Wrestlers make school history with team Section 7AA winIn the Section 7AA team preliminaries at Cloquet High School Tuesday evening, fifth-seeded Cloquet-Esko upset fourth-seeded Virginia Area 41-36. The team victory was the second of the season for the Lumberjacks, and the first time the six-year-old varsity program had advanced in school history.
CLOQUET – Following wrestling practice Monday evening, Reid Borchardt glanced down at his knee and flexed his knuckles while talking about how much time he’s spent on the sidelines due to injuries this winter.
Fully-recovered now, the Esko sophomore isn’t taking any shortcuts when it comes to his training methods in February. It’s time for the postseason.
“I easily missed half of the season,” Borchardt said Monday of the dislocated right knee and number of broken knuckles he’s suffered throughout the past months. “But this time of year, you better be working hard.”
Although Borchardt missed a majority of the regular season, the 138-pounder helped make history Tuesday evening.
In the Section 7AA team preliminaries at Cloquet High School, fifth-seeded Cloquet-Esko upset fourth-seeded Virginia Area 41-36. The team victory was the second of the season for the Lumberjacks, and the first time the six-year-old varsity program had advanced in school history.
“Our season was just made here tonight,” said Cloquet-Esko Coach Al Denman. “A lot of things had to go right, but these kids made history.”
Denman was referring to the fact that his Lumberjacks had to overcome five forfeited weight classes Tuesday. With the forfeits, Cloquet-Esko issued 30 free points to the Blue Devils, but thanks to seven pins in nine matches, the ’Jacks won the dual and advanced.
Earning pins for the Lumberjacks were Mitchell Borchardt (106 pounds), Jolynne Denman (113) and Conner Denman (120), Jordan Baker (126), Reid Borchardt (138), Cohen Nelson (152) and Treavor Lowther (Heavyweight).
“I’ve never seen that many for us before,” Denman said of their six straight pins and one technical pin. “With all of our forfeits, that really hurt, but I told them beforehand that if we stood any sort of chances, we had to get pins, and not get pinned.”
Following a double-forfeit by both squads, Denman won the ensuing coin toss and eventually chose to move Lowther up to heavyweight in the dual’s final match of the evening. Then trailing 36-35, Cloquet-Esko’s usual 220-pound Lowther pinned Virginia Area’s Josh Volk in the first period before the sidelines and the crowd erupted.
Cloquet-Esko advanced to face top-ranked Grand Rapids in the Section 7AA quarterfinals later Tuesday night, but they were defeated and the team season ended.
Yet, Lumberjack wrestlers know this winter has been memorable – not only on the scoreboard, but in terms of the everyday skills such as positioning and other fundamentals.
“We have gotten a lot better over the course of the year,” Esko eighth-grader Mitchell Borchardt said Monday following practice alongside his older brother, Reid. “We have a bunch of first-year wrestlers, but everyone has been working hard every practice and improving their strength and technique.”
That says a lot, especially with the injuries Cloquet-Esko wrestlers have suffered throughout the year. Along with Reid Borchardt, both Kristina Erickson and Andrew Desmond have also been out with injuries, suffering recent concussions. Anthony Wilton has also been missed most of the season with a nagging shoulder injury, while Cohen Nelson even pinned his opponent Tuesday with a taped up and bothersome thumb.
“It’s been a hard year,” said the 5-foot-8, 138-pound Erickson, who has missed the tail of the regular season and beginning of the postseason. “Forfeits kill you.”
Using Erickson as an example, Denman noted that his team has had to forfeit an average of four weight classes per night. At six points apiece – or 30 total points like they allowed Tuesday –
Denman said it’s been brutal.
“It’s been tough,” added Reid Borchardt. “It was tough to watch when I wanted to be out there. But Mitchell has been wrestling great. I’m like the proudest big brother in the world.”
With both brothers at 100 percent these days, Reid said this time of year is the most important. Mitchell, meanwhile, was quick to say he’s been the lucky one of the family.
“It’s nice not having been injured as a wrestler,” Mitchell said with a laugh.
Denman said the brothers will be highly seeded entering the upcoming Section 7AA individual tournament in February and could potentially be legitimate threats for the state meet come the opening weekend of March.
“Mitchell has a good chance to go and I like Reid’s chances a lot,” Denman said Monday evening. “Both are quality wrestlers, but both will need a little Lady Luck, too.”
“Once you lose, you’re done,” added Erickson. “Now, it’s all about improving and refining your technique and taking what you’ve already learned and making it perfect.”
Near perfect last Friday in winning his weight class, Mitchell Borchardt was crowned a Great River Conference champion in
Monday, he said he’s increased his strength immensely, while he’s sized up a bit from his lean 93-pound frame a year ago.
Along with Mitchell, Denman said Reid was a single move away, placing runner-up at the conference meet, along with his seventh-grade son, Conner Denman.
Yet, despite a lopsided record, Al Denman knows the Cloquet-Esko program is growing on and off the mats.
“We have a new youth program that just started in Esko, while we have more numbers in Cloquet, too,” Denman said, “but what we’re doing here has little to do with gold medals and podiums. We’re teaching life lessons for the real world.
“If these kids can come back to me when I’m 80 and say ‘Coach, wrestling made me a better person,’ then I’ll call my coaching career a success.”