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Blue Jay grapplers trending upward

The Blue Jays' Noah Braun, right, secures position against Devils Lake's James Fisk last season during a dual at Jamestown High School. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Jamestown High School's five dual wins on the wrestling mat last season was a step in the right direction.

The Blue Jays, largely young and inexperienced, not only weathered another winter of rebuilding, the team sent five wrestlers to the state tournament and won three more duals (5-16) than the previous season.

Jamestown returns four of those state-qualifiers and former state-placer Ethan Bowman, who went down with a back injury as a freshman. The Jays open the season Tuesday hosting Bismarck Century at 7 p.m.

"Rebuilding was the operative word," Jamestown wrestling coach Larry Eslick said. "They were proud of the fact that they got five wins and more than doubled their win output from the previous year.

"All those young guys and second-year wrestlers who are now juniors have been working in the offseason, going to camps and really working hard at the sport."

Sophomore Noah Braun is ranked third in the state at 152 pounds and is working his way toward the Blue Jay record book. Braun, who has 74 career victories, has a shot at becoming just the school's second sophomore to reach 100 career wins.

Braun rolled to 31 wins and a fourth-place finish at state as a freshman at 138. The sophomore is on a faster wins pace than the school's career wins record holder Paxton Mewes (193), who did reach 100 wins during his sophomore campaign.

"He's a special wrestler," Eslick said. "He's nursing a knee injury right now, but he's probably the guy in our lineup we are going to be relying on as a two-time state placer."

Junior captain Braden Hatcher placed eighth at state at 126 last winter and is ranked sixth at 132 to begin the new season. Junior Sam Krebs is a returning state qualifier and is ranked fourth at 220.

Junior captains Aaron Mack and Bowman, who will see his first action after missing all of last season, are currently penciled in at 126 and 170, respectively.

"Ethan is a former state placer for us three years ago and we're excited to have him back," Eslick said.

Eighth-grader Joel Bowman currently has the edge at 106. Freshman Talor Huebner fills 113, while sophomore Johnny Browning (145), junior Seth Hustedde (160), sophomore Tyler Magnasco (182), junior Paul Vandal (195) and senior Ray Dunn (HW) have also earned spots in Eslick's initial starting lineup.

Jamestown will be looking to fill positions at 120 and 138 in the early going.

"We'll have a couple of holes until kids get down to weight, but we have a solid lineup," Eslick said. "We have experience and we're really excited about the kids we have in place."

Michael Savaloja

Hometown: Churchs Ferry, N.D.; College: North Dakota

A recipient of the NDHSCA Award of Merit, Savaloja has been reporting sports for The Sun since 2008.

Follow on Twitter: @MichaelSavaloja

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