At last season's state wrestling tournament, everything came twos for Winner Area High School. The Warriors produced four individual runner-ups last year and eventually placed second in the Class B team standings to Canton.
This time around, Winner arrives in Rapid City with big wins on its résumé and more experience to boot when the state tournament begins today at 11 a.m. Central in Rapid City.
Three of those four runner-ups-Kaden Keiser, Wyatt Turnquist and Sam Kruger-return as top seeds in their brackets, as the Warriors look to take another run at Canton and prevent it from winning a third state title in four years.
"Whatever happens, happens," Winner head coach Spencer Novotny said. "We've got to score our bonus points. Win by eight, not seven. If we got kids on their back, we've got to pin them. We can't control what they do. If we match up against them, hopefully we get the wins there."
Winner has 10 wrestlers in the field this season and its path has been aided by a bit of luck. Keiser (42-1) has moved from 106 pounds to 120 this season, but his opponent from last year's state finals, Canton's Braden Sehr (53-1), is at 126. Turnquist (42-2) is the the top seed at 138 and Canton's Kellyn March (49-0) is wrestling at 132 after defeating the former in the state finals last season.
Kruger (38-3) could face Parkston senior Lucas Bietz (35-2) in the finals at 160 after splitting a pair of matches this season, but Kruger won the last battle at the Region 3B tournament. McCook Central/Montrose's Blake Gessner (47-4) also poses a threat as the No. 4 seed.
Trevor Peters (40-5) is seeded third at 152, coming off a third-place finish at 138 last season. Preston Norrid (24-9) also has an opportunity to place at 195, as does 285-pound freshman Achilles Willuweit (34-8).
Meanwhile, Howard was 11 points behind Winner last season for third place, although it has graduated a pair of state champions. Lane Miller took third 106 last season and returns as the No. 2 seed at 113 with a record of 39-7. Riley Genzlinger (38-10) and E.J. Leetch (39-5) are seeded in the top-five at 126 and 195, respectively. Kieffer Klinkhammer (120) and Isaac Feldhaus (182) are also back after each took sixth a year ago.
Not only does Bietz return after placing seventh at 170 last season for Parkston, but so does Riley Weber. After placing fifth at 106 as a sophomore, Weber returns this season as the top seed in a bracket that includes Burke/Gregory's Owen Hansen (36-4) as the No. 2 seed, along with MCM seventh-grader Jackson Remmers (47-10) and Lyman's Bryson Muirhead (40-11).
Lance Soukup (36-9) is the No. 3 seed at 120 after winning the state title at 113 last season for Wagner, and he steps into an area-heavy class that features Keiser, Klinkhammer and Kimball/White Lake/Platte-Geddes' Grayson Hanson (39-11).
Fresh off returning from an injury, Burke/Gregory's Jackson Eklund (18-0) has an opportunity at redemption after taking second at 132 last season. Not only is he the No. 2 seed at 145 this year, but he could get a rematch of that state final match against Tri-Valley's Caden Lamer (35-1), who is aiming for a fifth-straight state title.
"I think (Lamer) just out-wrestled me a little bit," Eklund said of last year's state final. "I think it could have gone either way, he just got the better of me that day."
Josh Crownover (37-5) enters the 170-pound weight class coming off a state title at 160 for Bon Homme/Avon/Scotland, and the No. 2 seed contends with four other wrestlers with at least 40 wins, including unbeaten top-seeded Shaeden Scheidt of Canton.
The 152-pound division features five area wrestlers in the top eight seeds, including Peters, Burke/Gregory's Frank Even (33-5), MCM's Jacobi Krouse (38-13), KWLPG's Ty Namanny (29-18) and Wagner's Preston Nedved (27-20).
Burke/Gregory senior J.J. Beck (30-2) is the No. 2 seed at 182, but Clark/Willow Lake defending state champion Caleb Orris (43-0) is the top seed and Canton's Scott Peterson (43-1) is third. Mount Vernon/Plankinton/Corsica-Stickney's Thomas Baker is seeded fifth with a 34-11 record.
The 220-pound weight class sees three area wrestlers with the top three seeds, with last year's runner-up, MVPCS' Jesse Hastings, as the No. 1 seed after going 2-1 against No. 2 K.J. St. Pierre (Wagner) during the regular season, while KWLPG's Tyler Resick is seeded third.
Wessington Springs/Woonsocket/Wolsey-Wessington's Keegan Haider (33-6) and Tate Haider (34-6) are both seeded third at 113 and 138, respectively.