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Class B wrestling preview: Winner Area prepares for state test

WINNER -- It all starts at the top for the Winner Area wrestling team. The Warriors, the No. 2-ranked team in the state, boast a strong lineup at the lower weights and it's a major reason why Winner Area is a state team championship contender at ...

Winner Area's Atlas Willuweit, center, wrestles Parkston's Tucker Murtha during 120-pound championship at the Region 3B tournament Feb. 17 in Miller. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)
Winner Area's Atlas Willuweit, center, wrestles Parkston's Tucker Murtha during 120-pound championship at the Region 3B tournament Feb. 17 in Miller. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

WINNER - It all starts at the top for the Winner Area wrestling team.

The Warriors, the No. 2-ranked team in the state, boast a strong lineup at the lower weights and it's a major reason why Winner Area is a state team championship contender at the Class B state wrestling tournament, which begins at 10 a.m. today in Sioux Falls.

Winner Area will bring 10 wrestlers to the meet, and has filled its first seven weight classes from 106 to 145. Nine of Winner's wrestlers have at least 28 wins and 15 pins or more, and coach Spencer Novotny said it's a case of everyone buying into the same cause.

"There's a lot of hard work put in, all the way through the lineup," he said. "That's something that we've worked for and it's paying off for these guys."

Kaden Keiser, who leads off the Warriors at 106 pounds and has a record of 46-4 heading to the state meet, said the team emphasizes bonus points as much as possible.

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"We have to get those extra points for major decision, tech falls and pins," Keiser said. "We just need to keep going, going and going."

Winner has also got a boost from Sam Kruger, the freshman standout who is 46-3 at 145 pounds for the Warriors. Along with his younger brother Jack, they transferred to the Warriors from Kimball/White Lake/Platte-Geddes.

"(Sam) fits into our team really well," Novotny said. "We have some great drill partners that can help make him better and he's a great drill partner for the other guys. We've got five guys that are kind of the hammers on the team and adding one more piece like that, nobody is going to turn that down. He's a great kid."

Sam Kruger has already placed twice in his first two seasons at the state tournament. He said his Winner teammates have been helpful in his development this season.

"We've got a good team and good partners in practice," Kruger said. "Everyone is pushing each other and that's making our team better. It's fun and we go back and forth with each other."

Trevor Peters, a sophomore with a 41-9 record, is the No. 1 seed in his bracket at 138 pounds. Keiser, who leads the team with 29 pins, is the No. 2 seed in the 106-pound bracket, along with Atlas Willuweit (120), Wyatt Turnquist (126) and Sam Kruger (145).

"We've got to go and wrestle it out," Novotny said. "We know if we take care of what we can, we'll have a good weekend but we've got to work."

Area's best earn top seeds

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Canton stands as the favorite for the team title in Class B, with three top-seeded wrestlers. Braden Sehr is 37-1 at 106 pounds, Kellyn March is 40-1 at 126 pounds, and Payton Smith is looking to follow up a 220-pound title from 2017 with a victory at 285 pounds.

As for the area wrestlers, five are top seeds in their respective weight classes. Wagner sophomore Lance Soukup is on the top line in the 113-pound class with a record of 27-1. Winner's Peters is top at 138 pounds and McCook Central/Montrose's Paul Lauck is the top seed at 145 pounds, as the senior has a 48-2 record.

Parkston's Dawson Semmler is the top seed at 160 pounds and is the defending champion in the weight class, while Howard's Evan Kizer is seeded No. 1 at 220 pounds. The Tigers' senior is 35-4.

Four Class B wrestlers are undefeated entering the tournament: McCoy Peterson, of Philip Area, is spotless (27-0) at 120 pounds; Clark/Willow Lake's Caleb Orris has a 43-0 record at 170 pounds; Logan Donelan, of Elk Point-Jefferson, is 34-0 at 182 pounds, and Redfield Area's Cooper Baloun is 32-0, looking to close out his senior campaign perfect at 195 pounds.

Related Topics: WRESTLING
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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