Woodbury wrestling: Royals off to a good start on the matThe Royals hit the mat for the first time last week, splitting a pair of Suburban East Conference matches against Cretin-Derham Hall and Hastings, before taking eighth place at the 16-team Lakeville North Invitational.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, Woodbury Bulletin
The bell has officially rung for the Woodbury wrestling team.
The Royals hit the mat for the first time last week, splitting a pair of Suburban East Conference matches against Cretin-Derham Hall and Hastings, on Friday, Dec. 2, in Hastings, before taking eighth place at the 16-team Lakeville North Invitational on Saturday, Dec. 3.
This season, Woodbury returns the bulk of last year’s lineup, minus two-time state participant Brandon Borchardt. Senior captains Matt Lundblad, Connor Harreld and Ryan Dickhausen will lead the team on and off the mat. Other key returning wrestlers include: sophomore Howard Jones, and two-time state qualifiers Justin Herold-Plakut, a sophomore, and freshman Ben Donnelly.
Donnelly, who is the highest-ranked Royals wrestler to start the season at third in Class AAA, went 37-9 overall last year and finished in fifth place at last year’s state tournament at 130 pounds. Herold-Plakut went 2-2 in his four matches at last year’s state tournament and finished the year 40-4 overall at 112 pounds.
To kick off the year, the Royals won their first match of the 2011-12 season over Cretin-Derham Hall 56-12. In the dual, Young Vang, Keenan Roberts, Herold-Plakut, Peter Gaard, Blake Von Arx, Kevin Beseman, Jones, Chandler Ignaszewski, Anthony Doreo and Warsame Guled each earned wins.
For Vang, Roberts and Ignaszewski, it was their first-ever matches. However, each won with pins.
“We have 14 new kids who have never wrestled before this year,” Woodbury head coach Justin Smith said. “With Cretin not being a traditional powerhouse it was nice, because we had a chance to get some different kids in the lineup. That was nice for them.”
Woodbury followed up the win with a competitive match against Hastings, which is third in the Class AAA state rankings, falling 50-21.
“In the past we’ve gotten kind of beaten up by those guys, but this was the closest we’ve been in the time I’ve been here so far,” Smith said. “It was a nice barometer early in the season.”
For Woodbury, Ty Johnson, Herold-Plakut, Dickhausen and Jones each earned victories against Hastings. Donnelly fell by a point to his opponent from Hastings – someone he was pinned by last year.
“He’s improving, which we’d expect him to be,” Smith said. “Justin also did a nice job and beat his Hastings’ kid. We’re not going to hide anyone from anybody. We want to make sure Ben is always on the toughest kid, because that’s only going to help him and our team. He has higher goals than a fifth place finish at state this year. Hopefully these are stepping stones.”
In the Lakeville North invite, the Royals earned 89 points as a team. Scott West won the tournament with 268 points, followed by Hudson (Wis.) with 193 points and Henry Sibley with 114 points.
“We only had eight kids wrestle varsity in that tournament and still took eighth place,” Smith said.
Individually, Woodbury had six wrestlers place in the top five in their respective weight classes.
For the Royals, Donnelly and Herold-Plakut led the way with third-place finishes, while Jones, Johnson and Harreld took fourth place honors and Dickhausen brought home a consolation championship title.
“Ben and Justin both lost close matches in the semifinals,” Smith said. “But, they were both wrestling a high level of competition. Even though they’ve lost a couple matches, they’re standing out early.”
In the JV portion of the tournament, Vang, Tucker Benjamin, Matt Bedessem and Matt Delaney each took first place, while Gaard, Nick Yochum, Christian Alvarado, Doreo and Pavel Swensen were all third-place finishers.
Next up for Woodbury is the third-annual District 833 triangular against Suburban East Conference and intra-district rivals East Ridge and Park on Thursday, Dec. 8, at Park. Woodbury and East Ridge start the match at 5 p.m., followed by Woodbury vs. Park at 6:15 p.m. and Park vs. East Ridge at 7:30 p.m. Park won the first District 833 triangular trophy two years ago, however, Woodbury won last year’s match.
“It’s a special tournament for the kids,” Smith said. “There’s no doubt that Park will be a formidable opponent and if we don’t come to wrestle they’re going to get us.”
However, Smith said his team is confident and doesn’t want to leave the large, silver District 833 traveling trophy at Park High School.
“The bragging rights are even bigger than the trophy. Some of the kids asked me if we even have to bring it with,” Smith said.