ST. PAUL — In a fun season of new experiences that the co-operative agreement between the wrestling programs of Litchfield and Dassel-Cokato brought, the year ended on a bit of a downer Thursday.
Dassel-Cokato/Litchfield lost both its matches in the state Class AA team tournament. First, fifth-seeded Detroit Lakes beat DCL 46-23. Then, fourth-seeded DCL lost to unseeded South St. Paul 45-25 in the consolation semifinals.
“From a team standpoint, it wasn’t what we were hoping for,” said DCL co-head coach Bryan Clemen. “But we put 14 guys on the mat and wrestled as hard as we could.”
DCL was shorthanded. Two of its better wrestlers, 160-pounder Noah Halonen and 182-pounder Will O’Brien, didn’t pass the skin exams Thursday morning and were forced to sit out.
It caused a big shift in the lineup. It was enough for Detroit Lakes to make what figured to be a close match easier for the Lakers.
“We weren’t at full strength,” Clemen admitted. “We were down a couple starters and that’s hard.”
Both qualified for the state individual tournament that begins with Class A competition at 9 a.m. Friday at the Xcel Energy Center. Neither will be able to participate.
“It is what it is,” Clemen said. “The rules are there for a reason. They’re put in there for athletes’ safety. That’s got to be the first concern.”
Overall, it was a good year despite Thursday’s disappointments. The first year wrestling as a co-op proved to be a huge success with a Section 6AA championship and the first team state berth for either program since 2006.
Nine DCL wrestlers qualified individually for state, including Andrew Joedeman (106 pounds), Victor Franco (113), Eddie Simes (126), Jerry Simes (132), Jude Link (152), Beau Nelson (195) and Brendan Rokala (285).
Eddie Simes is seeded seventh, Jerry Simes eighth and Jude Link third in their respective weight classes, meaning that they have an excellent chance to place high and earn all-state honors.
And, Clemen pointed out that senior 170-pounder Bryce Penk, who didn’t qualify for state, won a 10-1 major decision in his match against South St. Paul’s Jorge Garcia. It means that Penk gets to end his high school career with a big victory.
“Not everyone gets to do that,” Clemen said.
The program also was impressed with the fan support from the two communities. Most of the fans were clad in white t-shirts and were loud and proud in their positive support of the team at the X.
“The communities have been great,” Clemen said. “The send-off was awesome.
“We had a ton of people cheering for us. We wish we could have executed better for them today. But that’s the tough part of the sport.”