2011-12 Winter Preview: New hope for Park wrestlersSection realignment, numerous returning wrestlers have the Wolfpack optimistic this winter.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, South Washington County Bulletin
In the offseason, the Minnesota State High School League realigned its section placements for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years. The minor adjustments brought forth a major change for the Park wrestling team as perennial power Hastings was moved out of Park’s section and into Section 1AAA.
With the top two teams and the top two individual wrestlers in each weight class qualifying for the state tournament, Park will still need to contend with the state’s top wrestling program, Apple Valley – the six-time defending Class AAA state champion – in section competition. However, without Hastings in Section 3AAA, too, Park will have a better chance to send individuals to state or to go as a team – something that’s only happened twice before (1984 and 1985).
This past year, Apple Valley and Hastings were the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked teams in the state and qualified 22 total wrestlers to state out of the 28 possible berths. Apple Valley sent 13 individuals to the state tournament and Hastings sent nine to state. Of the six remaining spots, Eagan qualified three wrestlers to state and Rosemount, Burnsville and Henry Sibley each sent one wrestler to state.
“Our team is very excited. We will have much more team balance than we have had in many years,” Park head coach Jim LaBrosse said. “However, we still have a long way to go and we feel that this is the year to make big strides in a positive direction.”
This season, Park will be led by senior captains: Kenny Gerhard (145 pounds), David Ayers (138 pounds), Nate Bauman (182 pounds) and Scott Johnston (170 pounds). Other senior wrestlers looking to make an impact are: Craig Sargeant (285 pounds), Jordan Reeves (152 or 145 pounds), D’Monte Farley (160 pounds), Darius Henrey (195 pounds), Max Flipp (138 pounds), Tyler Liljedahl (215 pounds), Nick Cekala (285 pounds) and Ryan Lund (126 pounds). Others to watch in 2011-12 are: junior Matt Armour at 152 pounds, sophomores Cody Linssen at 195 pounds, David Giadyu at 145 pounds, Austin Thurmes at 106 pounds, J. P. Pallias at 120 pounds, freshmen Corey Flaata at 160 pounds, Jake Lanik at 126 pounds, Brandon Young at 145 pounds, Danial Duval at 132 pounds, Tony Watson at 152, Noah Ijohma at 138 pounds, Steven Thongsirisak at 285 pounds and eighth graders Zach Wills at 170 pounds and Collin LaBrosse at 106 pounds. Linssen is the lone Wolfpack wrestler currently ranked in the top 10 in his weight class. He is ranked 10th in the state at 195 pounds right now.
“With the addition of a number of football players coming out to help solidify our upper weights we will be strong up top once again,” LaBrosse said. “We have some great leadership and experience in the middle weights and some scrappers down below.”
This year, the Suburban East Conference is as tough as ever with three teams in the state rankings.
Hastings is ranked third, Forest Lake is fifth and White Bear Lake is seventh.
Last year, Park finished in the middle of the pack. However, LaBrosse said the Wolfpack’s goal this year is to finish in the top four in the SEC.
Park opens the season with the 14-team Lakeville North Invitational on Sat. Dec. 3, followed by the annual District 833 Triangular against rivals Woodbury and East Ridge, which will be hosted by Park on Thursday, Dec. 8. Park also is holding its annual tournament – the Park Wolfpack Duals on Saturday, Dec. 10.
“These guys are very anxious to step on the mat and show their talents,” LaBrosse said.