Northland Sports Online

Cloquet-Esko Wrestlers Compete at Royalton

Jan 10

By: Greg Oakes

The Cloquet-Esko wrestling team has tangled with some dominating competition this past week and the results have not been pretty. They were beaten by Mille Lacs 66-9, which is a combined school from the neighboring towns of Onamia and Isle. Senior Jake Baker had the only victory, defeating his opponent 5-4. Sophomore Kristina Erickson received a forfeit to account for the other points. Mille Lacs won their section last year and qualified for the State tournament as a team in the Class A division.

There is an old adage that says ‘If you want to be the best, you need to play the best’ and Coach Al Denman’s team is doing that. On Saturday, they traveled to Royalton and took part in an individual tournament against seven other schools. Among them was Kimball Area, who is currently ranked 3rd in the State this year in Class A and Royalton who is also state ranked.

Cloquet’s Baker was the only Lumberjack to make the finals as he took 2nd place after losing 6-5 to a wrestler from West Central. Earlier Baker had defeated wrestlers from Royalton and Sauk Rapids/Rice. Coach Denman states that Baker “is wrestling better than he was last year when he narrowly missed going to State. He has a really good single leg takedown and has added a fireman’s carry to his arsenal. He is able to be more offensive this year.”

Even with an inexperienced squad, they are trying to hang in there and hopefully reap the benefits further down the road. “We have come to an understanding that this group will stick it out for the season,” Denman said. “No one is going to quit. For most of them, it is not about the wins and losses this year. We are operating like a family and the emphasis is about supporting one another.”

There are so ever-subtle hints that some of these rookie wrestlers are starting to see growth. Denman points to some of his junior varsity wrestlers as inching closer to a varsity match. Jaelisa Northrup (10th grade) saw action in her first ever match and went the distance. Kasey Kulas (7th) has been getting more mat time as well as seniors Marcus Hunt and Kyle Langenbrunner, Trevor Lowther (9), Nelson Hall (8) and Seth Stevens (7).

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