Wrestlers take fifth at state tourney

By Ron Burtz

The Custer wrestling team took fifth-place and beat out every other West River team at the Class B State Wrestling Tournament at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City over the weekend. From left, back, are Parker Noem, Sterling Sword, Irail Griffin, Brennan Hanes, Sage Fridell, Levi Mines, Chance Grill, Logan Graf, Jacob Brunner, Micaiah Grace, Cade Grill, Jonathan Lewis, Elijah Steele, Mikael Grace, team manager Grace Lewis, assistant coach Andy Kainz; front row (floor) assistant coaches Alan Webster and Corey Scott, Riley Scott, Robert Hewitt, assistant coach Skylair Jaure, Ava Jaure, team managers Kadense Dooley and Jessica Woodward and head coach Jared Webster.

The Custer High School wrestling team broke several school records at the State B wrestling finals in Rapid City over the weekend. In the first place, the team had nine wrestlers in the state tournament, which is one more than the previous record of eight set last year. Of those nine wrestlers, seven placed. In the process Custer took fifth place in the state with a team score of 84 points, beating out every other West River school, including perennial powerhouse Philip. 

“We’ve never placed in the top eight in wrestling before,” said head coach Jared Webster. “We wanted to bring home a plaque from state. That was our goal at the beginning of the year. We were two points shy from fourth. That was awesome!”

“First round we had eight wins and one loss,” said Webster. “That’s kind of unheard-of, so that was excellent for us. We had quite a few kids take out seeded kids right away.”

Even though there were some close matches in the second round, Webster says it was “an excellent round.” 

“A couple lost that round and then they had to come back and win the next one to get in to place,” he said.  

Three Custer wrestlers took home third place honors, one placed fourth, two took seventh and one came in eighth in the state in his weight class. 

Senior Chance Grill placed third in the 152-pound category, beating Ty Nammany of Kimball-White Lake-Platte-Geddes by 5-2 decision in the match for third-place. Grill finishes the season with a record of 49-3. 

Webster says Grill “won a match, lost in the semis, [and then] came back all the way and got third. That’s awesome,” he said. 

Webster says the story was similar for senior Levi Mines who also took third-place in the 160-pound class. Mines beat Blake Gessner of McCook Central-Montrose by injury in 4:30 in the third-place match. Mines finished his high school career with a record of 38 wins and four losses for the season. 

The other third-place finisher for the Wildcats was eighth grader Jacob Brunner at 113 pounds. Brunner defeated Keegan Haider of Wessington Springs-Woonsocket-Wolsey-Wessington by 3-2 decision in the third-place match. Brunner ended his rookie season with the varsity squad with a record of 35-10. 

Webster says Brunner “wrestled awesome” saying of his third-place finish, “as an eighth grader that’s great.” 

In the 106-pound weight class, freshman Logan Graf came in fourth. He lost to Owen Hansen of Burke-Gregory by 2-0 decision in the third-place match, but finished the season with an impressive 50-8 record. 

“The kid was seeded fifth all year,” said Webster, “It was a one-point match.”

Brennan Hanes at 138 placed seventh beating Braimen Steen of Sisseton by a 2-1 decision in the match for seventh place. 

Webster called Hanes’ performance at state “amazing,” concluding, “It’s the best tournament he’s had probably all season long and ended up getting seventh. He wasn’t even supposed to place for us.” H

Hanes ended his junior season with a 20-13 record. 

Also taking seventh-place was Irail Griffin in the 145-pound class. Griffin, a junior, won over Brody Weavill of Elk Point-Jefferson in the seventh-place match by 6-3 decision. 

Griffin finishes the season with a record of 36 wins, 18 losses. 

Webster says people around the state didn’t expect Griffin to place at the state tournament, but adds “We knew he could do it.”

Junior Micaiah Grace was also in contention for seventh in the 170-pound weight class but lost to Gage Carter of Faulkton Area by a 4-1 decision in the seventh-place match. Grace closed out his season with a 45-10 win/loss record. 

“Right before his match he had a reaction to some food, we believe,” said Webster. “That kid went out and wrestled hard. That’s just the hard-nosed kids that we have right now.” 

Webster calls his 2018-19 team “the most disciplined, hard-nosed kids we’ve ever had.” 

“After losing a match they have to bounce back and they did,” he said, adding, “it’s hard to bounce back after a loss.” 

Jonathan Lewis at 120 pounds did not place but Webster says he came close. 

“We could have had one more placer but that happens,” said Webster, noting that Lewis was “just one notch away from placing.”

Ty Dailey at 195 was the ninth Wildcat to qualify for state but he did not place in the state tournament after losing out in the first round.  

Canton won the State B tournament with a team score of 200 points.