After graduating only three seniors, the Osakis wrestling team feels it has enough returning talent to be competitive against the top programs in Section 5A this year.
The Silverstreaks ended the team schedule last year with a 53-24 loss to Kimball in the Section 5A quarterfinals. Osakis sent three individuals to the state tournament, with Trenton Coyer and Brendon Coyer finishing on the podium. Brendon ended up taking fifth place at 120 pounds and Trenton placed sixth at 113 pounds.
Head coach Joey Andreasen said nine individual section place winners are returning for Osakis, which gives him hope to be more competitive against teams like Kimball and Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City (ACGC).
“All that I told the kids is we know this year we actually have a shot; we’re going to be competitive,” Andreasen said. “The last couple years between Kimball and Atwater, they were at a whole different level where we were hoping to place third behind those two teams.”
Last year, ACGC advanced through Section 5A to the state tournament, eventually finishing in second place among Class A teams. But ACGC lost some wrestlers to graduation, including three state champions. With Osakis’ returning numbers, the wrestlers have cautious optimism heading into the season.
“I think we have a great chance of making it to state this year,” Brendon Coyer said.
But for Osakis to compete with strong teams like Kimball and ACGC, they know that they will need to have all the pieces in place with a healthy lineup.
“I agree with Brendon, but we can’t look too far ahead of everybody else,” Engfer said. “We can’t overlook everybody else.”
Two spots that the Silverstreaks will need to replace from seniors are at 106 pounds and heavyweight. Devyn Johnson graduated after picking up 16 wins last year at 106, and Peter Hagen graduated after picking up 24 wins at the top weight classes, including heavyweight.
Seth Johnson will take over at 106 pounds for his sister, Devyn, this year. Seth had a 9-5 record in limited varsity time last year and took fifth place at 106 pounds at the section tournament.
“We expect him to compete for a section championship,” Andreasen said. “He’s a very skilled wrestler; he’s quick, he’s agile, and he’s fast.”
Logan Hartshorne is also expected to contribute at 113 pounds after finishing the junior varsity season undefeated last year.
Andreasen said three wrestlers will split time at the 195, 220 and heavyweight classes. Those wrestlers include Nils Hagen, Mitch Sunder and Ronnie Towle. While those wrestlers could move up to wrestle at the heavyweight class, Andreasen still wished they had someone the size of a true heavyweight.
“We spent a lot of time trying to recruit a big football player because it’s kind of a weakness right now, we don’t have a true heavyweight,” Andreasen said.
After they went to the state tournament last year, both Brendon Coyer and Engfer talked about their expectations for the season. Brendon said he and his brother, Trenton, have put in a lot of work over the summer.
“I’ve been to at least 10 camps this summer. I know my brother has too,” Brendon said.
Brendon said his goal is to finish in the top four of his weight class at the Class A state tournament this spring. Engfer said he would like to qualify for state again, but his focus is not to overlook the early part of this season’s schedule.
“I don’t want to look too far ahead,” Engfer said. “Just look at one wrestler at a time, beat one of them at a time, and don’t look too far ahead.”
Engfer and Brendon said they have benefited from working with each other and Trenton in practice. Often wrestlers at similar weight classes can help push each other over the course of the season, and the wrestlers plan to do that again this year.
“I think we’ll push each other hard,” Brendon said.
Andreasen has been impressed with the work his wrestlers have put in over the offseason. He feels the team has the strongest bunch of kids in recent memory.
“I’ve been kind of wrestling with the kids, and they are at levels that we haven’t seen yet around here,” Andreasen said. “So I am extremely excited, cautiously optimistic.”
The only thing that Andreasen said could hold back the team is a lack of depth. The Silverstreaks expect to fill all 14 weight classes to start the season, but that leaves few options for subs.
“The problem that we do have … is our depth, we cannot afford any injuries,” Andreasen said. “Not many wrestling teams can, of course. There are some weights where we would have no subs, whatsoever.”
Many of those wrestlers who are returning have plenty of experience on the mat. Andreasen said he hopes to send anywhere from five to eight wrestlers to the individual state tournament this year.
“I counted, and we’re expected to have 10 kids with 20 wins,” Andreasen said. “Now that’s the formula usually for a very successful tournament team. It just is going to depend on if we can fill those other four weights with competitive wrestlers. We can’t just give up six points, so we’ve got some work to do to build up some people’s skill level.”