Wrestling: Warriors ready to contend for section
Brainerd Warriors open season Thursday, Dec. 1, at North Branch.
BRAINERD — For the first time in a while, the Brainerd Warriors won’t be in the hole to start a match.
The last couple of seasons, Brainerd was forced to forfeit a weight class to start a dual. That shouldn’t be the case this season as Brainerd has depth to go along with state-caliber talent.
What makes Brainerd even more dangerous is that talent is spread throughout the lineup.
“It’s so nice to go into a dual and not have to give up six points right away,” Brainerd head coach Mikkey White said. “I don’t know exactly how many times that hurt us last year, but it was a lot. This year, we’ll have the ability to move guys around and fill out our lineup. We finally have some depth in the upper weights which isn’t something we’ve had in the past few years.”
The Warriors finished last season 12-17 overall and 2-5 in the Central Lakes Conference, but advanced four wrestlers to last year’s Class 3A State Individual Tournament with two of those wrestlers returning.
Freshman Easton Dircks finished fourth at 113 pounds with a 48-3 record. In two varsity seasons, he already owns more than 70 career victories.
“Easton is a guy who won’t be happy to just make the state tournament,” White said. “He wants to go there and do well. His goals are a little higher than most and they should be. He’s a guy who wrestles and prepares all year long.”
Dircks, who earned all-conference honors last season, will likely move up to 132 pounds. He’s already Class 3A’s second-ranked 132-pounder behind St. Michael-Albertville’s Landon Robideau as reported by The Guillotine.
Damien Bentho is ranked sixth at 182 pounds in the preseason poll. The senior is coming off a 1,000-yard rushing season for the Warrior football team and finished last year 24-15 at 170 pounds after advancing to the state tournament.
“We love having these multisport athletes in our room because competing can sometimes be more valuable than just training,” White said. “Damien had a good year last year and we’re expecting him to build off that success. It will take him a while to get into wrestling shape, but he’s a guy who came on at the end of last season and we expect him to do the same this year.”
Senior Isaiah Jillson was knocking on the door to a state appearance last year, but finished third in the Section 8-3A Tournament with a 3-2 record. He enters his sixth varsity season with more than 120 victories and could conclude his career with the most wins for a Warrior wrestler.
“He’s been with us a long time and he’s just a steady presence in our room,” White said. “His goal is state. If you ask a lot of our guys their goal is state. That’s the great thing about wrestling. We compete as a team, but you also get that chance to advance to state as an individual.
“We expect Isaiah to have a good year. He’s ranked fourth at 145 pounds and he’s a great leader for us.”
Brainerd’s experience doesn’t end there. Isaiah Germann was third in the section meet with a 2-2 record. Cade Ostrowski wrestled at 126 in the section meet and Elijah Germann was at 132 pounds. Those three along with Dircks and Jillson will provide Brainerd with a run of talent in the middle of the lineup.
“Those three guys bring a ton of wrestling experience to the lineup,” White said. “It’s so nice to have that run of guys from 126 to 152 where we know what we’re going to get. We’re going to score some points with those guys. Like I said before, their goal is to make it to state. If that means as a team or individually or both we’ll see.”
As a team, Brainerd is in the Lean and Mean category of The Guillotine’s ranking system.
Willmar is ranked 12th with Bemidji and St. Cloud Tech also in the Lean and Mean category.“Bemidji has so many wrestlers up there,” White said. “It seems like they can throw a different lineup at you each time you wrestle them. Willmar is always tough. They have a good program and every year they put together a good squad.”
What makes White and the Warriors more optimistic than perhaps years past is their depth at the larger weights.
Shane Carlson returns for his third varsity season and should wrestle after Bentho at 182 pounds. Carlson finished sixth in the section tournament with a 1-3 record.
“He came to us as an eighth-grader and really surprised us and picked up some big wins for us,” White said. “Then last year was kind of the same thing. He came to us as a 182-pounder and as an eighth grader it can be hard to match up against older kids, but he did a good job of that. Now he’s a sophomore and he’s really grown into his body.”
Ethan Kosloski was also sixth at sections at 195 pounds. Fellow sophomore Carson Faehnrich wrestled at 220. Throw in the return of Eli Wiskow to the wrestling room and the return of upperclassmen Titus Thompson and Forrest Wentz and the Warriors will have moving parts.
“We’re really excited about this group of guys,” White said. “Three of them are sophomores so they’re only going to keep getting better. Eli was with us as an eighth-grader and decided to come back after a good football season. He’ll improve and really help solidify those upper weights.”
Brainerd’s depth doesn’t stop there. Junior Hunter Bergin competed at 138 in last year’s section tournament. Junior Gabe Jukish could solidify a spot at 160.
The first three weights will be filled by younger wrestlers. Sophomore JJ DeRosier, freshmen Brayden Anderson and Nolan Jukish and eighth-graders Jackson Berhow and Dossidy Fleichhacker will all battle for varsity time.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.
Head coach: Mikkey White, seventh season (fifth year as head coach, co-head coach 2 years)
2021-22 record: 2-5 CLC, 11-17 overall
Returning state wrestlers: Easton Dircks, Damien Bentho
Assistant coaches: Jim Kath, Marty Wagner, Curtis Brisk
Managers: Belle Wagner, Hailey Petrie, Amanda Nobis
Seniors: Isaiah Germann (138), Isaiah Jillson (152), Damien Bentho (170), Forrest Wentz (285), Eli Wiskow (220)
Juniors: Gabe Jukish (160), Elijah Germann (145), Cade Ostrowski (126), Hunter Bergin (145), Titus Thompson (220)
Sophomores: Shane Carlson (182), Ethan Kosloski (195), Carson Faehnrich (285), JJ DeRosier (113), Carson Mankowski (138), Alex Swarthout (152), Cole DeSmith (160)
Freshmen: Easton Dircks (132), Brayden Anderson (106), Nolan Jukish (113), Cale Ostrowski (126), Lukas Lind (132), Beau Coonfield (145), Aiden Hernandez (182)
Eighth-graders Jackson Berhow (106), Dossidy Fleischhacker (113)
Thursday, Dec. 1, at North Branch Triangular 5 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 3, at Wadena-Deer Creek Invite 10:30 a.m.
Dec. 9, Day One Paul Bunyan Invite 4:30 p.m.
Dec. 10, Day Two Paul Bunyan Invite 10:30 a.m.
Dec. 13, at Willmar Triangular 5 p.m.
Dec. 16, hosts Triangular 5 p.m.
Dec. 22, at Upsala Triangular 5 p.m.
Jan. 5, at Alexandria Triangular 5 p.m.
Jan. 6, hosts Aitkin, Little Falls 5 p.m.
Jan. 10, Mora Quadrangular 5 p.m.
Jan. 13, at Bemidji Tournament 2 p.m.
Jan. 14, at Bemidji Tournament 9 a.m.
Jan. 19, at Buffalo Triangular 5 p.m.
Jan. 21, at Grand Rapids Tournament 9:30 a.m.
Jan. 27, at Pequot Lakes Dual tournament 5 p.m. Feb. 2
Feb. 2, hosts Rocori, Sauk Rapids 5 p.m.
Feb. 9, at Fergus Falls Triangular 5 p.m.
Feb. 10, at Mound Westonka Invite 4 p.m.
Feb. 15, in Section 8-3A Quarterfinals at high seed
Feb. 17, hosts Section 8-3A Semifinals and finals 5 p.m.
Feb. 24, Section 8-3A Individual tournament, at Moorhead
March 2, Class 3A State Tournament at Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
March 3, Class 3A State Individual Tournament at Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
March 4, Class 3A State Individual Tournament at Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul