By Cara L. Dempski
GLENWOOD CITY — Glenwood City wrestling coach Shane Strong knew this day was coming, but a betting person could lay money on the fact he did not think it would be so soon.
“Our numbers will be a weakness,” he wrote for this year’s preview. “We do not have many kids in wrestling in the lower grades.”
Strong said wrestling is a tough sport, and it is becoming harder to find young athletes with the work ethic it takes to train, and compete, at a high level.
That being said, Strong said the Hilltoppers’ greatest strength this season will be senior leadership.
The Glenwood City coach graduated a trio of talented wrestlers in Marcus Ullom, Spencer Peterson and Dan Taylor this past spring.
Ullom qualified for the state tournament as a junior, Peterson picked up a varsity letter at 195 pounds, and Taylor was a sectional qualifier.
Six seniors return to lead the 14-member squad for the 2017-18 season.
Seniors Jake Nadeau, a two-time state qualifier and all-conference honoree, Carson Strong, who holds the most individual wins for the Hilltoppers for the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 seasons combined, and Bradley Kessler, who won 25 matches last year, are all back for one last chance to prove themselves inside the circle and provide some strong leadership.
Nadeau spent much of last season wrestling in the 120-pound class for the Toppers, picking up 37 wins and ten losses en route to a fourth-place finish in the WIAA Division 3 state tournament at 120 pounds. He will likely move up to 126 pounds this year.
Strong alternated between 132 and 138 last year to reel in a record of 34-6 for the season after finishing fourth in the section tournament. Strong will again be holding down the 132-pound weight slot.
Kessler finished the season 25-1 and will be competing for the 138-pound spot with fellow senior Austin Curvello.
Curvello made it into the state rankings as a freshman before suffering an injury. The Glenwood City coach said the wrestler is a solid middle-weight competitor, and indicated he should hold his own this season. He competed consistently at 113 pounds last season, going 17-7 overall.
Jake Kopacz and Triton Postle round out the senior class, Kopacz is pencilled in at 195 pounds while Postle will wrestle at heavyweight.
Coach Strong also welcomes back junior Bryce Fayerweather, who the coach says has stepped up his game and will wrestle at 220 pounds.
“He showed great improvement last year at heavyweight,” Strong noted. “I believe you will see a more aggressive kid this year, which will result in more victories.”
Junior classmate Dakota Dean-Immerman will fill the slot at 170 pounds.
Sophomore Tucker Lagerstrom is back to wrestle for sophomore season. Strong said Lagerstrom had a rough year as a freshman in the middle weights, and has put in a lot of work to compete at a higher level for the 2017-2018 season. The 10th-grade grappler came away from his first high school season with an 11-17 record.
The team’s four other sophomores – Aaron Holmquist (113), Harrison Chouinard (170), Nick Melendrez (160) and Cody Weeks (160) – look to contribute.
Andy Grant is the lone freshman this year and will compete at 106 pounds.
Strong said he is not looking at statistical goals for his wrestlers. His statement of “we don’t look at stats,” seemed to imply he is looking more for steady improvement than he is each athlete’s growth in the sport.
He sees conference competitor and rival Boyceville as one of the region’s biggest competitors this year, and named St. Croix Falls and Cumberland as heavy competition for the WIAA Division 3 St. Croix Falls sectional.
Shane Strong is entering his ninth year at the helm of the Glenwood City high school wrestling program and has an overall record of 105-63.
The Hilltoppers’ wrestling team will debut for the 2017-2018 season at its own John Timm Memorial Invitational Duals held this Saturday, December 2. The Toppers will then host Luck December 5.
Seniors: Jake Nadeau, Carson Strong, Bradley Kessler, Austin Curvello, Jake Kopacz and Triton Postle.
Juniors: Bryce Fayerweather amd Dakota Dean-Immerman.
Sophomores: Tucker Lagerstrom, Aaron Holmquist, Harrison Chouinard, Nick Melendrez and Cody Weeks.
Freshman: Andy Grant.