Noonan wins third tournament of season
HOWARD -- Losing in the state title match twice has frustrated Howard 140-pound wrestler Dan Noonan, and it's showed this year.
Noonan is currently 17-0 this season and has three big tournament wins, including most recently at the Floyd Farrand Invite, hosted by Sioux Falls Lincoln Dec. 29 and 30.
Last year as a sophomore, Noonan fell to Wagner's three-time state champion, Daniel Koupal, in the 140-pound Class B state title match. Two years earlier, as an eighth grader, Noonan knocked out the No. 1-ranked wrestler, but fell in the title match.
"Both times the kids out wrestled me," Noonan said of the title matches he's lost. "I'd just really like to get the state title under my belt."
Noonan and his head coach, Ken Ruml, who's been head coach at Howard for 37 years, hope this year will be different.
For his recent successes, an undefeated record and the first-place victory at the Sioux Falls Lincoln tournament, Noonan has been named the Daily Republic Player of the Week, as voted on by the newspaper's sports staff.
Currently, Noonan is the top-ranked wrestler at 140 pounds in Class B. He said he faced some of his toughest competition at Lincoln, including a 9-3 victory over Rex Lyon from Sturgis -- formerly the No. 1-ranked wrestler in Class A, now dropped to No. 2 -- for first place.
"I tried to get ahead early, wear him out," Noonan said. "I got a takedown 30 seconds into the match and put him on his back late in the period to score. I had control the entire match."
Ruml said the junior has a great shot this season at taking the state title, partly because of two of his teammates. Noonan, Ruml's son, Francis (145), and Bradyn Neises -- also a 17-0 junior, but is ranked No. 2 in Class B at 152 -- are "the team's three-strong links in the chain."
The 60-year-old head coach said the three have traveled to numerous national tournaments across the nation together, which has made each of them better by wrestling some of the best talent during in the summer -- usually a wrestler's down time.
"We fuel off each other," Noonan said. "When one of us is down in practice, we pick him up."
Neises is in the same boat as Noonan, as he lost in the state title match last year. But Noonan said he and Neises will use that as motivation for the state title this year.
"I've just got to work and improve and hopefully come out on top this year," Noonan said. "Last year was a loss that will stay in my head forever. The state tournament just comes down to who wants it most."
Besides winning the Lincoln tournament, Noonan won the Howard Invite and the Flandreau Invite earlier this year. Howard and Noonan get back to the mat on Thursday when the Tigers travel to Parker for a quadrangular against Garretson, Parker and McCook Central/Montrose.