Pictured: Tyson Meyer, vying for a third straight state title, puts teammate Dylan Koubsky in a leg hold at practice. Easton McCrory, in the foreground, is a returning state tourney wrestler.
Despite the loss of two talented seniors that greatly impacted the Minnewaska wrestling program, the Lakers’ wrestling team is still loaded and ready to take on the best in the state.
Graduating seniors Tyler VanLuik and Dylan Jergenson were anchors towards the end of the Minnewaska lineup that led to many stirring rallies against opponents that had jumped out to an early lead, only to see it disappear against the second half of the Lakers’ slate of wrestlers.
The 2021 team will be coached by Justin Viss and assisted by Riley Gustafson and Jarred Oftedahl. Coach Viss is in his third year teaching science at Minnewaska and has been coaching as well. Viss wrestled at Chatfield High School and was coached by his father. Chip Rankin, the Lakers’ head coach for the past three seasons, is on duty with the National Guard, so Viss will step in and take over the head coaching duties.
A promising season lies ahead, with nine returning section place winners on the roster. Three wrestlers that made it to the state wrestling tournament return, led by two-time state champ Tyson Meyer. Fellow senior Jakob Swalla and junior Easton McCrory are the other two returning state wrestlers from last season.
Five wrestlers on this year’s team were named All-Conference a year ago. Meyer, Swalla and McCrory, as well as Max Reichmann and Jacob Blair.
Seven seniors give the 2021 Lakers a great deal of experience, which is an advantage when on the mats. Meyer, Swalla, Reichmann, Ryan VanLuik, Ty Walsh and Dylan Koubsky are joined by a seventh senior, Jackson Stadsvold. Stadsvold missed last season with an injury after having a solid sophomore season and will help offset the loss of the graduated seniors.
Speaking of the seniors, coach Viss said, “They’ve been a solid group for us so far and I think they will be a huge part of our team’s success this year.”
Juniors on the team are the aforementioned Easton McCrory, along with Torii Johnson, Hunter Johnson, Jacob Blair, Jacob Lien, Caden Koziol, Keygan Cruz, Dalton Friedrichs and Nate Rankin.
“We’re excited to see some of these guys take the next step this year into a bigger role,” coach Viss said of the junior class of wrestlers.
Coach Viss added, “We’ve also got some smaller guys, where it’ll be interesting to see who will step up in the lighter part of our lineup. It could be freshmen Mason Schiffler or Jayce Kovarik, possibly sophomore Nick Ankeny. Chase Boelke is also a sophomore who got a lot of varsity experience last year.”
The schedule ahead for the Lakers will be a tough one. Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville, the defending state champions, will make an appearance at the Minnewaska gym in the second meet of the year on Jan. 19.
The first meet for Minnewaska, coming on Thursday, has the Lakers traveling to BBE to take on the Jaguars, the #2 team in the section last year, as well as Paynesville, a traditionally strong program.
Before the month of January is over Minnewaska will be facing ACGC. On Jan. 26 the Falcons, who finished second at state to LPGE/Broweville, will be on the mats at Minnewaska.
Also on the schedule are Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale/Parkers Prarie, ranked #6, and West Central Area, a team that should be very good.
Minnewaska wrestling fans have an exciting season ahead, with an excellent team to root for and many talented teams to observe in action.