Wildcat wrestlers win conference title

Ron Burtz

Custer wrestlers ran away with the team title among eight teams at Saturday’s Black Hills Conference Tournament in Belle Fourche. The Wildcats racked up 186 team points, outpacing the second place Douglas Patriots by nearly 70 points and grabbing four first place and five second place titles in various weight classes.
Head coach Jared Webster said he wasn’t really surprised by the win
“I knew we had the kids that could do it,” said Webster. “I told them that and that was a goal they had at the beginning of the year. If we just have most of the kids healthy I knew we’d be alright.”
However, Webster said he was stunned by the margin of victory.  
“They came out strong,” he said. “I didn’t think we’d win by that many points and we didn’t even have one senior in the lineup.”
Taking home first place honors were 106-pound eighth grader Tray Weiss, who won by fall over Riley Dighton of Belle Fourche in 2:46 in the championship match, junior Pierce Sword, who pinned Hill City’s Hunter Way in 1:37 for the 126-pound title, freshman Parker Noem, who  won by fall over Luke Bodine of St. Thomas More in a minute flat in the 160-pound weight class and heavyweight freshman Zayne Severyn, who won by 6-2 decision over Dylan Meade of Lead-Deadwood for the 195 pound title.
Speaking of those young wrestlers in the heavier weights, Webster said, “You’re gonna see good things come out of those upper weights here soon. I told you at the beginning of the year, once those guys get where they need to be and separate we’ll see some interesting stuff.”
Second place honors went to 120-pound sophomore Landon Woodward, junior Mikael Grace at 138 pounds, Jonathan Lewis (145), Sterling Sword (152) and 182-pound freshman Ryder Bailey.
Eighth grader Leighton Sander finished third in the 113-pound weight class, pinning Alejandro Martinez of Douglas in 1:25 in the title match and fellow eighth grader Lane Geisner placed fourth at 170 pounds, scoring eight team points.
Second place Douglas had a score of 117 followed by Belle Fourche in third (105.5), Lead-Deadwood, fourth (102.5) and Spearfish in fifth place with 90.5 points.
The conference win came on the heels of a trio of dual victories at the Custer Quad on Thursday night at the Armory. The biggest blowout of the night came in the dual against Hill City which the Wildcats won by a team score of 66-18. Custer beat Hot Springs by a slightly narrower margin of 60-18 and downed Belle Fourche 38-25.
“Belle Fourche has a heck of a team that was gonna push us,” said Webster, “and we came away with some big wins that we needed to get.”
Individual scorers for Custer in the three matches were led by Noem, who pinned Alan Salinas of Hill City in a brisk 31 second match. He also pinned Devin Nowowiejski of Belle Fourche in 49 seconds. Noem also won by 8-7 decision over Xavier Wright of Hot Springs.
Severyn, wrestling at 220, won by fall over Dawson Kleppe of Hot Springs in just 22 seconds and pinned Belle’s Brooks Clooten in 1:46. Severyn won by forfeit at 195 in the match against Hill City.
Lewis won all three of his matches by fall or technical fall. The sophomore standout felled Remington Allen of Hot Springs in 1:53, pinned Benji Cuatle of Hill City in 3:16 and won by technical fall over Gunner Jensen of Belle Fourche (18-2, 4:35).
Woodward (126) won his match with Lane Longbrake of Belle Fourche by 12-7 decision and won by forfeit in the other two duals.
Sterling Sword pinned Belle’s Andy Tonsager in a minute flat at 152 and needed only 12 seconds to pin Sean Thompson of Hot Springs. Meanwhile, brother Pierce Sword pinned Jonathan Pellicotte of Hot Springs in 2:57 and also Hunter Way of Hill City in 2:39.
Eli Steele at 170 won a 7-3 decision over Isaac McKenney of Belle Fourche and won by forfeit over Hill City.
Bailey pinned Gunner Geib of Belle Fourche in 1:25 and won by forfeit over Hill City. Grace pinned Corbin Thompson of Hot Springs in 33 seconds and won by fall over Jaxon Johnson of Hill City in 3:06.
Weiss won his match with D’Angelo Garduna of Belle Fourche by an 11-5 decision and won by forfeit in the duals against Hot Springs and Hill City.
Freshman Connor Adams won his match by pinning Hot Springs’ Owen White in 0:31 and Tyrin Scott pinned Owen White of Hot Springs in 14 seconds. Scott also had a win by forfeit over Hill City.
Other Custer wrestlers achieving wins by forfeit were Sander and Riley Scott.
Four wrestlers who were not on the varsity squad last week and were unable to be entered in the conference meet traveled to the Bennet County Invite on Saturday to get some mat time. Riley Scott placed second at 106 and Matthew Merrill (195) took home fourth place honors. The quartet racked up enough team points to place eighth out of 11 teams.
Noem was named South Dakota Class B Wrestler of the Week by Dakota Grappler in its week six ratings. He is ranked ninth in the 160-pound weight class.
Four other Wildcat wrestlers have also made it into the Dakota Grappler ratings. Woodward is rated ninth at 120,  Grace popped into the rankings at 12th place at 138 pounds, Lewis is rated ninth at 145 and Sterling Sword is sitting at 10th place at 152.
“I believe toward the end of the season we’ll have more than that and higher,” projected Webster. “They have their goals and they’re very reachable.”
As he heads into the final month of the season, Webster said practices will become less about technique and theory and more time will be spent on live wrestling matches in the room.
“Just grinding on the mat, a lot of live now,” said Webster. “A lot of situations, pushing the kids, banging heads in the room and going at it and just getting them excited to be on the mat when it comes competition time.”


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