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A year of transition for St. Croix Central wrestling team

It happens to the best of athletic programs.

Transition. It's a word that means there are more questions than answers as a team begins its season.
Such was the case with the St. Croix Central wrestling team in the past season. The Panthers brought back few wrestlers with any varsity experience. And while the Panthers didn't get any wrestlers to the WIAA state tournament this year, Central's coaches aren't deeming the season a failure. Far from it.“Coaching-wise, it was one of our more successful years,” said Central coach Brad Holzer. “Sometimes we get a little misjudged because of the competition we face. We face some of the best competition in the state.”The Panthers put together a 12-6 dual meet record this season. Three of their losses came against top programs in this part of the state: Spring Valley-Elmwood, River Falls and Boyceville.
The season began with the Panthers having very few returning wrestlers who were locks for the varsity lineup, mainly Brian Gibb, Ryan Gulich and Decker Grass. Trent Smith and Kyle Larson were promising youngsters with injury concerns and Drew Malecek and Jacob Nyhagen led a promising freshman class.The result was a season that saw extensive growth among the Panther wrestlers. They finished with a record of 250-190 in individual matches this season and they had seven wrestlers qualify for sectionals. Not bad for a team that was rebuilding.Gibb was the leader of the Panthers. The senior finished the season as the only four-time letterwinner on the team. Holzer said it's not uncommon for the Panthers to have “five or six” four-time lettermen on their team.
“Losing Gibb is tough because he was such a good leader. It was good to see him grow,” Holzer said.The good news is this leaves a great deal of younger Panthers who now have one or two seasons of experience under their belts. And with that experience comes heightened expectations.“For the most part, all these kids had successful years,” Holzer said. “The question is, what will they do between now and next November to make themselves more successful?”Holzer said he's already seen positive signs for next season. He said a group of wrestlers is getting together on Monday nights to keep their skills sharp. He added that many of the wrestlers seem to be enjoying the new BFS program, which he hopes will help the team's overall strength.The Panther team awards for the 2013-14 season were announced last week. The awards were:
Most Valuable: Bryan Gibb100 Percent Award: Trent Smith
Most Improved: Jake PomroyMost Takedowns: Ryan GulichMost Pins: Bryan Gibb
Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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