Blue Jay wrestling team to host WDA tournament Saturday
The 2022 Class A West Regional Wrestling Tournament is slated to be held at Jamestown High School on Feb. 12.
JAMESTOWN — The term "spoilers" was invented for what happened to Larry Eslick last Saturday.
Eslick, the head coach for the Jamestown High School wrestling team, was on the edge of his seat watching Williston take on Bismarck Century in a last-chance dual.
In order for the Blue Jays to advance to the state dual tournament, Jamestown needed Bismarck St. Mary's to win out and Bismarck Century needed to lose one to Williston.
"I was watching the dual on Saturday on YouTube and the live feed for the video was actually 20 minutes behind the live feed on TrackWrestling," Eslick said.
"I was having fun keeping track of every stat as the match progressed, but of course, my phone was right beside me and I got a spoiler about halfway through the dual saying that we were in and my phone started to blow up and that was a lot of fun."
Jamestown will head to the Fargodome as the No. 4 seed out of the West. The individual portion of the tournament will be held Feb. 17-18 while the dual tournament will begin on Feb. 19.
Williston, who beat both Bismarck Century and the Blue Jays, lost out and won't get the chance to go to the state dual tournament. Century had 22 dual wins this season but for the first time that Eslick can remember, the Patriots won't be representing the West.
Defending state champs Bismarck High, Minot and Dickinson will be the other three West Region teams representing the WDA this season.
"A couple of weeks ago we were 1-4 and dealing with some injuries," Eslick said. "We felt like we were floundering a little bit but we still felt like we were wrestling pretty well with some kids filling in some gaps for us."
Up until Jan. 25 against Bismarck Century, the Jays had not wrestled any event with their whole starting lineup. Jamestown wound up defeating Century 32-29 in the dual.
"Wrestling is a sport that is chock-full of adversity and these kids have come together pretty well as a team," Eslick said. "We got through it but we needed a lot of help along the way."
Since defeating Century, Jamestown rattled off wins against Mandan, Bismarck Legacy and Valley City. The Jays also pulled out an eighth-place team finish at the 2022 Lee Wolf Invitational.
2022 marks the first time in program history the Blue Jays have qualified to the state dual tournament three years in a row.
"It's huge for our program," Eslick said. "Coming out of our conference in the top four is just a massive accomplishment. It's such a tough conference from top to bottom.
"It's huge for our kids, we're excited about it. We are happy with where we are at and now we are preparing for the individual tournament here in our home gym."
While the Jays will have the chance to vie for the state team title, the Class A 2022 West Region Tournament will determine the best of the best in each individual weight class.
The WDA tournament will feature all 10 West Region teams. The tournament will be held at Jerry Meyer Arena on Saturday. Wrestling is scheduled to start at 9 a.m.
2016 was the last time the WDA tournament was held in Jamestown — when most of the current Blue Jay wrestlers were watching as grade-schoolers from the stands.
"They're excited to perform in front of their hometown fans," Eslick said. "They've proven to be one of the best lineups in the state. We do have some of the best wrestlers in the state in our room and we need to push each other out of our comfort zones and be able to be ready for any situation that presents itself on Saturday."
Eslick said he gives a lot of credit to his assistant coaches, Patrick Schlosser and Jason Anderson, for the training regimen they've designed, putting kids in positions they are not comfortable in so they can be better situational wrestlers.
"This time of year, there's not a lot of new things that we can teach them," Eslick said. "We want to get them ready situationally and the best way to do that is to put them in some uncomfortable situations so they know how to fight out of it and how to react."
Eslick said he and his assistant coaches will put each individual wrestler in a specific stance or location — on a mat or standing up — where the wrestler is losing body position and has to regain a winning position or angle without giving up any key points.
Eslick and the rest of the coaching staff will brainstorm situations they have seen in the past few weeks and start wrestling from that particular situation.
"Points are crucial, especially when you are trying to qualify for the state tournament so as many points as you don't give up are going to be huge," Eslick said.
The top eight wrestlers from each weight class will advance to the state competition at the Fargodome. The latest release of the North Dakota Class A Wrestling Coaches Poll has six Blue Jay wrestlers in the top five in their weight classes.
Jamestown has five wrestlers who currently hold undefeated dual records.
Jack Schauer is 4-0 at 106, while Pete Rasmussen is 6-0 at 120/126 pounds. Aden Braun has picked up eight wins at 138 and 145 while Colton Mewes (160) and Jackson Walters (170) are 9-0 overall.
The Coaches Poll had Jamestown pegged as the No. 3 team in the state. In the West, the Jays were ranked fifth behind Bismarck High, Minot, Dickinson and Bismarck St. Mary's.
"When this team is ready to go and we're moving in the right direction, we are a tough lineup to hold," Eslick said. "We want the kids to be focused on one match at a time.
"While we are certainly excited for the state dual tournament — that's the last thing on our minds. We're focused on the first match this Saturday. That's where we are at."