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Winner Area keeps the pedal down on wrestling season as a title threat in Class B

Warriors have three No. 1-ranked wrestlers, and three more in the top-3 in their class

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Winner Area's Joey Cole, right, wrestles against Mitchell's Kendall Fick during a triangular on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022 at Mitchell High School.
Marcus Traxler / Mitchell Republic

WINNER, S.D. — The Winner Area High School wrestling team has been at the top of its class for a long time.

It’s there again for Class B in 2022 with another deep roster that has three No. 1-ranked wrestlers and another three in the top-three of their classes. But coach Spencer Novotny and the Warriors are working on the slow build to the state tournament, even as their team looks strong again.

“We’re working hard and we’re trying to get better every time out,” Novotny said. “That’s all you can really ask from the group. We’ve got some guys that are really working hard to get themselves and our team where they want to go.”

The Warriors improved to 6-0 in duals last week with a pair of wins at a triangular in Mitchell against the Kernels and Rapid City Stevens, with the latter ranked No. 3 in Class A as a team. The next day, the Warriors outscored perennial state champion Canton at the Tri-Valley Invitational for a team title, keeping Kimball/White Lake/Platte-Geddes at bay, as well.

Winner Area occupies the No. 1 slot in the Class B dual seed-point standings, which are becoming competitive among a number of teams to get into the top-8 before February’s state tournament in Sioux Falls.

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But the Warriors — who have been the Class B state runners-up in each of the last four state individual tournaments — aren’t concerned much with peaking right now. Instead, it’s only about preparing for the end of the season.

“You’re trying to prepare yourself and stay healthy,” Novotny said. “Every team in the state is dealing with that right now and it’s a challenge. … We know we’ve got a ways to go and we’re just worried about the short-term right now.”

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Winner Area's Kaden Keiser, right, tries to control Mitchell's Jagger Tyler during a triangular on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022 at Mitchell High School.
Marcus Traxler / Mitchell Republic

Novotny said the team’s best asset is its leadership with five seniors — Joey Cole, Kaden Keiser, Kaleb Osborn, Charley Pravacek and Achilles Willuweit — setting the table for the team in the wrestling room.

“They’re really blossoming with the younger kids,” Novotny said. “It’s great to see them in practice and rather than beating up some of those eighth-graders or freshmen, they’re in there teaching them. They want everyone to have success.”

Three Warrior wrestlers are undefeated, led by Keiser, who is now 27-0 at 145 pounds. He has 11 pins on the season and has relished the technical fall, picking up nine of those wins on the season. His Tri-Valley Invitational title included three technical falls, winning by a combined score of 46-0.

“There’s not much you have to say to a kid like that,” Novotny said of Keiser. “He’s a dream to coach and he’s the guide for everyone else.”

Junior Riley Orel at 160 pounds is 20-0 and sophomore Maxton Brozik is 22-0 at 113 pounds. Osborn is 23-3 at 126 pounds, Cole is 22-3 at 170 pounds and junior Jack Kruger is 17-3 at 182 pounds. Willuweit recently returned to the mat after missing most of the season with an injury and has started 5-1 at 220 pounds. Novotny said Pravacek is the unsung hero of the upperclassmen, with a 13-3 record at 195 pounds.

“He doesn’t get a lot of attention there but he’s really done a great job,” Novotny said.

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Cole leads the team in falls with 16, with Orel logging 15 pins. On Friday, Jan. 21, Winner will host Kimball/White Lake/Platte-Geddes, Parker and Philip Area in a dual, before hosting its home tournament at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 22.

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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