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Storm wrestlers bring home two titles

Sportsphoto
Barz, Nelson win championships at Foley Invitational

By TOM FENTON | Staff writer

The holiday break is over. That means it is time for Sauk Rapids-Rice wrestling to start putting together the final pieces of the puzzle to what the 2021-22 season will look like.

The Storm are battling injuries and struggling to fill higher weight classes, but things are looking up at the top of the lineup. The Tom Keating Invitational Jan. 8 at wrestling-rich Foley was a perfect chance for SRR’s wrestlers to gauge themselves against strong competition.
Eight Storm wrestlers competed at Foley with Vance Barz and Brayden Ness each taking home individual titles. SRR finished 10th in the 11-team competition despite having several vacant weight classes. Dassel-Cokato/Litchfield won the team title and the host Falcons placed third.

“The boys continue to improve each week,” said Derik Gilbertson, Storm head coach. “I thought all of our boys did well at Foley. For Brayden, earning first place was exciting. He made the necessary adjustments that we talked with him about before each match. He was also stingy, not giving up points in critical scrambles during the semifinal and final matches.””

Vance Barz pinned his two opponents on his way to the 113-pound title and improved to 19-1 this season. Ness won three matches en route to the 132-pound championship, including a 7-5 decision over Foley’s Kyler Benson in the final. Ness improved to 10-12 on the season.

“It felt great to take first,” Ness said.  “I’m moving my feet a lot more, taking more shots, defending shots, and I’m also being quicker to the attack. My season has been going fairly well, and my team’s attitude is great. Everyone has that wanting-to-win attitude. It has been tough, though, when it comes to duals because we just don’t have the numbers. But everyone still gives it their all.”

Jack Barz went 3-1 to place fifth at 126 pounds, and Graham Doherty was 3-2 at 170 to place fifth. The Storm lost Dante Haywood for the season when he re-injured his shoulder in the first round at 160 pounds.

“Now is the time to start the push to get our conditioning where we need it so we can close out the season in the best shape possible,” Gilbertson said. “We plan to start focusing on the individual adjustments each wrestler needs, while at the same time continuing to teach new technique and build our foundation. Basically, we want to improve and foster the things each are doing well and correct the mistakes.”

In a triangular against the St. Cloud Crush and Sartell Jan. 6 at Tech High School in St. Cloud, the Storm had to forfeit the final three weight classes – giving up 18 points in each – but were otherwise competitive in a 58-22 loss to the Sartell Sabres and a 45-24 loss to the Crush.

Vance Barz and Logan Culbertson each won twice for the Storm. Culbertson, who recorded two pins, said adjusting his attitude and going in confident have been keys for his early-season success.

“I’m very happy with my season so far,” said Culbertson, who is 8-3 this season. “I’ve been working very hard on the mat these past couple years. I’ve been working on my technique and having a better mentality on the mat. When we wrestled (at Tech) I was expecting to go 0-2, but when I got on the mat, I told myself ‘I got this’ repeatedly and that I need to work as hard as I can to get points on the board for my team. I think once we get our full team back, we’ll be a fun team to watch.”
SRR also got wins from Kieran Hixson at 152 and Doherty at 170 against Sartell, while Jack Barz and Cohen Mathies recorded victories against St. Cloud.

“Both Kieran and Brayden made the necessary adjustments going into the Foley matches,” Gilbertson said. “That’s what we are wanting all of our kids to do – learn from the losses and be better the next time out.”

Tom Keating Invitational
113: Culbertson 0-2 and Vance Barz 2-0 (first place). 126: Jack Barz 3-1 (fifth). 132: Ness 3-0 (first). 152: Hixson 1-2. 160: Haywood 0-1. 170: Doherty 3-2 (fifth) and Mathies 1-2.

Tech Triangular
Tech 51, SRR 2
106: Carter Pesta lost by technical fall 15-0. 113: Vance Barz won by forfeit. 120: Culbertson won by fall 1:39. 126: Jack Barz won by fall 2:36. 132: Ness lost 7-6 decision. 145: Josiah Sanchez lost by fall 1:43. 152: Hixson lost 7-6 decision. 160: Haywood lost 9-0 major decision. 170: Mathies won by forfeit. 182: Doherty lost by fall 4:37.

Sartell 58, SRR 22
106: Pesta lost by fall 4:03. 113: Culbertson won by fall 5:05. 120: Vance Barz won by 11-2 major decision. 126: Jack Barz lost by fall 1:24. 145: Sanchez lost by fall 0:26. 152: Hixson won by fall 1:15. 160: Haywood lost by fall 1:41. 170: Doherty won by fall 1:27.