Injury-plagued wrestlers make the best of a trying season
February 28, 2020
The Cloquet-Esko- Carlton wrestling team wrapped up its season at the individual section tournament Feb. 22 in Mora. CEC had four place-winners but were unable to place a wrestler in the top two to qualify for the state tournament.
This year's wrestling team consisted of five seniors: Griffin Fjeld (132-pound weight class), Jordan Allen (145-pound class) and Zeb Wehr (152-pound class), while 138-pounder Tyler Harms-Synkiew was injured and could not compete this season and 160-pounder Sam Bolling injured his knee in Cloquet's second meet and was unable to compete for most of the season.
"It was an absolute tragedy the way their seasons had to end," head coach Al Denman said of Bolling and Harms-Synkiew's career-ending injuries. "They had no control over that."
Every varsity wrestler was injured at some point this season.
Eighth-grader Bohdon Fjeld broke his wrist just a month into the season, and heavyweights Raymond Greyhair and Gage Stankewitz were also injured. All were unable to compete in the section tournament.
The injuries were just part of the problem for the Lumberjacks, who started the season with only 10 out of 14 varsity spots filled.
"It's a numbers game," Denman said. "Any team's success requires numbers."
In addition to graduating five seniors, the Lumberjacks will also be losing one of their coaches. Coach Dale Borchardt, who has been with the team for more than 10 years, will no longer be coaching after this season.
He had two kids (Reed and Mitchell Borchardt) wrestle in the program.
"That's a significant loss," Denman said of losing his longtime assistant. "He's been an absolute loyal coach to wrestling."
Although the Lumberjacks weren't able to send anyone to state this season, they still experienced success throughout the year.
They won four dual meets, including going 2-1 in duals their first meet, losing only to last year's Class A team state champion Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville.
Their final dual record as a team was 4-14.
The Lumberjacks also had three all-conference wrestlers this season: seniors Wehr and Griffin Fjeld each won their fourth Great River Conference championship, and sophomore Deeken Fjeld won his first conference championship.
The Lumberjacks have a lot to look forward to.
With heavyweights Greyhair and Stankewitz the lone seniors next season, the team has a good, young core to build off of.
One of their four place-winners at the section meet was seventh-grader Gage Allen, who placed sixth in a 106-pound weight class that featured U15 world champion Tyler Wells of Princeton.
Denman spoke about the future of the program while acknowledging that it may take a few years to have a competitive team.
"There is a foundation of kids that are going to be competitive and will certainly dominate our conference," Denman said.
With nearly 50 years of wrestling experience among the five seniors, this group has done a lot for the Cloquet wrestling program over the decade.
The seniors have a combined 500-plus career varsity wins and 11 conference championships, and sent one wrestler to the state tournament last season.
"I will miss that," Denman said. "You know, looking to the middle of that lineup as 'Wow, here come our hammers.'"
"[The seniors] brought a whole other level of leadership to this program," Denman said. "My hope is that one or two or three of these younger guys can pick that up."
[Editor's note] Writer Tyler Harms-Synkiew is the injured senior in the story and represented the Lumberjacks at state last year before injuries ended his career. So now he writes about the sports he loves.