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Tri-Valley is favorite at Class B tourney

(Luke Hagen/Republic) Howard's Luke Loudenburg, right, wrestles with an opponent at a tournament last month in Mitchell. Loudenburg took second place at the Class B state tournament last year and is wrestling at 106 pounds this year.

Ask almost any Class B wrestling coach, and they'll say Tri-Valley is the favorite at this weekend's Class B state tournament.

Today in Rapid City is the first of a two-day state tournament, where 16-man brackets will be narrowed down to a state champion. Last year, Webster knocked off three-time defending champion Wagner in Aberdeen for the team championship.

Though some coaches will say Webster and Wagner have a chance at the top spot, most coaches believe Tri-Valley will finish on top.

"They've got some really good individuals, and they're a solid team up and down their lineup," said Parkston coach Jared Digmann, whose team took eighth at last year's state tournament. "I think they've been the favorite all year."

Parkston qualified 10 wrestlers to the state tournament after winning last weekend's Region 3B meet. Digmann said all of his wrestlers have a chance at placing.

Parkston has only two returning wrestlers who placed at the state tournament from a year ago.

Freshman Weslee Dvorak took third at 103 pounds last year. This season he's at 120 pounds. Mitch Heisinger took seventh as a freshman last season at 125 pounds. He's wrestling at 145 this year.

Digmann said seventh-grader Blake Bietz (103) and freshman Brady Reiff (182) could also make some noise.

"I wouldn't count out any of our guys," Digmann said. "But you've got to have a little luck, and you've got to come ready to wrestle."

Wagner took second in Region 3B last weekend and has two defending state champions. Seniors Alex Kocer (152) and Derek Dickerson (160) each won state titles last year, helping the Red Raiders to a fourth-place state tournament finish. Kocer is a four-time state champion and Dickerson is looking to win his second this weekend.

"Wagner is going to be right there with Tri-Valley," Digmann said.

Kimball/White Lake/Platte-Geddes coach Russ Konechne agreed. His team took fifth at last year's state tournament.

"It's going to be between Tri-Valley, Wagner and Webster," said Konechne, whose team has three qualified. "They all qualified quite a few, and the ones who qualified should place pretty high."

Wagner qualified nine for this weekend. Like Alex Kocer and Dickerson, Tyler Dion (126) and David Kocer (145) were both region champions for the Red Raiders.

Last year was Howard wrestling coach Ken Ruml's final year at the helm, and now Tyler Dahl has taken over the Tigers' program. He said he's enjoyed his first year as the head wrestling coach, and he added he sees Tri-Valley and Wagner battling for the top spot.

Howard's Luke Loudenburg and Evan Donahue both had runner-up finishes at last year's state tournament. Loudenburg lost in the 103-pound finals last year and will wrestle at 106 this weekend. He has a 40-1 record.

Donahue lost at 135 pounds last year and is wrestling 138 this year.

"They're definitely hungry," Dahl said. "They've been pushing themselves, and their goal is to be in the finals match, and hopefully, come out on top this time."

Burke/Gregory qualified three to the state tournament. Kurt Braun (113) won the Region 3B tournament last weekend and is the team's only returning wrestler. He finished fourth at last year's state tournament.

"It's going to be a tight race for the team championship," Burke/Gregory coach John Hansen said. "I'd say it's between Tri-Valley, Wagner and Webster."

Other wrestlers who placed in the top eight of last year's state tournament and are returning are Winner's Sean Bice, who took fifth at 112 last year; McCook Central/Montrose's Dominic Blindert and Cody Eichmann; and Bon Homme's Lincoln Stoebner. Blindert finished second as a sophomore and fifth last year, Eichmann took fifth last year and Stoebner was fourth last year.