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Wrestling: 19 teams set to come to Brainerd for 55th annual Paul Bunyan Tournament

The 55th annual Paul Bunyan Wrestling Tournament preview Dec. 9-10

Paul Bunyan Wrestling Tournament 2021
Brainerd's Isaiah Germann, left, wrestles Little Falls' Mason Rausch Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, during the first day of the Paul Bunyan Wrestling Invite at Brainerd High School.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — The Paul Bunyan Wrestling Tournament returns to Brainerd High School for a 55th year starting Friday, Dec. 9 and finishing Saturday, Dec. 10.

Nineteen teams are scheduled to be in Brainerd for the two-day tournament, including Little Falls, Staples-Motley, Pierz and Wadena-Deer Creek. Metro teams Cretin-Derham Hall and White Bear Lake will wrestle as well.

With 19 teams, every weight class will have 16 to 19 wrestlers in them.

“It’s a great tournament for us to have it at home,” Warriors head coach Mikkey White said. “It’s a good sized tournament and we are going to have brackets with 16 guys in for sure and even some 17-, 18-, 19-man brackets. These brackets are going to be challenging for not only our guys, but everyone coming.”

The Warriors wrestling team comes into the Paul Bunyan off a third-place finish at the Dennis Kaatz Memorial Tournament at Wadena-Deer Creek High School. Easton Dircks at 132, Isaiah Germann at 138 and Isaiah Jillson at 145 all won individual titles at WDC last week.

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Dircks won the Paul Bunyan title last season at 113. This season he’ll be at 132 where he is ranked second in Class 3A. The other Warrior to win a title last season at the Paul Bunyan was Gabe Wagner who graduated.

Damien Bentho, who is Class 3A’s sixth-ranked wrestler at 182 and placed second in WDC last week, is another Brainerd wrestler looking to make noise at the Paul Bunyan.

Jillson finished second at the Paul Bunyan last season. Germann was fourth at 132 last season at the Paul Bunyan.

“We’d like to see all those guys make the finals in the Paul Bunyan tournament,” White said.

Eli Wiskow at 220, Shane Carlson at 182 and Cade Ostrowski at 126 all finished third last week at WDC for Brainerd.

Paul Bunyan Wrestling Tournament 2021
Brainerd's Isaiah Germann, left, wrestles Little Falls' Noah Camerson Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, during the second day of the Paul Bunyan Wrestling Invite at Brainerd High School. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch<br/>
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The Warriors finished second last season behind Bemidji at the Paul Bunyan as a team. The Lumberjacks come in as strong favorites again this weekend.

“If we do as well as we did last tournament we will be very happy coming out of this tournament,” White said.

White also said the Paul Bunyan Tournament is one his guys look forward to.

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“For one, you get to wrestle in front of a lot of people in your own gym,” White said. “The finals are an exciting time with a lot of fans cheering for a lot of different wrestlers. To experience that in your own gym. The guys love it.”

Little Falls enters the tournament off a team championship at the Edina Invitational last week.

Noah Cameron at 138 and Kobi Cameron at 145 won individual titles at Edina.

Last season, the Flyers finished tied for fifth with no individual titles at the Bunyan.

The Flyers had three wrestlers finish second with Kobi Cameron at 120, Austin Litke at 132 and Beau Robinson at 138.

Paul Bunyan Wrestling Tournament 2021
Paul Bunyan Wrestling Tournament 2021
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Pierz head coach Skip Toops says his team is ready for the Paul Bunyan Tournament.

Last season, the Pioneers were seventh with Trevor Radunz winning the 145-pound title.

“It’s a big test to see where you are,” Toops said. “You want to wrestle good competition early to see what you need to fix and need to work on.”

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Carter Young is a returner and finished second at 106 last year in Brainerd. He’ll be wrestling at 113 this year where he is the fifth-ranked wrestler in Class 2A.

Pierz competed in the Big Lake Tournament last Friday to begin its season. The Pioneers finished second behind Royalton (the Royals are scheduled to compete at the Paul Bunyan Tournament, too) with second-place finishes from Young, Derek Stangl at 132 and Jayden Zajac at 160.

Chase Becker was a state wrestler for Pierz last year at 132, who Toops said just returned to the wrestling room this week. He’ll be at 138 pounds this year.

Jacob LeBlanc at 152 is another Pioneer to keep an eye out for. He took third in the Paul Bunyan last year.

“It’s a great test for our guys,” Toops said of the Paul Bunyan Tournament. “The competition is always tough. You have some really good 1A, 2A and 3A teams, so if you can make finals, win the tournament or place really high, you have a really good shot at placing at the state tournament at the end of the year. It’s a good test and all my guys are pretty fired up.”

Staples-Motley has a new coach in Jim Jackson. The Cardinals finished seventh at WDC last Saturday with two wrestlers winning individual titles.

Colbe Tappe won the Paul Bunyan last year at 132 and he’ll look to do the same this year at 138, where he is the fifth-ranked wrestler in Class 1A.

Eli Greenwaldt won the title at 106 at WDC and is the 10th-ranked wrestler in Class 1A.

Wadena-Deer Creek’s Koby Endres finished second at 220 at his home meet last Saturday.

WDC’s Madelyn Gallant is the fourth-ranked wrestler at 138. She’ll wrestle in the girls division at the Paul Bunyan. It’s the second year in a row the Paul Bunyan will have girls brackets as well as junior varsity brackets.

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or conrad.engstrom@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.

Started at the Dispatch in June of 2019.
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