State Wrestling: Raiders find themselves back in state as a team

Craig Orlando.

For the second season in a row, the Bertha-Hewitt-Verndale-Parkers Prairie Raiders advanced to the Class 1A State Team Tournament.

This year, Class 1A’s seventh-ranked Raiders drew a tough matchup against No. 2 seeded Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City in the opening round. The dual begins at 9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, on mat one at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Raiders’ head coach Bill Wagner believes the key against ACGC is the first two matches. The good news for BHVPP is it will send out two Section 6-1A champions at 106- and 113-pounds.

“We actually don’t matchup too badly against them,” Wagner said of ACGC. “It could be a pretty tight dual. We need to win the first two on the bottom then the dual will be a good dual.”

Eighth-grader David Revering wrestles at 106 pounds for BHVPP and holds a 37-7 record heading into state. Freshman Deagan Captain at 113 posts a 38-7 record.


“Those first two matches are going to set the tone,” Wagner said. “Then we will be in the match if we win both of them. When you can win the bottom two that’s a huge encouragement for the rest of the guys.”

BHVPP tallies an 18-4 record with its most recent loss coming to Class 1A’s top-ranked and top-seeded Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville. One of the Raiders wins came against Royalton/Upsala which won Section 7-1A.

At the start of the year, Wagner sat his team down to go through goals for the upcoming season. Most of the goals included going to state as a team, but after a big loss to Minnewaska early in the season, Wagner said his team came up with another goal.

“They didn’t want to come out flat,” Wagner said. “That was the goal. They wanted to be prepared for all the matches for the rest of the season. And that was impressive for a bunch of young kids to come up with that. We have done some different things to prepare and they have stepped up to the challenge every time.”

One of the changes Wagner made in how BHVPP prepares was working out for 45 minutes before the weigh-in. The team bought into the change and nearly pulled out a win against LPGE/Browerville and then defeated Class 3A opponent Bemidji right before the section playoffs.

“They were willing to go that extra step,” Wagner said of the change. “It helps them get in the right mindset and also gets that blood can sometimes be the difference.”

Craig Orlando is the most decorated wrestler for BHVPP. The senior and No. 1 ranked heavyweight in Class 1A owns a 43-0 record and two Class 1A individual titles. He anchors the Raiders’ lineup and has beaten many ranked opponents in Classes 2 and 3A this season.

“It’s always great to have that leader and anchor,” Wagner said of Orlando. “Guys can go to him and say ‘we want to do some of the things like Craig does’ like being in the weight room all the time. Most teams know you have to be up by six going into the heavyweight side or we are going to catch them or pass them.”


The fourth section champion BHVPP will throw at ACGC Thursday is sophomore Gideon Ervasti at 182 pounds. Ervasti holds a 34-3 record and is the 10th-ranked wrestler at 182 pounds.

“He’s a Verndale football kid,” Wagner said. “The one thing you know about them is that they know where the weight room is. He is such a good athlete -- so quick. He can get in scrambles that he will capitalize on every single time.”

BHVPP has two seniors in Orlando and Carter Rokes, so Wagner can continue to build off a second straight state team appearance.

“They are not afraid to work,” Wagner said. “I put a challenge to them and they get after it and try it. They are a very bright and smart group and can make those adjustments.”

Last year, BHVPP notched a sixth-place finish in the Class 1A tournament. The Raiders lost their opening round dual to Tracy-Milroy-Balaton-Westbrook-Walnut-Grove, before beating Aitkin in the consolation bracket. They then fell to Goodhue in the consolation championship.

When the lights come on at the Xcel Energy Center, Wagner looks to see how much energy his team has.

“That goal we have to never come out flat and be prepared will really set the tone, I think,” Wagner said. “If we come out like we have been the last three weeks it will be a fun tournament win or lose.”


Class 1A State Team Wrestling Tournament

Matchup: Bertha-Hewitt-Verndale-Parkers Prairie Raiders (18-4) vs. No. 2 seeded Atwater Cosmos-Grove City Falcons (30-1)

Other teams: No. 1 seeded Long Prairie-Grey Eagle Browerville Wolves (31-3) vs. Badger/Greenbush-Middle River Gators (17-10); No. 3 seeded Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/W-WG Panthers (29-8) vs. Royalton/Upsala Royals (14-12); No. 4 seeded Blue Earth Area Buccaneers (22-5) vs. No. 5 seeded GMLOS Bulldogs (23-3)

When: 9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, at Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul.

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