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Lumberjacks get a split in first matches

The Cloquet-Esko-Carlton wrestling team opened the season with a home triangular match against Proctor/Hermantown and Superior. The Lumberjacks took a 39-33 win over Proctor/Hermantown, but fell, 42-34, to the Spartans.

Against Proctor/Hermantown - a team they lost to last year - the 'Jacks got forfeit wins by Henry Scheopflin at 107 pounds, Alex Comer at 114 and Carter Horvat at 189. Aiden Theisen was victorious at 121 by winning in a pin over Jack London. At 145, Brendon Malloy took a 13-11 decision over Noah Deluca. Bohdon Fjeld was a 152 winner over Jake Follet and Warren Heitala won by pin over Wake Ryan at 170.

"Brendon (Malloy) did a nice job of stealing some important points for us," said CEC coach Al Denman.

CEC's Blake Prosen lost to Dakota Peterson by a pin at 139. At 215, Brodie Wilson lost to last year's state runner-up Zak McPhee. Wrestling at heavyweight to avoid a 6-point forfeit, Damion Newcomb lost in quadruple overtime which, even though he lost, was key in CEC's win over Proctor/Hermantown.

"Damion is only about 189 pounds and we sent him in against a kid who was well over 200 pounds," Denman said. "We needed him to go in and not get pinned and he nearly won, but what gets lost in the big picture instead of losing six points he lost only three. When you add that into the team picture along with what Malloy did, it was enough to help us get the win along with the forfeits and other wins by our more experienced wrestlers."

Against Superior, the Lumberjacks got some impressive wins. Comer won by a major decision at 114 and Theisen won by a pin over Elliot Winterscheidt. The 'Jacks also got wins by pin from Malloy at 145, Fjeld at 152, Heitala at 170 and Horvat at 189.

Also wrestling well were Prosen, Wilson and Newcomb, who all lost in tough matches.

"Superior has a tradition of 60 or 70 years of wrestling and they are twice the size of our school," Denman said. "They should have an advantage against us, but the only advantage they have is in numbers. When it comes to head-to-head wrestling, we win, but they end up winning due to forfeits and just deeper numbers. A lot of times we win the majority of the matches actually wrestled on the mat."

For the record, the Spartans took 12 points off forfeits and they won the match by eight points.

"I was happy with everyone who wrestled, including the guys who didn't win," said Denman. "It takes a lot to get out there and go one-on-one with everyone screaming, and knowing that if you make a mistake you are probably going to lose."

Wrestling matches used to be held in the smaller gym at Cloquet High School, but since that gym was turned into a weight room, now meets are held in the large gymnasium. The gym was buzzing.

"I was worried that the atmosphere wouldn't be as loud, but it was raucous and everyone was into it," Denman said. "The fans were great, and due to the fact that we had Proctor, Hermantown and Superior fans who live close by made it even more electric."

CEC will hope to keep that excitement going this week when they travel to Mille Lacs, which features two state champion wrestlers from last season.

"We're slowly starting to rebuild to numbers that we had prior to Covid," Denman said. "We want to get more kids out, so they can experience a great sport."

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