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Paynesville Press - November 29, 2006

Young wrestlers preparing for opener at Foley

By Michael Jacobson

Having graduated eight seniors and facing a tough schedule again, the Bulldogs wrestling team might face some growing pains this winter. But if the young wrestlers continue to develop, the Dogs could be a tough team by the end of the season.

"This will be the youngest team we've had in quite a while," said coach Tim Woehler. "We could have five freshman on varsity."

"We're young, but if we stay healthy, we could surprise some people," he added.

The Bulldogs, who are rated #21 in Class A by the Guillotine in its preseason rankings, do return a number of wrestlers with varsity experience, including six who won at least 15 matches last year: sophomore Jon Kerzman (24-15), junior Jordan Christian (22-5), junior Kevin Klein (22-8), junior Luke Frank (17-21), senior Aaron Burris (16-3), and junior Jeff Albright (15-13).

Other wrestlers with varsity experience are senior Brad Torborg, junior Ryan Gale, junior Cory Spanier, junior Calvin Weber, ninth grader Hayden Spaeth, ninth grader Justin Wendlandt, and eighth grader Tyler Hemmesch.

The Dogs have only 23 wrestlers in grades 9-12 (with 16 in the junior high). The 9-12 numbers are low, conceded Woehler, but expected since the team only has two seniors and three sophomores.

Woehler said he is quietly optimistic about this year's team, hoping that good leadership from juniors and seniors will combine with good talent and hard work from the younger wrestlers to make a strong team. The Dogs need to stay healthy, stay eligible, and have steady improvement throughout the year, "one percent everyday," Woehler explained.

Some of the young varsity wrestlers will need to learn what it's all about to wrestle on varsity, said new assistant coach Jason Mages, a former Bulldog standout, but if they continue to improve, the team could be "dang tough" by the end of the season.

Once again, the Dogs will face a schedule of mostly Class AA and Class AAA teams, with more than a dozen state-rated teams on the slate. "Not too many schools our size wrestle this schedule," said Woehler.

In the conference, defending champion Minnewaska returns as the favorite, with Woehler listing New London-Spicer and Albany as strong contenders.

In the section, ACGC - rated #3 - returns as the favorite, having placed third in state the past two years. Woehler and Mages expect the Dogs to reach the final four of sections again, where they could face Eden Valley-Watkins (rated #18 in Class A) again to reach the section finals.

The Dogs will start their season at the Foley Tourney on Saturday.

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