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By Kerry Rodd
Sports Pine Knot News 

Wrestling starts now


November 30, 2018

Jana Peterson/ Pine Knot News

The Cloquet-Esko-Carlton wrestling team is led by three captains, from left, juniors Jordan Allen, Tyler Harms-Synkiew and Griffin Fjeld.

Talk about jumping into the proverbial fire, the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys wrestling team opened practice on Monday and will hit the mat on Saturday in the prestigious Lakeville North Tournament. Next Friday they will follow up with a two-day tournament in Brainerd.

"Lakeville is an individual tourney and will feature a lot of teams in the Twin Cities area and western Wisconsin," said CEC coach Al Denman, adding that the Brainerd tourney will be an even tougher test. "We kind of get thrown into the meat grinder early with our schedule, but that is a good thing."

The Lumberjacks will be led by four junior wrestlers.

"The middle of our weight classes seem to be our strongest group of wrestlers," Denman said. "We have four guys who have come up through the years together since they were little boys: Zeb Wehr, Tyler Harms-Synkiew, Jordan Allen, and Griffin Fjeld. They all are near the same weight so the trick will be to find them all different weight classes. We always thought that group would grow apart weight-wise and they did a bit last year, but they are all near the same weight this year."

The Lumberjacks also have a couple of tough seniors in Matt Dierking at heavyweight and Hunter Senarighi, who will wrestle in the 170-pound class. Both have been through the wrestling wars and Denman expects strong performances from the duo and the team as a whole.

"We do have strong kids throughout the whole lineup," he said. "Alex Peterson will be a 113-pounder and he is going to be very strong. We also have a huge group of 106-pound seventh- and eighth-graders, which is the biggest I've ever seen. They are all talented kids, which means we'll have a fair amount of wrestle-offs for the first time in a long time."

Eighth-grader Reese Shelton will be one to watch this year.

"Reese is a phenomenal once-in-a-coaching-career type of kid," Denman said. "He's 6'3" and about 185 pounds and he looks like he's a junior or senior in high school. He is a very good practice wrestler and a very good trainer. At his weight class, you normally don't see a kid his age do the things he can do because he is facing older kids; you don't see that as much in the lighter classes."

A huge key to the team success this season will be if senior Luke Konietzko is able to overcome a football injury and wrestle this season at 220 pounds.

"He is one of those tipping points for our team," Denman said. "Luke could go to state at 220 pounds because he is that good. ... If he is healthy and could come back I can see us as one of the top four teams in the section vying for that section championship."

The coach is confident about conference competition.

"I told them straight up they are going to win the conference this year," Denman said. "That is the team's goal -- to win the Great River Conference. That part I am confident about."

"We have a solid group of kids and to expect two or three kids to go to the state tournament is reasonable," Denman said.

As far as opening with back-to-back tough tournaments, Denman is excited about the chance for kids to show what they can do.

"I tell the kids before the season I expect them to be beaten along the way," Denman said. "The best way to get better is to wrestle the top people so you know what it looks like and what it feels like."


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