Mat Men: Blue Jays hitting it hard in the wrestling room
The Jamestown High School wrestling team will kick off its season on Dec. 4.
For the first time in Jamestown High School wrestling program's history, Larry Eslick's and Bill Nelson's athletes have had to deal with overlapping practices.
"I have only had the football players for a few days and they are still a little sore but it's a neat problem to have," Eslick, JHS head wrestling coach said. "I am excited because many of my wrestlers were key components on that football team and we're looking to keep that magic going in wrestling. We have a pretty solid lineup coming back.
"We're excited, we're only two weeks out from competition. Now it's just a matter of getting in shape."
Eslick and the Jays are coming off a third-place finish in the state dual tournament at the Fargodome last winter. The Jays beat out WDA rival and second-seed Bismarck Century 39-36. The Blue Jays finished out the individual state tourney with a school record of 183 points -- good enough for a fourth-place finish.
Jamestown will kick off its competitive season at Jerry Meyer Arena on Dec. 4. The varsity portion of the KC tournament is slated to begin at 11 a.m. Eslick's squad will host defending state champs, Bismarck High, on Dec. 9 in the team's first dual of the season.
"Last season was so weird because we had the COVID shutdown and this year is unique because we had those two weeks of football practice overlap but we're all together now and we're hitting it hard," Eslick said. "They know what it takes to be a solid wrestling team. They are still on the high from the football season and they really want to bring that over to the wrestling season."
The Jays will be returning state placer Pete Rasmusson at the 120 spot. Rasmusson took fourth in the state 113-pound competition. At 126, the Jays will return Sam Schlepuetz, who placed seventh in the state's 120-pound individual contest. Grady Anderson suffered a fall in the 120-pound state finals last season to earn runners-up status. The junior put on an extra 12 pounds in the offseason and is looking to do some damage in the 132-pound bracket.
Junior Aden Braun will be looking to make a fourth state title run this season. The junior will be wrestling at the 138-pound spot for the Jays. Braun has been named state runner-up the past three seasons.
Josiah Reimers, a state qualifier last season, will be wrestling at the 152 spot while Colton Mewes will hit the mat at 160. Jackson Walters and Preston Gall will be back at the 170 and 182-pound marks. Eslick and the Jays will welcome Dalton Darby in at 195.
"It's a good problem to have coming in heavy from football season," Eslick said. "They have that football strength and now we just have to condition them."
As of Nov. 18, Eslick only had three new varsity starters on the roster. Eighth grader AJ Matzke will be handling the competition at the 106 spot. Sophomore Eric Chea will be starting at 145 while Malakai Robinson, Bo Nelson and Eric Levin will be vying for spot in the heavyweights.
"Our lineup is pretty solid top to bottom," Eslick said. "I like our chances. I feel that preseason this lineup is going to be ranked No. 2 in the state for good reason. We look for big things."
Tough-nosed, grindstone churning, work ethic will be needed in the WDA. Eslick said the rest of the state -- including the Jays -- will be working to knock off BHS. The Demons earned the state dual champ and individual state champ titles last season.
"They were hit pretty hard this year with graduation, so we're looking to compete with them. We want to challenge them and we feel that we can with the lineup we have. If they beat us, so be it -- I guess on paper they are supposed to but we don't feel that way."
Eslick said the Jays, Demons and either Dickinson or Bismarck Century will likely round out this season's top-three in the WDA.
"I tell the kids that we'll prove it on the mat," Eslick said. "I don't care what a piece of paper or a newspaper article says, you have to do what it takes. They don't have a problem doing that. These kids are tough-nosed competitors."