Andes Central qualifies two to Class B tourneyLAKE ANDES — The biggest obstacle coach Rich Stephens has faced while trying to rebuild the Andes Central wrestling program this year has come in the practice room.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
LAKE ANDES — The biggest obstacle coach Rich Stephens has faced while trying to rebuild the Andes Central wrestling program this year has come in the practice room.
The Eagles’ three wrestlers who compete mainly on varsity are separated by several weight classes, making head-to-head competition in practice each day tough on Stephens. Their weight classes are 106, 145 and heavyweight.
“I have to try and wrestle all of them,” Stephens said. “Sometimes I have to wrestle like a 106-pounder and sometimes like a heavyweight. It hasn’t been an easy road, but I know they’re not going to quit, either.”
Stephens took the task of coaching a team that was nonexistent last year. Andes Central’s wrestling team was in a cooperative with Platte-Geddes and Corsica from 2006 to 2011 and folded for one year after the cooperative dissolved.
After there was no wrestling team last year, the school competed with a small team and qualified a pair of eighth-graders to their first state tournament, which runs Friday and Saturday at the Barnett Center in Aberdeen.
Andes Central’s Leo Hopkins (106) and Trezen Doren (285) are each headed to Aberdeen this weekend. They are two of five wrestlers on the team’s roster. Hopkins is 26-9 on the year and Doren is 9-13.
“I’m very proud of all our kids,” said Stephens, who was an assistant wrestling coach for four years in Wagner and was a head coach in Kansas before moving to South Dakota. “We have some kids who haven’t won a match all year, but they keep coming to practice every day.”
Andes Central Activities Director Rocky Brinkman said the main reason the school did not field a team last year was because of low numbers. He said Platte-Geddes was looking to form a new co-op with Kimball/White Lake. Andes Central chose not to go that route because of the travel distance.
The AAU program in town stayed alive during the year there was no varsity program. Some parents in town wanted to prevent the high school team from completely dying off and approached Brinkman, who moved the idea to the school board. After getting a rough estimate of participation numbers, the team was revived and Stephens was hired as head coach. He also is the coach of the school’s varsity football team.
Andes Central competed in varsity, junior varsity and middle school tournaments throughout the year to get its wrestlers plenty of competition and prepare for last weekend’s region meet. Hopkins and Doren each took fourth in their respective weight class, allowing them each a spot at state.
Having two wrestlers qualify for the state tournament could do a lot for the program, Stephens said. Both he and Brinkman believe the wrestling team at Andes Central is here for the long haul.
Brinkman estimated 20 youth wrestlers are involved in AAU wrestling, which could make the future of the varsity team stronger.
“It could easily be where we have 10 kids out next year,” Stephens said. “We’ll just try to rebuild it. We don’t have any expectations of particular numbers and we have to have realistic expectations.
“I didn’t take the job just to appease people or just to get by. My personality says we’re going to run the program to the best of our ability.”