Wildcat wrestlers start season with home win

By Jason Ferguson

Micaiah Grace puts the finishing touches on his 160-pound championship by pinning Stone Durham of St. Thomas More. Grace was one of two Wildcats to win their weight class at last weekend’s Custer Invitational.

How’s that for a season debut?

The Custer-Edgemont High School wrestling team got its season off to about as strong a start as possible when it won its home invitational last weekend, piling up 190 points while seeing seven of its wrestlers make the  finals and eight of its nine wrestlers make the semifinals.

“We were very impressed,” head coach Jared Webster said of he and the coaches’ assessment of the team’s performance. “We knew they could do it. We have been trying to build a program here for quite a while. Now you’re starting to see it, which is nice.”

Of the seven Wildcats who made the finals, two won titles, with Chance Grill winning the 138-pound class via a 10-1 decision over Dylin Johnson of Lead-Deadwood and Micaiah Grace besting Stone Durham of St. Thomas More via pinfall at 160 pounds.

“Chance is a tough kid. He just didn’t get to wrestle toward the end of last year,” Webster said. “He’s a go-getter and all-around solid.”

Grill went into the tournament as the second seed, while Johnson was the top seed after placing at the state tournament a year ago.

Grace’s journey to the championship wasn’t as smooth, as he went into the tournament unseeded before wrestling his way to the gold medal. Webster said Grace had a tough quarterfinal match, but used the coaching he received following the match to make his run.

“There were a couple of things we chatted about, and he took the advice and used it to his advantage,” he said.

Grace found himself down 7-2 in his championship match before roaring back for the pin.

Jestyn Woodward placed second for Custer at 106 pounds, falling to Oakley Blakeman of Belle Fourche 4-1 in the championship match.

Brennen Hanes placed second for the Wildcats at 132 pounds, falling to Trevor Nelson of Crawford, Neb., by pinfall in the finals, while both Eli and Levi Mines placed second at 145 and 152 pounds, respectively. Eli Mines lost his championship match to Kody Hagen of Hot Springs via a second period pin, while Levi Mines was also pinned in the second period of his championship match by Colton Jackson of Douglas-Rapid City Christian.

The other Wildcat to finish second was Blake Kainz at 182 pounds, who was defeated 13-9 in the finals by Marcus Harkless of Hot Springs.

Other Wildcats to place were Eli Steele, fourth at 152 pounds, Jacob Brunner fifth at 106 pounds, Jarrett Woodward sixth at 170 pounds and Jonathan Lewis fifth at 113 pounds.

Webster said Lewis played a key part in the ’Cats’ championship run, as he racked up points in the wrestleback round of the tournament despite being only a seventh grader and wrestling at 113 pounds while weighing 100 pounds.

“Douglas was creeping up on us and got within a few points,” Webster said. “(Jonathan) got some pins for us and on the backside is where we got some points from him. He stepped up for the team in a big way.”

Douglas-Rapid City Christian finished in second place with 182 points, while Lead-Deadwood was third with 155 points, Hot Springs fourth at 141 and Belle Fourche rounded out the top five at 114 points. There were 18 teams competing in the tournament.

The Wildcats have a busy week ahead of them that starts Thursday when the team has a “home” quadrangular in Edgemont that is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Also attending is Newcastle, Wyo., Newell and Bennett County.

Saturday the team will head to Gregory for the Gregory Invitational, a meet that will allow the team to see some East River teams and wrestlers it doesn’t get to do battle against as often, which Webster said is good for the team.

Webster said while the team is off to a strong start, there is still much it can work on as the season gets rolling.

“There are a couple things where we can’t be giving up points so dang easy,” he said. “There are things we need to work on, and a lot of mental mistakes that we need to get fixed.”