Returning state champions plus a lot of depth will fuel the Winner Area wrestling team this season.
The Warriors finished runner up to Canton in both the dual and individual state meet a year ago.
Returning lettermen are Aaron Gilchrist, Jude Sargent, Maxton Brozik, Kaleb Osborn, Karson Keiser, Charley Pravecek, Kamryn Meek, Stetson Shelbourn, Preston Norrid, Joey Cole, Sam Kruger, Jack Kruger, Riley Orel, Kaden Keiser, Adam Bohnet, Konnor Osborn and Achilles Willuweit.
Warriors lost to graduation are Trevor Peters, Cailob Week and Landon Debus.
There are 18 athletes on the team with three seniors—Gilchrist, Sam Kruger and Norrid.
Winner will open the season Dec. 4 in a triangular in Parkston. The Warriors will wrestle Parkson and Warner/Northwestern. On the road a lot the first part of the season, Winner does not have a home match until Jan. 22.
The returning state placers are Kaden Keiser and Sam Kruger. Riley Orel and Achilles Willuweit took second place at state while Jack Peters and Norrid took fourth.
Kaleb Osborn placed fifth.
Gilchrist, Pravecek and Brozik all attended state and gained valuable experience. Coach Spencer Novotny says Winner will have a solid team. The strength of the team will be its leadership and depth. Novotny says the team works hard in practice and push each other. “We have a lot of kids who do not like to loose even in practice so things get competitive in practice,” said Novotny.
“We are fortunate we have enough kids out and that adds to our depth.”
Practice started Nov. 23 and the team went right to work. The coach said they did a lot of drills and some cardio work.
On Nov. 25 they team went live with wrestling for 23 minutes.
Novotny looks at the top teams in Class B to be Canton. “Everyone is chasing Canton and hopefully we are up there at the top,” said the coach.
He noted there are a lot of teams in Winner’s region who will be strong this year.
This will be a different year for the Warriors as they make their way through a pandemic. A year ago, the state tournament was able to be completed before COVID-19 hit.
The South Dakota High School Activities Association has made recommendations on how to conduct winter sports including wrestling.
Wrestling will be one sport that will have a lot of changes.
Novotny says the activities association is recommending that all who attend a wreslting match wear a mask.
Among the mandatory changes is limiting tournaments to no more than eight man brackets and 112 wrestlers in a tournament.
Teams are required to have pods of athletes during practice. This is to limit exposure and help lower the spread of COVID-19.
Right row Winner has five pods and only those wrestlers in a certain pod wrestle each other. As an example, a wrestler in pod 1 cannot cross over and wrestle a teammate in pod 2. “If we intermingle pods that will give us more exposure to the virus,” explained the coach.
If a wrestler tests positive for COVID-19 then only that pod would be considered for exposure and the rest of the pods could compete. That is the reason for the pods. If there were no pods and a wrestler tests positive the entire team would be considered for exposure.
Novotny said a wrestler can only wrestle a maximum of four matches per day.
Also, there can only be two weigh ins a week.
Novotny added the team bench is a little different. “We cannot sit in a pile any more we have to spread out for social distancing.”
Novotny added: “We are battling some things we have not had to worry about. We are going to keep on going and hopefully we all stay healthy.”
The Winner area wrestling schedule includes:
Dec. 4—at Parkston
Dec. 10—Burke/ Gregory and Wagner at Wagner
Dec. 12—Gregory Tournament
Dec. 18—Valentine dual tournament
Jan. 2—MCM invite in Salem
Jan. 12—at Stanley County
Jan. 16—Tri Valley Tournament in Colton
Jan. 19—Valentine and O’Neill in O’Neill
Jan. 22—Kimball/White Lake and Platte/Geddes in Winner
Jan 23—Winner tournament
Jan. 30—Lee Wolf in Aberdeen
Feb. 2—Chamberlain in Winner
Feb. 13—Huron Invite
Feb. 20—Region 3B in Wagner
Feb. 25—State B in Rapid City