State wrestling meet notebook: Cubs' Noah Hutmacher brings focused approach to championship dreams
Inside: Elena Brennan makes a strong first impression at state; and the Titans' Drew Gerlach seeks to make the most of his senior run at state
RAPID CITY — Noah Hutmacher is back in a familiar situation.
For the second-straight season, the Chamberlain standout brought the No. 1 seed in his weight class — 220 pounds this season, 195 last — to the state tournament.
But after coming up just shy of a state championship as a junior (Hutmacher was defeated by second-seeded Damion Schunke by a 4-1 decision in the title match), he’s back for one final shot at a state championship. Only this time, he possesses the knowledge of what went wrong 12 months ago and what he must do to clear the final hurdle.
“Last year, as the No. 1 seed, I thought about it too much,” Hutmacher admitted. “This year, I’m trying to treat it like any other tournament, it’s nothing different.”
To further his pursuit, Hutmacher identified three elements to hone in on as the opposition becomes more resilient: staying in position, making smart choices and not going too fast.
The last of which may be the most important, as Hutmacher has made a habit of rolling through opponents. On his way to a 36-1 record heading into Friday, Hutmacher has recorded 33 total pins with 17 coming in less than a minute, which includes a 43-second fall in Thursday’s first round.
It helps to have a quality training partner, too. Hutmacher frequently pairs up with Canyon Burkard, the Cubs’ standout at 285 pounds, and the two biggest men in the wrestling room push each other to get better, with Hutmacher testing Burkard’s agility and Burkard, in turn, trying Hutmacher’s strength.
“When it’s time to focus, we focus, but when there’s time to have a little fun, we know how to keep it interesting, too,” Hutmacher said.
There’s also the recent run on talent in the upper weight divisions for Chamberlain wrestling, which more or less started with Hutmacher’s older brother, Nash, a four-time state champion and carries on through the likes of Noah Hutmacher and Burkard.
“There’s a lot of pride to making sure Chamberlain is known for big guys who are here to compete,” Hutmacher said.
The first step for Hutmacher’s quest for a championship on Friday will be getting past Todd County’s Rocky Wiedman, the No. 4 seed.
Should Hutmacher advance to the state title match for his shot at redemption, his opponent will either be Sturgis’ Zak Juelfs, the No. 3 seed, or Watertown’s Matthew Peters, the No. 10 seed who took out No. 2 Abraham Myers, of Sioux Falls Washington.
But no matter how the bracket shapes up, Hutmacher remains committed to setting aside the details and just going out to wrestle.
“I’m focused on relaxing — not on records, rankings or anything like that,” Hutmacher said. “I need to take the match one step at a time and building to the finals.”
Brennan makes strong first impression at state for KWLPG
Elena Brennan gave up wrestling for a few years. She went and played basketball.
This year, as a sophomore, she was called back to the Kimball/White Lake/Platte-Geddes wrestling team. And Thursday night at the state wrestling tournament was one of those reminders of why she has a deeply held love for the sport.
Brennan, the No. 6 seed in her bracket at 154 pounds, knocked off No. 3 Hattie Baldwin, of Pierre, with a pin in 3 minutes and 45 seconds. Brennan trailed 2-0 in the match but was riding on top in the second period when she was able to turn Baldwin to her back and finish out the pin.
Baldwin was 32-9 entering the meet, and pinned Brennan in 50 seconds at Lyman’s Mid-Dakota Bride of the Monster tournament on Jan. 7. But Brennan said after her quarterfinal win that she had a good feeling about a potential rematch.
“That girl is really good,” Brennan said. “I had her at the beginning of the year and I was waiting for this match. I was thinking that both of us could win that match but I knew I had to be mentally tough and I’d be able to get her.”
“It’s her first year wrestling and she gets better every time she’s on the mat,” KWLPG coach Thomas Konechne said. “She’s a good kid and comes from a good, hard-working farm family. Good things happen to kids who put in that hard work.”
Brennan said she wrestled in the third and fourth grade, in part because her younger brother wrestled and she became his practice partner. She recalled how much fun wrestling was but she gave up the sport and played basketball for a while.
Then came a conversation before the season with KWLPG’s star female wrestler Akane Metcalfe, who will wrestle for another potential state title on Friday at 106 pounds.
“She’s one of the main reasons I came back out. She wrestled a bunch against her when I was younger. I lost to her a lot,” Brennan said. “She is a really, really good wrestler and she just told me that I’d have a lot of fun on the team again. She’s a very humble person and she is so sweet, she’s always willing to help and she’s deserving of the success she’s having.”
Brennan now faces Brookings’ Maya Erickson, who is 16-6 on the season and seeded No. 2. Brennan already has a pin against Erickson this season, coming in 27 seconds at the Harrisburg tournament on Jan. 13.
“I was actually out for two weeks with a shoulder injury,” Brennan said. The state tournament, it’s a great experience and just knowing that I worked my butt off to get here, it’s a great feeling.”
Gerlach proud to lead Titans at state meet
Drew Gerlach is happy to carry the flag for Mount Vernon/Plankinton/Corsica-Stickney’s wrestling team as a senior this season.
Now he’s trying to cap it the best he can, with a strong finish in Class B at the 145-pound weight class.
Gerlach looked like a man on a mission on Thursday, winning both of his matches by technical fall by a combined score of 33-3. Gerlach, of Plankinton, qualified for the state tournament in 2021 and 2022 but did not place. This time, he’s assured of a medal but Gerlach wants to go out on a high note.
“Our coaches talked about it being our last ride, so I’m just trying to wrestle every match like it’s my last,” Gerlach said. “My season has had its ups and downs and there’s been some lingering injuries but you just try to battle through it.”
Gerlach said he’s worked hard to improve his bottom positioning and technique, which has led to reversals and scoring opportunities.
“This year, I’ve become a harder guy to turn and that’s helping here at state,” he said.
The Titan senior said he feels the nerves of the state tournament but also enjoys riding the adrenaline in system for big matches. He said he’s relishing the role of being a leader in the Titan program.
“I’ve waited behind a lot of good guys and they’ve shown me a lot, really paved the way in how to be a Titan wrestler,” he said.
Up next is Canton’s Ayson Rice, a junior looking for his third state title. The winner of the Gerlach-Rice match could face KWLPG’s Carter Lenz, who is 37-4 and has wins over both wrestlers this year.
“I’ve got my work cut out for me but I’m going to give it everything I can,” he said.