitkin had been on the mats since the school’s final bell rang.
“We usually get 20 minutes to get going,” said a frustrated Denman. “I’m not making excuses, but to only get five minutes was a rough start. I wasn’t too happy about it.”
Cloquet-Esko failed to post a single winner in any of the 14 events, including half a dozen forfeits because of their thin numbers. Denman also noted their youth showed against the traditionally-storied Gobblers.
“We have a lot of junior varsity-level wrestlers up on varsity,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, Aitkin has a strong team with some quality wrestlers, but we’re just too shallow.”
Cloquet senior Jake Baker was closest to posting a win, yet the 171-pounder fell 7-5.
“Usually you can get one or two wins,” said Denman, “but not tonight.
“Aitkin is good,” he continued, “but they don’t have a hockey team either.”
Hurting the Lumberjacks (0-1) this year was the loss of roughly a dozen wrestlers over the off-season. Some quit, others were ineligible and some just lost interest in the sport. Denman said it has been tough, but realizes there will be some growing pains this winter.
“We expected that things like this might happen to us this year,” he said. “But, that’s just the way things have worked out for us.”
Throughout the hardship, Denman has pointed out the reality.
“After tonight, I told the kids to keep things in perspective, because really, this was our first meet,” he said. “I told them not to worry about the wins and losses column because that’s not what it’s about. It’s about growth.”
For Denman, it’s not even about the sport, really. It’s about life.
“My focus has never been just on wrestling, it never has,” he continued. “It’s about developing and growing as a person. That’s what I want. To go through tough times and hardship are all a part of life. Those are good life skills. We want to build on wrestling skills, progress and get better throughout the year, but we also want to grow as human beings, too.”
Cloquet-Esko will head to Hinckley-Finlayson Friday for a 6 p.m. quadrangular with the Jaguars, Princeton and North Branch. Their first home contest starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 14, in a triangular with powerful Virginia and Nashwauk-Keewatin.