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Spartans win battle for second place

Somerset senior Preston Anez (right), shown in the recent New Richmond Invitational, has put together an impressive career win total for the Spartans. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

The Somerset wrestling team is hoping to achieve something that hasn't been done by any Spartan team since Somerset became a member of the Middle Border Conference.

Somerset became a member of the MBC for the 2002-03 school year. Since then, no Spartan wrestling team has finished among the top two teams in the MBC standings. The Spartans went a long way toward achieving that goal by winning at Baldwin-Woodville last Thursday, 41-33. The win increases the Spartans' MBC record to 4-1.

Somerset has two conference matches remaining. They will host St. Croix Central Thursday, Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. Somerset will complete its dual meet season on Saturday,Jan. 27 with an 11 a.m. match at Amery. This match has been postponed twice, but there's a more favorable weather forecast for Saturday.

From the start of Thursday's match, the Spartans wrestled beyond their expectations. The match opened at 126 pounds, meaning two of B-W's top wrestlers would be in the first two bouts. Somerset coach Ali Peterson said he hoped, at worst, the Spartans would be trailing 8-0 after those matches. Instead, the Spartans led 6-3.

In the opening match, Nick Kearns put up an excellent battle against Alex McCray, losing 9-5. At 132 pounds, Somerset's Jared Grahovac pinned one of the Blackhawks' top wrestlers, Jordan Bonte. Steven Moncada followed with a hard-fought win at 138 pounds. B-W got a pin at 145 points, leaving the Spartans' lead at 15-9. The Spartans had survived most of B-W's top wrestlers and the Spartans would now put the match away.

Senior Preston Anez scored a technical fall win at 152 pounds and Nick Bushinger followed with a 5-4 win at 160 pounds. The Spartans were now rolling. Garret Hecht, Peter Lepper, Brett Vetterkind and Zeb Rivard followed with pins. B-W was able to win the final matches, but the team outcome had already been decided.

This was the most meaningful dual meet the Spartans have wrestled in many years. Coach Ali Peterson said the boys gained a great deal of satisfaction from their strong performance.

"It's quite a bit of pride and happiness," he said. "Everyone knew the importance of this match. It gives a lot of confidence going into the important part of the year."

If Thursday wasn't enough of a test for the Spartans, they wrestled in a 24-team tournament at East Ridge High School on Saturday. The tournament featured several of the top teams in Minnesota, including St. Michael-Albertville, Waconia and South St. Paul. The Spartans ranked 12th in the team results.

The Spartans had three wrestlers place among the top six wrestlers in their weight class. Anez reached the 152-pound championship, losing to the top-ranked wrestler in Minnesota.

Hecht was the fourth place finisher at 170-pound class.

"In the last three weeks he's put together a nice run," Peterson said.

Rivard lost his opening match in the 285-pound bracket. He then put together a good run to come back to take sixth place.

The Spartans also had good results in the JV portion of the tournament. Vetterkind was a weight class champion, with Zach Maitrejean taking second place in his weight class.

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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