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Paynesville Press - November 28, 2001

Wrestlers ranked third in state

By Michael Jacobson

The Bulldog wrestling team will aim for a fourth consecutive trip to state this winter against familiar foes. After a two-year stint in Class A, the Bulldogs have moved back into Class AA and back to Section 5AA with Dassel-Cokato, Rocori, and Litchfield.

The Bulldogs won Section 5AA three years ago and won Section 6A the last two years. They have placed fourth in the state twice in the past three years (in Class AA in 1999 and in Class A in 2001) and won their fourth state title in Class A in 2000.

With 28 wrestlers in grades 9-12, including seven seniors and eight juniors, the team has lots of potential once again, and starts the season ranked third in Class AA. But coach Virg Vagle doesn't put much faith in state rankings, especially preseason rankings. Litchfield and Dassel-Cokato are rated in the top ten as well, so the Bulldogs have their work cut out for them if they want to get back to state.

The Bulldogs lost three seniors from a year ago, including two-time state champion David Kerzman and Joe Hiltner, who placed fourth at 140 last year. "David Kerzman was almost a sure six. He rewrote our record book," said Vagle, of Paynesville's only two-time state wrestling champion and its career leader in wins, winning percentage, pins, championships, and a number of other categories.

Last year, the Bulldogs counted on Kerzman and Hiltner to alternate between two weights and score bonus points on the opponent's stronger wrestler. "(Hiltner) had oodles and oodles of pins," said Vagle. "It's going to be hard to replace these big hitters."

The leading candidate to do so is Jeremy Sogge, who has placed second and third individually at state the past two years. Sogge, who was 40-6 as a junior, starts his senior season with 129 career wins and could pass everyone but Kerzman on the career victory list.

According to Vagle, Sogge is much like his older brother, Chris, a standout on the 2000 title team. Both Chris and Jeremy are fierce competitors who find ways to win, he explained. "Jeremy has a lot of heart," said Vagle.

Paynesville also returns five other state entrants from a year ago: seniors Jeremy Fuchs, Nathan Glenz, Max Meagher, and Josh Schreifels and junior Adam Christian. Vagle cautions that the Bulldogs likely would not have had as many state entrants last year if they had been in Section 5AA, instead of Section 6A.

Glenz, a two-time state entrant, should crack 100 career wins this winter. He starts the year with a career record of 82-42.

In the preseason individual rankings, Sogge is second at 130 behind three-time state champion Jeff Pfaffinger of Blue Earth Area. Glenz is sixth at 125, Schreifels 10th at 152, and Meagher sixth at 171.

The team's success this winter will hinge on how many of these returning veterans step up and become stoppers, said Vagle. They also need to see how balanced the lineup will be. "Everyone is important," he stresses.

Other returning regulars from a year ago are: juniors Ryan Glenz (who won 26 matches), heavyweight Brad Person, and eighth grader Sean Glenz. Juniors Josh Kerzman and Pat Noonan also got significant experience a year ago.

One of the first tasks will be to get the returning wrestlers into lineup spots, a task made more difficult this year by having three ineligible wrestlers to start the season. Vagle said the team needs to get everyone eligible and keep them eligible for the rest of the season. "If high school athletics are important, they need to realize that and put things first," he said.

Other seniors on the team this year are Nick Fuchs and Ben Lang. Other juniors are Pat Noonan, Justin Reeck, and two transfers: Josh Johnson from Alexandria and Martin Engan from BBE, who finished fourth in Section 6A last year.

The Bulldogs start their season at the Foley Tournament on Saturday against Becker, Foley, Grand Rapids, Hibbing, and Parkers Prairie. Pool matches will be held at 10 a.m., 12 noon, and 2 p.m. The championship round is scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m.

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