FAIRMONT - Going into last season, the Fairmont/Martin County West Red Bulls wrestling team knew that it would have to rely on its young wrestlers if it wanted to be successful.
This year, the Red Bulls will look to replace state-ranked wrestlers - Trevor Schultz and Colton Hines - and know that their varsity experience could be an ingredient for success.
"We lost those wrestlers, and those will be tough shoes to fill," said first-year head coach Adam Williamson. "But we believe that we have an experienced team that should be able to compete well this season."
LOCKING UP — Members of the 2013-14 Fairmont/Martin County West Red Bulls wrestling team opening the season tonight in a triangular meet against Waseca and New Ulm in New Ulm include, front row (l-r): Remington Kuehl, Christopher Krenz, Harley Luhmann, Joe Weber, Nathan Gillis and Nick Segar. Second row: Jarrod Daniel, Zach Ringnell, Mario Maldonado, Christian Hugget, Elijah Gronewold, Luis Figueroa, Collin Steuber, Phillip Bowie and Ramon Bowie. Third row: Eli Zuelke, Alberto Olivarez, Tristan Lange, Jordan Wolter, Chris Ettesvold, Tanner Klug, Nathan Willett, Arvizu Hugo and assistant coach Curtis Smith. Back row: Head coach Adam Williamson, Riley Suefert, Kolin Kelly, Adrian Moscoffian, Tanner Lange, Kory Brown, Mark Washa, Conner Malo, Dayton Nielsen and Cesario Lerma. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
Among those returning to the varsity mats this winter are state qualifiers and senior captains Kory Brown and Joe Weber.
After winning both the Valley Conference and the South Central Conference, in addition to the Section 3AA title last season, the Class AA, No. 8-ranked 152-pound Weber has high expectations this season.
"Last year, he set goals for himself to win those three tournaments and get to the state tournament, and he was able to do that," said Williamson. "This year, he is setting high but realistic goals again for himself, and he has gotten better and more mature so it'll be exciting to see how the season goes."
In addition to Weber's state tournament experience, the Red Bulls also will have the No. 6-ranked 195-pound Kory Brown battling near the top of lineup.
"Kory finished the second half of the season really strong last year and surprised some people to get to state," said Williamson. "He has moved up a couple weights this season, but he is probably the most excited for this season."
Other returners that could provide some excitement on the mat for the Red Bulls are 113-pounder Collin Steuber, 120-pounder Chris Ettesvold and Elijah Gronewold at 145.
"Collin was around 10 wins for us last season and we are looking for him to improve for us. Ettesvold has a lot of varsity experience and could be very strong for us at that weight," said Williamson. "Last year, Elijah showed a lot of improvement and I think that even though he'll be moved up a weight, he still has high expectations for himself."
With added varsity experience throughout the Red Bull lineup, Williamson believes that they will be able to compete with some of the top contenders in the conferences and section.
"Blue Earth Area, St. Peter, St. James are always tough and bring back a lot of guys on their lineups," said Williamson. "And the same is true for Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial. In matches with good teams like that, it can come down to one match or one point. Each person counts."
Making their first appearances on the varsity roster this season will be seventh-graders Christian Hugget, Mario Maldonado and Christopher Krenz.
The youth on the squad will be balanced by more upperclassmen looking to increase their varsity experience.
Levi Bulfer (138), Kolin Kelly (132), Harley Luhmann (160-170), Tanner Lange (160), Phillip Bowie (170), Nathan Gillis (182) and Luis Figueroa (220) will look to be consistent contributors to the Red Bull lineup.
"Coming into the season as coaches with a team with lots of varsity experience is really an exciting thing. These guys put in a lot of work during the offseason and the improvement has been showing already in practice," said Williamson. "For the guys who have experience, it is nice going into matches because you know what to expect, and for us coaches it's nice because we know what they can do better as well."
One of the tougher holes to fill in the lineup for the Red Bulls will be the 285-pound heavyweight spot. Mark Washa, Adrian Moscoffian and Riley Suefert are all battling for the opportunity to close out the matches for the Red Bulls.
"With our lineup, it is nice to have Joe and Kory go back-to-back, but I'm confident that we will have a tough top of the lineup for teams to get through," said Williamson. "And if the kids keep working hard and we finish the second half of the season strong who knows where we could be."
Fairmont/Martin County West opens the season on the road against New Ulm and Waseca in triangular wrestling action at 5 p.m. today in New Ulm.
The Red Bulls then travel to challenge St. James at 6 p.m. Thursday night in St. James before hosting their home opener against Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial at 7:30 p.m. Friday night in Sherburn.