Cloquet wrestlers nearly pull out winCall it solid coaching from Virginia coach Rick Erickson. Late in a high school wrestling dual Tuesday, Erickson realigned his roster in order to maximize the remaining matches between his Blue Devils and the Cloquet-Esko Lumberjacks.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
CLOQUET – Call it solid coaching from Virginia coach Rick Erickson.
Late in a high school wrestling dual Tuesday, Erickson realigned his roster in order to maximize the remaining matches between his Blue Devils and the Cloquet-Esko Lumberjacks.
After that crafty handling of his lineup card, Erickson watched his Blue Devils tally the last 18 points in the final three bouts as Virginia topped Cloquet-Esko 40-33 in a thriller.
Shuffling a few kids here and there, Erickson placed a blind wrestler on his team against an open slot for the Lumberjacks which created a forfeit, then he shifted a wrestler up to heavyweight and, finally, witnessed Virginia senior Tyler Wallner pin first-year Lumberjack wrestler Kyle Langenbrunner.
Just like that: three bouts, 18 points.
“I would have done it too,” said Cloquet-Esko coach Al Denman.
Despite Langenbrunner’s loss in the 189-pound division in crunch time, Denman was pleased with his rookie’s efforts.
“I just told him to try and hold his position and maintain his form,” said Denman. “Wallner is much more experienced and simply stronger. That really opened the door. But that’s not Kyle’s fault.”
Frankly, the Lumberjacks lack experience.
“That’s it,” continued Denman. “We’re inexperienced. We lost a ton of wrestlers from last year. If we had three or four of them this year, we would have creamed Virginia.”
However, that wasn’t the case.
Of the 14 events Tuesday, Cloquet-Esko won six compared to Virginia’s eight. In addition to giving up a trio of forfeits in open weight classes, the Lumberjacks gained wins from seventh-grader Mitchell Borchardt at 103 pounds, sophomore Jordan Baker at 130 and senior standout Jake Baker at 171 pounds.
Jake Baker’s pin of the Blue Devils’ Gabe Lund was the night’s highlight.
“I don’t think it took 30 seconds,” Denman said.
Baker is the centerpiece of a hampered Cloquet-Esko wrestling squad that lost roughly a dozen wrestlers during the off-season. Of the kids remaining, they’re a tough bunch.
“We’re well conditioned and wrestling aggressively,” said Denman, whose team has already made its way to Aitkin and Hinckley for meets this season. “I work the tar out of those kids.
“It’s just most of them have only been wrestling a couple years, compared to the kids they face who have been at it since age 5,” he continued. “A lot of things have conspired against us, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”
Since their opener, an 80-0 shutout at Aitkin, Cloquet-Esko has improved immensely. They fared well at the Hinckley Triangular, and lost by just seven points to Virginia. In Denman’s eyes, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
“These kids are showing signs of confidence,” he said.
Denman’s bunch will take to the mats again at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 21, when they host another dual meet against Rush City.