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SERTOMA WRESTLING: Youth movement for Knights

Age extremes have been the makeup of the Grand Forks Central wrestling team. A year ago, the Knights had nine seniors competing at the state tournament, including five state placers, in leading Grand Forks to a fourth-place finish at the Class A ...

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Age extremes have been the makeup of the Grand Forks Central wrestling team.

A year ago, the Knights had nine seniors competing at the state tournament, including five state placers, in leading Grand Forks to a fourth-place finish at the Class A state high school dual tournament.

Now Central’s roster includes only three seniors. It is youth to the extreme with a seventh-grader and 10 freshmen. After going 3-2 at the annual Grand Forks Sertoma dual tournament this weekend, the Knights are 7-3 on the season.

“And it’s not just the young kids,’’ first-year Central head coach Jeff Welsh said of the youth movement. “Even some of the sophomores and juniors on the team haven’t had a ton of varsity experience because of the group of seniors we had last year wrestling in front of them.

“Most years you hope for four to five freshmen on the varsity. You expect to pick up other varsity kids from a class as they get older. To have 10 freshmen on the varsity, that’s pretty unusual.’’

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They’re not just names on the varsity; the youngsters are competing. In the lineup at the Sertoma were seventh-grader Starson Buckles and freshmen Cole Oen, Devry Gryder and Ethan Lee. Ninth-graders Gaige Braswell and Alec Humble also have seen extensive varsity time this season.

With the inexperience and youth comes some uncertainty. Returning junior state placers Brady Terrill and Carlos Balboa, along with senior Bryce Brandon, have been consistent winners.

Otherwise, Welsh said, “It’s been different kids stepping up on different nights. Last year, with all those seniors, you could pretty much count on X number of wins in every dual.

“The tough part is the learning curve. A lot of the freshmen still are learning fundamentals. You have to balance that with what the older kids need in the wrestling room. And the young kids can get down on themselves. We’ve had good freshmen who were state placers. But usually at that age it takes time. It can be hard if they’re not winning a lot. You have to stay positive with them.’’

Even with the young lineup, Welsh looks for the Knights to be competitive. He doesn’t rule out a top-five finish in in the East Region. And beyond this season?

“I think the future is really bright,’’ Welsh said. “Every one of these young kids show athleticism. And, for the most part, they’re spread throughout the lineup, not bunched together at a few weights.’’

Central won two of its three duals Saturday at the Sertoma, beating Fertile-Beltrami 40-39 and Central Cass 39-35 after opening the day with a 37-36 loss to Fosston-Bagley.

Grand Forks Red River finished 0-4 in the tournament. The Roughriders lost 45-27 to Fertile-Beltrami and 48-24 to Fosston-Bagley on Saturday.

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Century takes title

Bismarck Century usually is a strong pinning team. The Patriots managed only two pins in the Sertoma championship, but still claimed a 34-18 win against defending champion Perham.

Winning a lot by decisions rather than pins “isn’t our style,’’ BC coach Jerald Lemar said. “Any opportunity we get for a pin, we’re going for it. Those bonus points are huge.

“But Perham is a top team. We felt we were the favorites in eight of the 14 matches. We didn’t have to go for the big points, just wrestle well. As a whole, our technique is very solid.’’

Trey Pajimula and Seth Braun scored pins for the Patriots. Perham’s lone pin was by Tyler Fudge.

The highest-placing area team was Thief River Falls, which lost 45-27 to West Fargo in the third-place dual.

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