Quartet of area programs embrace unique challenges of vying for Class B state dual title
BHA enters the dual tournament as the No. 1 seed, as three other Mitchell Area teams — McCook Central/Montrose, Winner Area and Kimball/White Lake/Platte-Geddes area also in the eight-team bracket.
RAPID CITY — Nearly 40 state champions are crowned during the flurry of Friday night activity at the state wrestling tournament.
But the fun doesn’t end there.
For 16 teams — eight each in Class A and Class B — there’s a return trip to the arena on Saturday in pursuit of another championship, this time in team duals.
While it serves as an encore for the individual championships, the significance of competing for a team title isn’t lost on the programs that qualify. However, preparing for the event isn’t without its challenges.
Perhaps the most significant hurdle to overcome starts with the transition from Friday to Saturday. Wrestlers from the dual squads who are also competing for an individual championship in Friday’s night session must make a quick turnaround — win or lose.
“It's tough. You get kids that are hopefully vying for a state title on Friday night and whether they get it or they don't, they have to come back and wrestle the next day,” said Winner Area coach Spencer Novotny, whose Warriors are the defending dual champions and the No. 7 seed in this year’s bracket.
“It's more of a mental thing, it's keeping going after the individual (tournament) is over,” added Winner Area’s Riley Orel, Class B’s No. 1 seed at 160 pounds in the individual tournament and a member of last year’s championship team. “It's hard to do that when you're like, ‘Man, I'm already done individually, but my team needs me.’”
Keeping those who are wrestling through Thursday and Friday mentally and physically ready for Saturday is certainly important. However, that’s not likely to be the whole dual team, with several wrestlers who didn’t qualify for their respective individual brackets making the trip to round out the dual roster.
Novotny and Darren Kriz, coach of this year's No. 1 seed Bon Homme/Avon, are in agreement that the dual-specific wrestlers are a key component in a team’s success at the event, and finding ways to keep them sharp is of high importance.
“You try get some practice in and keep the kids ready to go,” Kriz explained. “The hardest thing is the kids who aren’t wrestling (on Thursday and Friday) and trying to try to keep them busy and ready to go.”
With all the added elements that come with a state tournament, a priority for many teams is keeping a familiar schedule.
“We'll just keep our routine,” Kriz said. “We're not going to do anything out of the ordinary.”
No matter how it’s situated, one competition will have an impact on the other, as noted by BHA’s Isaac Crownover.
“I liked it better than when they had (the team duals) in between,” said Crownover, Class B’s No. 2 seed at 182 pounds individually. “I think it was two or three years ago, we could have wrestled the duals, but it would have interfered with our individuals a little bit more. We just have to look out for each other, help each other out as much as we can. That’s all there is to it.”
Class B dual tourney outlook
Four Mitchell area programs are included in the eight-team Class B dual bracket — No. 1 Bon Homme/Avon, No. 5 McCook Central/Montrose, No. 7 Winner Area and No. 8 Kimball/White Lake/Platte-Geddes.
BHA and KWLPG will square off in the quarterfinals, while MCM meets No. 4 Elk Point-Jefferson and Winner Area clashes with No. 2 Canton. The remaining quarterfinal matchup pits No. 3 Custer against No. 6 Parker, with the competition set to begin at noon Central time (11 a.m. Mountain) on Saturday.
The top three seeds are all undefeated in dual action this season, as BHA enters at 10-0, Canton at 27-0 and Custer at 14-0. MCM comes in at 19-3, followed by Winner Area at 8-3 and KWLPG at 10-4. Rounding out the field, EPJ is 10-3 and Parker is 14-4.
BHA is 2-0 against teams in the Class B field, having defeated Parker (37-28) and EPJ (42-24).
MCM owns victories over Parker (41-33) and KWLPG (49-20), but all three losses came against fellow tournament qualifiers in Canton (43-34), Custer (51-20) and EPJ (42-36).
Winner Area, the defending champion, has defeated KWLPG (45-18), but two of its three losses came to Custer (34-26) and Parker (46-27). (The other was Class A Rapid City Stevens.)
All four of KWLPG’s dual defeats are to other tournament teams, as the losses came against Canton (52-16) Parker (45-30), MCM and Winner Area.
Canton, which has claimed the Class B team championship (based on the points earned in the individual competitions) five years running and seven times since 2012, was unseated in the team duals by Winner Area last season after also winning that title in 2020 and 2021.