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Kernels have something to prove at ESD meet

This weekend, the Mitchell Kernel wrestling team is entering its first of the final three weeks of the season at the Eastern South Dakota individual tournament in Aberdeen.

This is the Kernels' final meet before the 3A regional tournament next weekend and at the State A meet in Watertown on Feb. 27-28.

Mitchell is one of eight ESD teams in attendance this weekend, including Aberdeen Central, which took home the ESD team title with a perfect 7-0 conference dual record.

Mitchell ended its dual season Feb. 5 with a 44-25 dual loss to Aberdeen, but the ESD tournament won't be an official team event, as it will be strictly individual.

Mitchell ended their ESD dual season in fourth place with a 4-3 record and 13-8 overall in dual matches.

"Obviously the goal was to win the conference," Kernels' head coach Travis Carpenter said. "Hopefully we can wrestle well (today) and show them we could have been better."

The ESD tournament, which starts at 11 a.m. in the Aberdeen Central High School gymnasium, is especially important for the Kernels because Aberdeen, Pierre and Huron are all in Region 3A along with them.

At last season's ESD, Jordan Reiner, who then was wrestling at 145 pounds, won his weight class, and he was one of three Kernels to take first. This season, Reiner is undefeated and ranked No. 1 at 171 pounds in Class A.

The toughest competition Reiner could see is No. 8-ranked Josh Larson from Aberdeen. The two didn't meet in the Kernels' last dual meet of the season.

Austin Havlik wrestled in and won the 152-pound bracket last year. This year, Havlik is ranked No. 4 at 160 pounds in Class A, and he is the top-rated wrestler from the ESD in his weight class.

The biggest matchup for a highly-ranked Kernel on Saturday could be 215-pound Kyle Larson's rematch with Aberdeen's Baker Haar. Last season, Larson won the 160-pound weight class at the ESD meet, but this year's path could be tough, as Larson lost to Haar 3-2 in their only match of the season.

"Both of them have to get to that spot first, but I guess he's excited about the possibility of getting another chance at him," Carpenter said.Mitchell is one of four teams with six or more ranked wrestlers in their respective weight classes. Aberdeen has the most with 10 wrestlers ranked in the top 10, Huron has eight top-10 wrestlers and Mitchell and Pierre both have six.

The ESD is especially tough in the 103- and 145-pound weight classes, so Lakin Neugebauer (103) and Brent Havlik (145), both ranked No. 9 in their respective weight classes, each have their work cut out for them.

In the 103-pound bracket, Neugebauer is one of six ranked ESD wrestlers, including Brandon Valley's top-ranked Morgan Engbrecht, while Brent Havlik is one of five ranked ESD wrestlers in the 145-pound bracket.

At 130 pounds, Jason Greenway is shooting to finish one place higher than last year's runner-up finish at 112 pounds. Greenway is ranked No. 7 in his weight class, and he has three ESD wrestlers ranked above him.

Jason's twin brother Justin has seen only one live match since breaking a bone in his foot early this season, and the only loss he's seen was during the match he injured his foot. Justin Greenway (135) is 3-1 on the season and is making progress after returning to the mat, according to Carpenter.

"It's a bit of a curve when you miss that much of the season," Carpenter said. "It will be a great test for him to see where he's at for the regional tournament."

Nick Kummer, who finished in fourth place at the 103-pound weight class at last year's ESD, is wrestling at 125 pounds this year.

Mitchell's Ryan Buck may get matched up against Huron's Cord Glanzer, the No. 1-ranked 140-pound wrestler in Class A. The two didn't wrestle earlier this season when Mitchell defeated Huron 34-31 on Jan. 2.

The Kernels' remaining lineup will be Skyler Neugebauer at 112 pounds, who will be wrestling in his final ESD tournament since he's a senior, at 119 Mitchell will be open, Chance Parr at 152 pounds, Cole Johnson at 189 and Wes McPherson at 285.

"We can help ourselves for some seeding in regions, but when you look at overall, it's another tournament," Carpenter said. "Overall the top three kids in each weight class are all-conference wrestlers, so I know they want to accomplish that."

The meet will be Mitchell's final tune-up before what the team calls the most important tournament of the season, the 3A regional. "A couple of the kids need some more matches under their belts and this can be that final tune-up before regions," Carpenter said. "We have to make sure we come out of it healthy and ready to go for next weekend, though."