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Chris Murphy, Published February 26 2013

Balanced Hornets wrestling team vies for state title

FRAZEE, Minn. – A wrestler stands alone on a mat and the only thing that stands between him and victory is an opponent. Points in wrestling do not come thanks to an assist, behind a block or on a good relay throw. It is because of this so often the team aspect of wrestling is forgotten. At Frazee, it is cherished.

One arm is raised after a match, but it takes many to hoist a championship trophy.

“The makeup of this team and the tradition of this team is that we always worry about the team aspect first,” Frazee wrestling coach John Barlund said. “We focus on what will make the team better and it seems to bleed off on each other. Sometimes it becomes a badge of courage for that one guy who might not be a superstar on the team, but can still step up and be a positive contributor. A lot of times those guys are the guys that rise up and accept the challenges. That’s what makes our team the best.”

Frazee (14-0) is seeded No. 2 for the Minnesota Class 1A team wrestling state tournament Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The Hornets do not have one wrestler ranked in the top three by the website The Guillotine. What the Hornets do have is a wrestler ranked in the top 10 in 10 of the 14 weight classes.

“We have a lot of balance across the board,” Barlund said. “We might not have a state champ, but we’re going to have a lot of kids that contend for placement at state.”

Bruce Lemon is one of two Frazee wrestlers ranked No. 4 in his weight class. Lemon describes the Hornets wrestling team essentially as an assembly line.

“We get each other amped up,” Lemon said. “We try to start it off with a huge win down low and then it just keeps momentum building. It’s perfect for a well-balanced team. We are a family and we all look out for each other. If something bad happens in the lineup, the next few guys pick up the slack and put the team on their back.”

Tyler Ziegler is ranked No. 7 at 170 pounds for Frazee and has the formula for why no team has beaten the Hornets this season and how they’ve made 12 state trips, won three state championships and had four runner-up finishes since 1999.

“We don’t have a single bad wrestler on the team,” Ziegler said. “We don’t have any superstars, but we don’t have anyone who is weak at all. It guarantees us 14 possible wins. We don’t have anyone that is for sure going to lose.”

As for whether Lemon would rather have his hand raised Saturday at the individual finals or help raise a trophy Thursday for the team finals, there was no hesitation in his preference.

“Team by far,” Lemon said. “You have something to share with 14 other guys. I’ll take both, but the team comes first.”

Barnesville, Perham return to state meet

Before last season, Barnesville had never gone to state since the program was founded in 1965. The Trojans enjoyed their state trip last season so much, they decided to go again.

“Yep, that was the game plan,” Barnesville coach Art Meyer said. “It’s fun to see the alumni from the teams that just missed going to state coming back and supporting the guys now. It’s a fun atmosphere going on.”

Barnesville (23-1) is hoping to make these trips to state more often, rather than every four decades or so.

“It’s really cool knowing my class was the one that started everything,” said senior Isaac Goedtke, who is ranked No. 9 at 170 pounds. “I think the classes behind us are going to be even better. I think we’ll be competing for state a lot.”

Another back-to-back for Barnesville will be having to face the No. 1 seed in the first round, as the Trojans will take on Jackson County Central. The Trojans’ only loss of the season is by two points to No. 2-seeded Frazee. The bright lights are no longer new to the Trojans, as this year they are looking to make winning at state the new tradition.

“We’re thinking we can win it,” Goedtke said. “I don’t know how we keep getting the No. 1 seed, but we’re just going to try and stick it out and win it.”

Perham only had a two-year absence from state in Class 2A before heading back last season. It certainly isn’t four decades like Barnesville, but it doesn’t mean the Yellowjackets (22-6) enjoyed the hiatus.

“The older guys set a tradition,” Perham coach Robb Moser said. “This is our seventh trip in the last 10 years. Our kids have learned to be competitive at the end of the year. We’re not loaded with athletes from top to bottom, but we have some tough kids.”

Perham will take on top-seeded Kasson-Mantorville to open the tournament.

“Perham has a good future ahead of it and hopefully this puts them in the right direction,” said Perham senior Cody Nylander, who is ranked No. 4 at 220 pounds.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548