Archive for HJ Sports

KOVAR: Plenty of things to watch for over the final months of prep basketball season

The holidays are finally over and it’s time to get back to work. 2020 is officially here, and just like 2019, the year looks to be filled with fun and exciting moments from the world of prep sports.

We are just about at the halfway point of the winter sports season as we get January rolling at full speed. It’s been a fun start to the winter sports season, and the end should be just as exciting if not more.

I found myself looking ahead this week to what is in store to come for the rest of the basketball season. There’s plenty to get excited about. I decided to share some of the games, conference races, and headlines I will be looking forward to, and keeping an eye on for the rest of the basketball season. Let’s get started.

HLWW girls battling for CMC title

The Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted girls basketball team has taken a big step forward this season in Ryan Petersen’s first year as head coach. The Lakers currently sit in a good spot in the Central MN Conference race, as things will begin to heat up soon.

Senior guard CJ Decker is playing at an unreal level right now for the Lakers. There’s no doubt she makes everyone else on the floor better, and is playing herself into the conversation for HJ Player of the Year.

Against Holdingford, the top team in the CMC so far, Decker had a triple-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 13 assists. She followed that up with a double-double (25 points and 11 assists) in a win over Southwest Christian the following day.

The Lakers also have a legitimate threat inside in Alexa Schumann. She’s taken huge strides in her overall game in the post, and combined with Decker, give HLWW a great one-two punch on the inside and outside.

Schumann is a walking double-double for the Lakers, as she’s improved her ability to finish and grab rebounds. If the Lakers do make a run for the CMC title, Schumann will be a big reason why.

If the Lakers are serious about contending for a conference title, they’ll need more consistent scoring from other players not named Decker or Schumann. Luckily, HLWW has they players who have that potential. Ellie Horn, Ivy Fasching, Abby Niesen, and Mariah Anderson have all shown flashes throughout the season. They can continue to build confidence and become legitimate weapons on offense, a conference title for the Lakers can be had.

With Tuesday’s loss to Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, the Lakers sit at 2-2 in conference play. HLWW hosts Royalton Friday night in almost a must-win game if the Lakers are serious about contending for a conference title.

Is this the year Mayer Lutheran girls break through?

It’s no secret the Mayer Lutheran girls’ basketball team has been one of the best and most consistent girls basketball teams in the area the past few seasons. Over the last four seasons, the Crusaders have averaged almost 20 wins a season. In the past two seasons, the Crusaders have made it to the Section 4A semifinals both times, and lost in the title game once in the 2017-18 season.

Although the Crusaders have been one of the most consistent teams in the area, one team has had their number – Heritage Christian Academy. The Eagles have ended the Crusaders’ season each of the past three seasons.

The most surprising defeat of those three came in the Section 4A title game in 2018. Mayer Lutheran defeated the Eagles 82-56 in the regular season on their way to be the No. 1 seed that season. In the Section 4A title game, it was Heritage Christian who got the last laugh with a convincing 71-58 victory in the title game to advance to the state tournament.

If Mayer Lutheran wants to break through this season, the road will once again go through Heritage Christian, as they are once again one of the top teams in the section. Although the Eagles might be a bit down from the last two seasons (6-3 overall so far), they are still a well-coached team that can play well in big games.

I’m sure Mayer Lutheran head coach Kris Gustin is thrilled to no longer have to go up against HCA’s Taylie Scott anymore. She was one of the best players in the section, and always seemed to give the Crusaders fits in big games.

The Crusaders are off to a nice start this season in their quest to get over the hill. They sit at 10-1 overall, with some pretty impressive wins on their resumé already.

With a deep and balanced team all through the lineup, this could be the season the Crusaders break through. They haven’t been to the state tournament since 2001, and it will be exciting to see if they can get it done this season.

LP/HT boys in line for close to 20 wins this season

It’s been a rather odd start to the season for the Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity boys basketball team. They are just 5-4 on the season thus far, but have the capability of getting hot and having a great season.

I fully expect the Bulldogs to make a run here in the second half of the season. With 15 games left on the schedule, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them rattle off 12 to 13 more wins in those games. The two games to watch will be against Mayer Lutheran and Watertown-Mayer.

I expect the Bulldogs to play their best basketball of the season coming up and take advantage of a soft conference schedule to rack up some wins. That could help them pick up a good seed for the postseason.

The Mayer Lutheran game will be a huge Section 2A matchup, and could determine a home game for the two teams depending on how the seeding process goes. The Crusaders and Bulldogs will meet Feb. 8 in Mayer.

Can Mayer Lutheran boys get healthy and back to dominance?

One of the strangest stories of the winter sports season so far has been the Mayer Lutheran boys basketball team. Coming into this week, the Crusaders are just 3-7 overall on the year.

If you would have told me at the beginning of the year that through the first 10 games of the season the Crusaders would have just three wins, I would call you crazy.

Injuries have killed the Crusaders so far. They’ve yet to play a game this year with their full lineup. Seniors Jacob Pallas has yet to play a game. Zander Flucas just returned this week in a limited role. Teigan Martin, their top scorer, has also missed a few games.

What’s weird about the Crusaders this season is that they are young. The past two seasons where we’ve seen them ranked in or near the Top 10 in Class A, they’ve had experience. Not this season.

It’s been fun to see young guys step in and gain experience. It will be interesting to see if they can get healthy at the right time, develop some chemistry together, and make another run in one of the toughest sections in Class A, if not the state.

Talking with coach Pat Buchanan after games this season, he’s alright with the losses early on. He wants his team to be healthy and ready come March. Wins should come for the Crusaders as they get healthy and come together. They’ll get a good look at where they are at when the No. 1-ranked team in Class A and undefeated BOLD comes to town Jan. 14 for a big Section 2A matchup. A win there could be huge for the Crusaders in so many ways.

PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Heimerl, Bulldogs snap three-game skid with dominant win

LESTER PRAIRIE – A three-game losing streak in the middle of the season can be rough for a team. For the Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity boys’ basketball team, they didn’t let that bother them.

The Bulldogs, who came into the matchup with Heritage Christian Academy with three-straight losses, put that rough stretch behind them immediately as they came out firing in a 74-40 win over winless Heritage Christian Academy on their home floor Tuesday night.

“It’s big to get back on track,” LP/HT coach Andrew Dahl said. “I think overall, our spirits were fairly good, even though we lost a couple of games we could have won. We came out and hit some shots early that kind of gave us some confidence and feeling good. We’ve had a little rough stretch where we had a couple of games we’ve been in it and just haven’t been able to finish. Tonight was good to get back on a roll and feel good about ourselves.”

LP/HT opened the game on a 15-0 run to set the tone early. Senior Alex Heimerl, who was able to sneak a nap in between school and the game, was a big reason for the quick start. He knocked down four mid-range jumpers early on, and the Bulldogs were off and running.

“He came out and hit some mid-range and corner shots,” Dahl said. “He’s been working on that a lot. He said he took a nap before the game, so maybe we’ll have to have him take a consistent nap now before every game. He was big for us. He’s posting up and hitting some outside shots. It’s a good combo to have somebody inside that we can feel confident in.”

It was Heimerl’s best game of the season so far. Being a senior, Dahl is hoping to see Heimerl continue to play well and be a leader for the Bulldogs this season.

“Alex can be a leader for us,” Dahl said. “When he gets going, the other guys kind of build off of him. It kind gets us going at times too when he’s engaged and going hard. It just helps us overall.”

 For the complete story and more HJ sports coverage, check out the Friday, Jan. 10 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.

PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Holdingford tops HLWW in Central MN Conference battle

HOWARD LAKE –  It had been nearly two weeks since the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted girls’ basketball has played a game. Coming off the long break proved to be tough to overcome for the Lakers as they struggled at times in a 73-51 loss to the Holdingford Huskers Thursday night at home.

“That’s the positive we could look at there,” HLWW coach Ryan Petersen said. “We fought back. We’ve seen that all year. I just wish we would have seen it a little bit more today. A little more fight just to get us over that next edge and close the gap even more.”

HLWW and Holdingford traded blows early on in a battle of two of the teams in the Central MN Conference.  A 3-pointer from CJ Decker gave the Lakers their first lead of the game at 15-14, but it was the Huskers who used a 1-3-1 zone to take control of the game from there. Holdingford used an 11-0 run to take a 33-23 lead into the locker room at the half.

“We knew it was coming, but they kind of threw us off a bit,” Petersen said. “We thought there was going to be a little bit more pressure. They played us a little different than they’ve played other opponents. It threw us off a little bit. We tried to adjust and they did a great job of adjusting, too. They’re a great defensive team and hard to figure it out. Luckily we’ll have one more chance at them later this year.”

Holdingford extended their lead to 20 points in the second half, but HLWW wouldn’t go away easily. An 8-0 run fueled by baskets from Ivy Fasching, Alexa Schumann, and CJ Decker brought the Lakers within 12 with just under eight minutes to go.

The Huskers answer the run by the Lakers with a run of their own, putting the game away thanks to some cold shooting by HLWW down the stretch.

“They definitely started to pack it in,” Petersen said. “We’ve had some games where the shots fall and some games where they haven’t. This was one of those games where they weren’t falling for us.”

A YEAR IN REVIEW: A look at the top moments of the 2019 sports season

Another year has come to an end. It’s one of my favorite times of the year because I get a chance to look back on the last year and realize how many great teams, athletes, moments, and achievements have happened throughout the last calendar year.

Being a sports editor who covers four high schools all on my own, I have the habit of getting through one week of coverage and then moving right on into putting together the next week’s paper. There’s so much going on that you really don’t have much time to look back and see what you did.

At this time of year, things tend to slow down a bit here in the sports world due to the holidays, and it gives me a chance to look back on a fun year in the world of high school sports.

I absolutely love what I do, and I really enjoy looking back at all the coverage from the past year and finding the 10 best moments, games, or performances. It’s incredibly tough to narrow it down to just 10, with many great teams and athletes in the area. The best part of this gig is that those talented athletes and coaches are even better people than they are athletes and coaches. I find myself lucky to get to cover you. I thank you all for following along, and I look forward to even more coverage in 2020.

With all that being said, let’s get to the good stuff. The following is the 2019 Top-10 sports moments in the Herald Journal coverage area.

(10) Tjernagel and Lade hit career milestones

Hitting a career milestone is always a special moment for a high school athlete. Having all your hard work pay off in a great moment is something that I always try to make sure I highlight.

It’s been fun to see how many athletes have reached career milestones this past year, but it was even more special to see Mayer Lutheran’s Olivia Tjernagel and Emma Lade hit career milestones in the same match.

As Mayer Lutheran took on Concordia Academy, Tjernagel and Lade both entered the match on the verge of reaching career milestones. Tjernagel recorded her 1,000th career kill, while Lade recorded her 1,000th career assist in Mayer Lutheran’s thrilling 3-2 win.

It was special to see two talented athletes hit career milestones in the same match. It was also cool to see Tjernagel get the kill on Lade’s 1000th career assist.

(9) W-M gymnastics goes to state for a fifth-straight year

One of the most dominant teams in the area in recent years has been the Watertown-Mayer/Mound Westonka gymnastics team. After dominating the Section 5A meet, the Royals reached the Class A state meet once again, for the fifth year in a row, in 2019.

The Royals posted a team score of 145.55 to win the Section 5A title. That was more than 12 points better than second-place finisher Delano who posted a score of 133.80.

W-M/MW was led in 2019 by seniors Ailsa Gilbert, Teagan Schmidt, and Taylor Hix. While those key athletes are gone this season, the Royals bring back plenty of talent that has them searching for a sixth-straight state meet appearance in 2020.

(8) Tjernagel plays for Team USA

Representing your high school is always a big thing for high school athletes. Representing your country is even more impressive. Mayer Lutheran’s Olivia Tjernagel had the luxury of both because of her volleyball skills.

Tjernagel, one of the top players in the state, had the opportunity to train and play with the USA Junior A1 team. She got the chance to play with and against some of the top players in the country and the world leading up to her senior season.

Playing with and against great players from all over the country had Tjernagel ready for her senior year. She reached the 1,000 career kills milestone and helped lead the Crusaders to the Section 2A title game once again.

(7) HLWW girls cross country takes 3rd at state

It was reload, not rebuild for the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted girls cross country team in 2019. After making program history in 2018, with a second-place finish at the Class A state meet, the Lakers were just as impressive in 2019.

Despite losing two key runners in Gwen Helgeson and Erin Brabec, the Lakers not only got back to the state meet again but finished on the podium again with a third-place finish.

It was fun to see what the Lakers did after losing two huge pieces from last year’s team. They worked hard throughout the season, and it all paid off on the state’s biggest stage.

“I don’t think many people thought that a podium finish was possible for us this year,  being that we lost two key contributors (Gwen and Erin) from last year’s team,” senior Gracie Mallak said. “It was awesome to see our hard work pay off on the big stage”

(6) Noennig becomes school’s all-time leading scorer

Getting 1,000 career points is pretty impressive for any high school basketball player. Being the school’s all-time leading scorer is taking it to a whole other level.

Mayer Lutheran senior Baden Noennig became the school’s all-time leading scorer Feb. 9 with 22 points in a win against Belle Plaine.

Noennig has been around Mayer Lutheran basketball for nearly his whole life. Becoming the all-time leading scorer was just one of the goals he’s had since he was little.

“Being the leading scorer of all time at Mayer has been a dream of mine since I was young,” Noennig said. “Especially, since all of my siblings went to Mayer, as well. I couldn’t have done it without all of the amazing teammates I’ve had around me throughout the years, my coaches, fans, and my family. I will never forget my years playing at this high school, and I enjoyed every minute of it. We aren’t done yet, though, because we have a bigger goal ahead of us to achieve.”

(5) Radtke’s 1,000th point comes on a special night

Sports have a way of creating special moments. That was the case for Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity’s Marissa Radtke when she scored her 1,000th career point.

Thanks to a big night, Radtke reached the career milestone on a special night. It was her late grandmother’s birthday. While Radtke misses her grandmother for sure, she knows for certain that she was in that gym to witness her reach a career milestone.

“It’s always been a dream of mine,” Radtke said.  “It’s my grandma’s birthday. She’s always been my biggest supporter. It was really cool to get it tonight. She’s definitely here. She’s up in heaven, but she was definitely here. I just thought it was so cool to do it tonight.”

(4) Paige Thibault’s impressive week

It was a week to remember for Watertown-Mayer’s Paige Thibault. The University of Virginia commit recorded her 1,000th career kill against Dassel-Cokato Sept. 19. Just five days later, Thibault picked up her 1,000th career dig in a 3-0 sweep over Norwood Young America.

“It was a very special moment,” Thibault said. “It’s crazy to think I’ve already reached 1,000 kills. I was also very fortunate that I got to share my moment with my sister because she had the assist on my 1000th kill. After I hit my 1000th kill, the team went insane and ran onto the court to congratulate me. It’s an awesome feeling when you get recognized for all of your hard work. It was definitely special. Moments like that can’t be recreated. I am very lucky to have experienced this milestone with my team. It’s nice to get recognized for the hard work you put in. I have an awesome team. They’re just so supportive. It means a lot.”

(3) Gold for Gilbert

There’s no better way to wrap up a high school career than by winning a state title. That’s what Watertown-Mayer’s Ailsa Gilbert accomplished in her final season as a Royal.

Gilbert wrapped up her high school sports career by winning the state title in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 15.09 seconds.

“It feels amazing,” Gilbert said. “Crossing the finish line with no one in front of me today was the best feeling. It was awesome.”

It was Gilbert’s second career state title after winning the triple jump a season before. While she is certainly sad that her high school career was over, she’ll always remember the experiences she’s had.

“It’s sad that it’s over, but it was a good time,” Gilbert said. “I made a lot of memories. I’ve accomplished a lot of goals. It’s set me up for my future, and I’m just really thankful I was able to be a Royal and was given these opportunities by my coaches and by my school.”

(2) HLWW football snaps losing streak

It had been 728 days since the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted football team had won a game. It was time for that streak to end.

Despite losing their last 18 games, the Lakers came with some confidence into their matchup with Concordia Academy in the first round of the Section 4AA tournament. They left even more confident as the Lakers used a quick start to help them pull off the upset in a 26-7 victory over second-seeded Concordia Academy.

“The bus ride was great,” HLWW coach Ben Anderson said about the excitement of his team. “The boys were emotionally and physically drained.  Our motto all year has been, ‘Anchors Up’.  To our guys, that means to keep moving in the right direction.  Ninety-nine percent of teams would have gone into that game expecting to lose. Our guys have hung together long enough to see each others’ improvement.  That improvement is what gave us confidence the last few weeks.  The first thing the coaches told the boys is how proud they are of them.  What they have endured the last two seasons demonstrates the type of character these young men have.  Rather than finding excuses, the players and coaches searched for answers.”

It’s been a long time coming for the Lakers. At long last, the losing streak was over. Coming into their first-round matchup of the Section 4AA tournament, the Lakers had lost 18-straight games. That didn’t bother them one bit, and they came in confident.

Good things happen to those who work hard. The HLWW football team knew that, and now they are no longer the team that has a huge losing streak. They were the team that was one win away from playing for a section title.

(1) Brady Harnung delivers game-winner

Sometimes, special moments and stories write themselves. That was the case for my number-one sports moment in 2019. It was even more special because I wasn’t even supposed to be there.

I was on my way home after a long day of work when I saw that the lights were on for the Mayer Lutheran boys’ soccer team. They were opening their section tournament against Maranatha Christian, and I decided to stop and cover the game. It proved to be an instant classic.

Regulation and overtime were not enough for the two teams as the game would come down to a shootout with the season on the line.

As both teams prepared for the shootout, I noticed senior Brady Harnung having a moment with his older brother, TJ, before taking the field. The two were in an embrace as only brothers can do, and I can only imagine the words that were shared between the two.

Harnung then took the field for the shootout as Maranatha Christian Academy had the first shot. Harnung made the save on the first shot attempt he faced, but the Mustangs found the back of the net on their next two attempts.

Through three rounds, the Crusaders trailed Maranatha 2-1. That’s when Harnung seized the opportunity.

A save by Harnung on Maranatha’s fourth attempt gave the Crusaders life. The Crusaders took advantage as they tied things up at two with a goal of their own, leaving one shot left for each team.

Needing just one more save to keep his high school career going and his team’s season alive, Harnung came through. His third save of the shootout gave Mayer Lutheran’s next shooter a chance to win it. Who was the next shooter? None other than Harnung himself.

As Harnung put the ball down on the grass for Mayer Lutheran’s final kick in the shootout, the student section was going crazy. As Harnung stepped away from the ball to get ready, he calmly told the student section to quiet down. They did just that, but not for long.

Harnung found the back of the net for the game-winner, completing the comeback for Mayer Lutheran in dramatic fashion.

As the ball found the back of the net, Harnung let out a scream of joy, only to be mauled by his teammates, coaches, and peers, as this was his moment.

I wasn’t supposed to be there. I already did my job for the night. I was ready to head home and possibly get to bed at a decent time for once. That didn’t happen, and I’m forever thankful.

Sports are a special thing. I’ll never forget that, and I’ll never forget what I saw that night – only because the lights were still on as I drove home.

HONORABLE MENTION

I’ll admit it. I couldn’t narrow it down to just 10 sports moments this year. There have been so many great moments.

As I went back through all the issues of the Herald Journal from 2019, I had more than 20 moments, games, or performances written down. So with that being said, here are a few more awesome sports moments that happened in the area in 2019.

Cologne Hollanders’ state tournament run

The only reason this one wasn’t in the top 10 is that it’s a little bit out of my coverage area. If it were a bit more local, it definitely would be near the top.

Herald Journal is your go-to source for the Crow River Valley League baseball teams, and the Cologne Hollanders are included in that. What the Hollanders did this season was something special for sure.

It had been 47 years since the Hollanders had played in a state tournament. That streak would end in 2019.

After one of their best regular seasons in a very long time, the Cologne Hollanders punched a ticket to the Class C state tournament after taking third place at the Region 7C Tournament. The run didn’t end there.

The Hollanders opened state tournament play against the Hadley Buttermakers. They won that game 5-2 for their first-ever state tournament win. Even then, the run didn’t end there.

They kept the magical run going with another win, this time a 2-0 win over perennial powerhouse, Nisswa. The win sent the Hollanders to the final weekend, a moment any team in the state strives for each and every year,

Cologne’s run ultimately came to an end in the Sweet 16 with a 4-2 loss to Bemidji, but that doesn’t take away from their magical season.

The Hollanders were a team people loved to rally around. They played hard. They played the right way. People took notice. Even Star Tribune’s Pat Reusse developed a soft spot in his heart for the Hollanders, putting them in the well-deserved spotlight with stories only he could tell.

With a new scoreboard at a beautiful field ready for 2020, I can only imagine how many more fans the Hollanders will have on their side next year after their success in 2019. I ask just one thing – save me some cheese curds.

Cody Dickhausen has a round to remember

Sometimes, high school golf gets overlooked, but there’s no way this moment from HLWW’s Cody Dickhausen could be left off the list. It’s something I would love to do just once in my life, and he did it twice in one round.

Dickhausen and the Lakers were taking part in a nine-hole round at Prairie View Golf Course April 26. He shot a 41, but that’s not what stands out. Not once, but twice, Dickhausen holed out on a Par 4 from just over 100 yards out to record two eagles in nine holes.

His impressive shots and a round of 41 helped moved the Lakers into third place in the Central MN Conference standings.

Fox 9 comes to Memorial Park

Going back to amateur baseball, the Howard Lake Orphans had a special visitor for their game against the Cokato Kernels June 19. Fox 9 News was in the house as part of their Town Ball Tour, which gave the Orphans and the town of Howard Lake a chance to showcase their team and community.

It was very cool to see how many people showed up for the game. I’m sure many people came out to the park while recording the broadcast at home. As part of their Town Ball Tour, Fox 9 broadcasted live from Memorial Park and shared stories about the Orphans, Howard Lake, and community members that tie those two together.

It was fun to see the Orphans and their park be showcased like that. It’s one of my favorite parks I’ve been to, and I find myself lucky to take in a bunch of games their every summer.

Vikings Throw Away Final Two Weeks

After the Los Angeles Rams lost to the San Francisco 49’ers on Saturday evening, it guaranteed a spot in the playoffs for our Minnesota Vikings. After a Seattle Seahawks loss, Minnesota did still have something to play for this past Monday night.

A home matchup with the Green Bay Packers meant a few things locally. A chance at a division championship. A chance to retain bragging rights. A chance at the 5th, 3rd or even 2nd seed. A chance to head into the playoffs playing some good football. A chance for positive momentum.

Well, as I’m sure you well know, literally none of those things happened Monday night in a 23-10 loss.

The Vikings offense looked awful from the start of the game. The defense attempted to do their part, causing three turnovers and constantly giving the offense a short field to work with. However, the offense looked like they had just come from another planet and had never played football before.

The Vikings finished with 139 total yards. By total, I mean for the entirety of the game. In 2019, where the New York Jets are the worst team in the NFL in yards per game averaging 273.1, the Vikings were able to muster an embarrassing measly 139 yards.

Without Dalvin Cook or Alexander Mattison, we were told that we wouldn’t miss a beat with Mike Boone in the starting role. The Vikings finished with 57 rushing yards total. The Vikings had 7 first downs, only crossed the 50 yard line on a drive once and threw an interception on the next play of that drive.

The Vikings were out-smarted, out-gained, out-muscled and simply out-played in all facets of the game.

So what does this mean going forward? Minnesota is locked into the 6th seed and will likely be travelling to either Seattle or New Orleans for a road playoff game.

If this week is any sign of foreshadowing, we might as well throw our TV’s through the window now.

The Vikings will probably rest anyone in week 17 against the Chicago Bears who is banged up in an attempt to get healthy for the playoffs. Players like Dalvin Cook, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Adam Thielen and many others can use the week off to hopefully right their bodies and turn this thing around.

The last thing I want to touch on is Kirk Cousins. He got a lot of blame for his performance on Monday (16-31, 122 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT). While that isn’t anything to write home about, the Vikings certainly need to get back to playing in a way to give him a chance to succeed.

The Vikings rely on a steady running game, an effective play-action game as well as screens, bootlegs and roll-outs to get Kirk comfortable. None of these things happened against the Packers.

The Vikings will finish with double-digit wins and a playoff berth, not a bad place to be at all, especially considering their 8-7-1 record last year. However, they need to right the ship quickly as a tough playoff matchup is approaching. They need to prove they can win a big game. If they can’t, this offseason might get very, very interesting.

 

PREP WRESTLING: Tuchtenhagen, Lakers find way to pick up win over Royalton

HOWARD LAKE – For the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted wrestling team, injuries have plagued them all season. They lost one of their top wrestlers in Quinn Mathisen before the season even started, and the injuries have piled up even more so far this season.

Despite all that, the Lakers, a team filled with young and exciting wrestlers, are still finding ways to win.

That was on display Friday night as the Lakers picked up a thrilling 36-35 win over the Royalton Royals under the spotlight and in front of their home crowd.

“Royalton has beaten us the last few years,” HLWW coach Joe Puncochar said. “I knew this year we had a chance to get it done. We got it done. That’s the key. Our team motto is when the team wins, we all win. Everybody won tonight.”

While HLWW found a way to win despite missing several wrestlers, it wasn’t always perfect. With several young wrestlers filling in, there were mistakes made that HLWW will need to fix going forward.

“We left a lot of points on the board out there tonight,” Puncochar said. “To find the positive words to say in the huddle was difficult, but obviously we’ve got to get better. We pulled it off at the end, which was great, but it also gave a nice big list of things to go back and work on in the room.”

While mistakes are bound to happen, the Lakers got a spark from a surprising person. After Caleb Boese won the opening match at 106 via a second-period pin, seventh-grader Tony Baumann got the crowd into it during his match at 113.

“That kid is a spark plug,” Puncochar said. “He’s fun to watch. He just goes. He doesn’t quit. He’s a seventh-grader and not a kid you see coming in counting on as winning big matches. You’re just hoping that you can fill a weight, and he did a good job of that tonight. He did a really good job of that. He just kept going. That motor was awesome. I think it really got the crowd into it. That just got us going even better.”

Taking on Royalton’s Johnathon Bzdok, Baumann had the crowd on the edge of their seat throughout. He held a 5-4 lead after two periods, and ultimately held on for a 9-7 decision to give HLWW a 9-0 lead.

“I feel like everybody played a part in it tonight,” senior Ryan Tuchtenhagen said. “It was amazing. Tony went against that guy and it was just awesome. He’s just a great kid and a good friend of mine. He was just pushing through. He had the feeling of ‘‘I can do this. I can be better than this guy.’

A forfeit at 120 for Royalton gave the Lakers a 15-0 lead, but the Royals would fight back. The Royals would win six of the next seven matches, taking a 32-21 lead over HLWW with just four matches to go.

With momentum all on Royalton’s side now, it was Tuchtenhagen who came through in a big spot for the Lakers.

“Before my match, I was just thinking that I’ve got to do this,” Tuchtenhagen said. “I’m always thinking before my match that I just want to be the best. I know I can be the best. When I go into my match and we’re in a position like that, I know I just have to go. I just need to get that pin. Once I finally got there, it just felt amazing.”

Tuchtenhagen had a 7-4 lead heading into the final period for HLWW, but a decision wasn’t going to be enough for him. He wanted the pin and he got it, giving HLWW a spark late and bringing them within five with three matches left.

“That was huge,” Puncochar said about Tuchtenhagen’s pin. “Especially late in the match like that. I wouldn’t say we were guaranteed to win that match. To get that in the third period from a senior captain, that’s what senior captains are supposed to do. That was pretty awesome.”

Following the big pin by Tuchtenhagen, Colton Long followed that up a 3-1 decision at 195 to bring HLWW within two at 32-20. A forfeit at 220 by Royalton put the Lakers up 36-32, with one final match to go.

It all came down to Danny Mosford, who has been battling his own injuries the past week. All he had to do was wrestle smart in the final match, and he did just that for his team.

“Danny’s been battling,” Puncochar said. “Our top guys have been banged up. Quinn is out for the year. Joseph is out for the year. Danny’s been in and out of the lineup with injuries. We’re just trying to survive up there.  Danny’s barely been practicing all week. He knew he had a job. That kid was a state entrant last year. He did exactly what he’s supposed to do and wrestle a smart match. That’s a win in our books.”

Mosford ultimately fell in a 6-4 decision, but it was enough for the Lakers to hold on for the win by one point.

“There were some mishaps that came up tonight, but eventually, we pulled through,” Tuchtenhagen said. “We were able to get some big wins. That last match with Danny, he was able to pull through despite having an injury. He was able to get the win for us.”

The Lakers will be looking to build off the exciting win and get better as they turn their focus to the Rumble on the Red Invitational this weekend.

“We’re going to be pushing forward into next week at Rumble on the Red,” Tuchtenhagen said. “I’m really excited for that. There’s a lot of good teams there. We’re going to practice for that and be ready for it.”

 

HLWW 36, Royalton 35

Results

106: Caleb Boese (HLWW) over Michael Zimmerman (Royalton-Upsala), (Fall 2:22). 113: Tony Baumann (HLWW) over Johnathon Bzdok (Royalton-Upsala), (Dec 9-7). 120: Porter Matheson (HLWW) won by forfeit. 126: Will Gorecki (Royalton-Upsala) over Steve Heber (HLWW), (TF 20-5). 132: Mitchell Mallak (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted) over Brock Costanzo (Royalton-Upsala), (Fall 3:20). 138: Jacob Leibold (Royalton-Upsala) over Wiley Wiegert (HLWW), (Fall 4:39). 145: Hunter Novitzki (Royalton-Upsala) over Remington Albright (HLWW), (Dec 10-9). 152: Brayden Conrad (Royalton-Upsala) over Isaac Cain (HLWW), (Fall 5:50). 160: Gabe Gorecki (Royalton-Upsala) over Collin Boese (HLWW), (Fall 6:27). 170: Aidan Olson (Royalton-Upsala) over Isaac Busse (HLWW), (Fall 2:30). 182: Ryan Tuchtenhagen (HLWW) over Isaac Kasella (Royalton-Upsala), (Fall 4:36). 195: Colton Long (HLWW) over Austin Wensmann (Royalton-Upsala), (Dec 3-1). 220: Aiden Debner (HLWW) won by forfeit. 285: Mason Novitzki (Royalton-Upsala) over Danny Mosford (HLWW), (Dec 6-4).