Red Bulls ranked No. 3 in Class AA wrestling poll

LOCKING UP — Members of the Fairmont/Martin County West Red Bulls wrestling lineup opening the season by competing in the Maher Invitational in Blue Earth starting at 10 a.m. Saturday include, front row (l-r): Manager Kyra Williamson, Jayden Aubart, Jesse Potts, Lucas Jagodzinske, Kain Sanders, Connor Simmonds, Jaxson Rohman, Cesar Flores and manager Jenna Clow. Middle row: Miles Fitzgerald, Michael Johnson, James Joyner, Shayne Steinbrink, Andrew Lawrence, Payton Anderson, Blake Jagodzinske, Jordan Wolter and Mario Maldonado. Back row: Nathan Simmonds, Cale Steuber, Garrett Myren, Jacob Rahn, Tristan Lange, Chris Johnson and Everardo Hernandez. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT — A runner-up showing in the Minnesota Class AA state team wrestling tournament. A 27-1 dual-meet record. Both the Big South and Valley conference dual-meet championships. Nine individual state qualifiers, including one champion and a pair of sixth-place medalists.

After a season of record-shattering performances in 2017-18, what do Fairmont/Martin County West head coach Adam Williamson and his Red Bulls grapplers do for an encore this winter?

“We definitely have one more step to take this season,” said Williamson, whose lineup’s lone loss to Kasson-Mantorville in the state team finals denied the powerhouse Red Bulls a rare place in the Minnesota State High School League’s record books. “We’re going after better competition this season by adding two of the tougher tournaments in the state to our schedule.”

The Red Bulls, who hold the No. 3 spot in the Guillotine’s Class AA preseason rankings, will compete in the Rochester holiday tournament on Dec. 14-15 before hitting the canvas in Kasson on Jan. 26 for the esteemed Swalla Duals.

“We opted out of the Rumble on the Red tournament (in Fargo, N.D.) this year for the chance to compete at Rochester,” said Williamson. “The Rochester tournament is like the Rumble on the Red on steroids. Its field will feature the best of the best from a number of surrounding states.

“We need a challenge like that to push us to the next level. We’re looking to our returning starters to be leaders that are the driving forces behind us getting better.”

Sophomore Jaxson Rohman, the 2018 Class AA 113-pound state champion, along with sixth-place state medalists senior Jordan Wolter and junior Miles Fitzgerald, will be near-perfect role models for the up-and-coming Red Bulls grapplers to emulate.

Rohman, who also captured state runner-up honors at 106 pounds in 2017, represents one of nine Red Bulls meriting spots in the Guillotine’s preseason individual state rankings this winter. The three-time individual state qualifier is currently ranked No. 2 at 120 pounds, and will compete in that weight bracket during Saturday’s season-opening Maher Invitational in Blue Earth.

Wolter, who placed sixth at state at 132 pounds last season, helped guide the Fairmont Cardinals football team to a Class AAA state second-place showing only six days ago and will hit the mats in Blue Earth on Saturday at 138. The three-time state qualifier holds the No. 6 spot in the Class AA 138-pound rankings.

Fitzgerald, who produced a sixth-place medal at 145 a year ago, is currently ranked No. 5 at 152, and will compete in that division during Saturday’s season-opening action.

Sophomore Lucas Jagodzinske, sophomore Connor Simmonds, junior Payton Anderson, senior Tristan Lange and junior Nathan Simmonds — who were all Class AA individual state qualifiers in 2018 — along with junior Cale Steuber also are ranked in the latest preseason poll.

Lucas Jagodzinske is ranked No. 4 at 113 pounds and will step to the mat at that weight class during Saturday’s Maher Invite after freshman Jesse Potts, a newcomer to the varsity roster, grapples at the 106-pound level.

“Jesse will be a nice addition to a lineup already deep in talent,” said Williamson.

Connor Simmonds, who’s ranked No. 4 at 126, will wrestle in that bracket during the season opener, while two-time state qualifier Payton Anderson will tie up in his first match at 145 in Blue Earth. Anderson is ranked third at that weight class.

Nathan Simmonds, who also holds the No. 3 spot in Class AA — only at 160, will follow Fitzgerald to the mat during the Maher Invite, while Lange will fill the 182-pound position in the Red Bulls’ lineup. Lange, who’s currently No. 5 at 182, will follow the return of senior Mario Maldonado at 170.

“After missing the entire season last year due to a bad knee injury, it’ll be nice to have Mario back on the mat,” said Williamson. “He’s got a great work ethic and is a good leader.”

Cale Steuber, who holds the No. 7 spot at 132 in Class AA, will provide solid point production between Connor Simmonds and Wolter for the Red Bulls. Similar to Maldonado, Steuber is returning from an injury suffered during the summertime.

Junior Jacob Rahn and sophomore Everardo Hernandez will round out the Red Bulls’ starting lineup during Saturday’s Maher Invite at 220 and heavyweight, respectively.

Senior Garrett Myren, who played basketball during the 2017-18 campaign, returned to wrestling after his year-long hiatus and will likely be a frontrunner to fill the 195-pound bracket as the season progresses.

“We’re a goal-oriented team, and our ultimate goal is to return to state as a team for a second year in a row,” said Williamson.

Williamson anticipates Marshall and Redwood River Valley as two of the top contenders in the Section 3AA team competition due to each squad’s returning grapplers this season.

Mike Steuber, Dusty Faber, Darrin Allen and Derek Sanders will comprise Williamson’s coaching staff in 2018-19.

The Red Bulls open dual-meet competition by traveling to New Ulm on Friday, Dec. 7.

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