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Willmar Notebook: Difficult road to state wrestling

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So, you want to be a state-meet wrestler?

Warning! The wrestling room seems more a torture chamber than a practice zone.

There's much agony.

A wrestling meet must be like a day off.

I drove out to the "Chamber" on Monday mainly to check on two senior

wrestlers who, in the compressed time line of high school sports, have been around forever.

Alex Johannes and Seth Pollack began inhabiting the high school red room in middle school. Alex came up in seventh grade and Seth a year later.

They are the senior Cardinal captains.

Under the critical gaze of assistant coach Carl Carlson, stopwatch in hand, the wrestlers alternated from live wrestling to heaving a 35-pound sandbag over their head, perhaps 30 times a set, followed by lunges while harnessed to straps on one wall.

Others go out to the athletic wing hallway to flee backwards like crabs on all four. Best get out of the way.

Johannes is an outgoing teen who has been to state three times in cross-country and twice as a wrestler. He also runs track relays and a 2:06-best half-mile.

He tells me he weighed 147 pounds in cross country, though he completes at 132 pounds in winter. Despite the calorie expansion at a 90-minute practice while losing three to four pounds, he must be careful what he eats.

"I like to eat a big breakfast, a light lunch and a big dinner," he told me.

Pollock (Pah-LIK) prefers to eat lightly throughout the day. He's also a football player. The linebacker/safety played at 155 pounds, not big against a 4A and 5A schedule. For wrestling, he weighs in at 145 pound but often competes at 152.

Pollock, it can be said, is on a mission. He made it to state two years ago but fell short as a junior. He lost a true second match to a wrestler he'd pinned in the regular season.

Johannes won a fourth-place medal in Class AAA last March.

Junior heavyweight Cass Herzog and junior co-captain Nate Mittag also are state-meet savvy and look to return. There's a lot of fresh talent, lot of young kids, in the room, the captains tell me.

Co-head coaches Ed Oehlers and Justin Brown are running a tougher training room than a year ago when they were in their first year as chiefs after serving as assistants to Casey Johnson.

"This is as hard as we've worked," said Seth,

"I think it's twice as hard as we worked last year," adds Alex.

The varsity lost to Bemidji on criteria last year for the team trip to state, still a sore point that fuels this team's ambitions. The Cardinals were moved to Section 6AAA this year and are 3-1 in dual meets with section foes. They lost narrowly to Hopkins but didn't have Colton Carlson in that match. The eighth-grader has 22 wins despite missing 7 bouts due to illness.

Sophomore Austin Miley is 25-8, Mittag 30-4, Herzog 24-4 and eighth-grader Logan Walkow 23-9. Pollock is 27-4 and Johannes 29-3 with a team leading 95 takedowns.

Willmar (15-5) wrestles 6AAA foes Wayzata and Rocori at Cold Spring on Thursday to conclude the regular season.

A note on the youngsters in the wrestling room: two freshmen placed at the Ninth Grade State Tournament on Saturday in Chaska. Estevan Navarro took second with a 3-1 record and Juan Resendez fourth with a 2-2 record and 1 pin.

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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