Jerry Opbroek Invitational to serve as Mitchell's measuring stick
Five top-10 teams in Class A participate in reduced tournament.
The Mitchell High School wrestling team is about to find out where it stands at the midway point of the season.
The Kernels are 14-1 and ranked fifth in the Class A dual standings with four top-10 teams set to visit for the Jerry Opbroek Invitational at 10 a.m. Saturday.
After being canceled due to weather last year, Mitchell’s annual tournament will have a different look this season. The tournament typically features a mix of Class A and Class B schools, along with some out-of-state squads, but the COVID-19 pandemic saw the Kernels restrict it to five other teams: Pierre, Rapid City Central, Rapid City Stevens, Sturgis and Watertown.
Aside from Mitchell’s lone loss to the Arrows on Dec. 5 and a tight matchup win against Huron on Dec. 17, the Kernels have yet to be tested and are coming off a 46-19 win over No. 4 Harrisburg on Jan. 5. Saturday’s competition, while small in size, should provide a barometer heading into the final portion of the season.
“It’s a mini state tournament,” Everson said. “We’re going to really see where we’re at, how we can improve and where we really sit. A lot of our guys haven’t gotten the chance to wrestle these top-ranked guys and we’re going to get a chance to see them and see where we’re at.”
The Kernels already have nine wrestlers with double-digit wins, including five with at least 15 wins in Spencer Eldeen (15-4), Brock Sparks (17-1), Jagger Tyler (16-0), Joe Van Overschelde (16-2) and Wyatt Winter (16-2).
Winter, a senior, wrestled most of the first part of the season at 285 pounds, has dropped back to 220 during the last three duals. Winter leads Mitchell with 99 points, earning 11 pins and two major decisions. Pierre’s Regan Bollweg enters at 8-0 and should provide a test for Winter.
Sparks’ lone loss of the season at 132 came to Lead-Deadwood’s Tristen Fierbach in an 11-10 decision, with eight pins and three major decisions. Meanwhile, Van Overschelde’s lone losses at 182 came against Huron’s Tyson Lien, the reigning Class A 170-pound state champion.
Tyler, a Wagner transfer, has six pins and a major decision, all coming in his last nine matches at 126. Eldeen will have a chance to avenge three of his four losses at 106, having lost twice to Watertown’s Sloan Johannsen and once to Sturgis’ Korbin Osborn.
“There’s only going to be six guys in each weight, but most of the weights have at least four ranked guys,” Everson said. “Every match is going to be a big match. There’s not going to be a warm-up match; every single match is going to be a battle. So I’m looking for us to compete, get after whoever we’re wrestling, make a statement for Mitchell wrestling and show that we can run with anybody.”
Rapid City Central features Cael Larson, who is 22-0 at 138 pounds after winning the Class A state title at 120 last year, and last year’s 145-pound runner-up T.J. Morrison, now wrestling at 152. Meanwhile Stevens has Logan Graf, who is 17-0 at 120 after transferring from Custer, where he won the Class B 106-pound state title last season. Sturgis’ Reese Jacobs is 15-0 at 170 pounds and Kaden Olson is unbeaten at 120 after being the runner-up at 113 last season.
The Opbroek tournament starts a string of four tournaments in four weeks for the Kernels, who are looking to build momentum prior to a two-day stretch from Feb. 11-12 in which they will host Watertown, Brandon Valley and Pierre in duals with the Eastern South Dakota Conference title on the line.
“We haven’t really been pushed a ton,” Everson said. “Watertown beat us that first weekend and since then we’ve had a lot of duals against teams that are about .500. … But that dual record and those individual records speak to how we’re getting after it. We’re not being timid, we’re not holding back anything. We’re going for those bonus points and we’re not comfortable just hanging out.”