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2013-14 Winter Preview: Otto ready for first season with East Ridge wrestling team

East Ridge went 2-7 in the conference and 12-13 overall during the regular season last year and returns multiple state entrant in senior Reid Lyden. (Bulletin file photo)

East Ridge enters the season with a new head coach at the helm and a new approach on the mat.

Wayne Otto takes over the program this season and brings with him a wealth of experience. Otto has spent 23 years as a coach, 21 of those as a head coach.

Otto, who hails from La Crescent, Minn. spent the past five years coaching in Georgia before moving back to Minnesota. His previous coaching stops include Menomonie, Wis., Lakeville and Eden Prairie.

“In this situation I’m making wrestling real simple,” Otto said. “We want to be excellent at a few things at every position in wrestling. We really want to focus on being good at a couple of things.”

East Ridge went 2-7 in the conference and 12-13 overall during the regular season last year and returns multiple state entrant in Reid Lyden. Lyden, a senior, placed sixth at state two years ago and fourth last season at 120 pounds.

Lyden, who finished 38-9, fought his way through wrestlebacks to reach the third-place match where he fell by fall in 44 seconds to Prior Lake’s Tanner Johnshoy, who beat Lyden 6-4 in his opening match of the tournament. Lyden entered the tournament ranked fourth and Johnshoy was ranked second.

Lyden said he wasn’t satisfied with his finish at state last season and has set his sights on a state title this season. Lyden prepared himself during the offseason by attending Augsburg College camps, along with wrestling for the Minnesota Storm. Lyden placed first in freestyle and Greco-Roman at 132 pounds at the Minnesota/USA Wrestling state tournament to qualify for the national tournament, where he did not place.

“What we’ve done for Reid is we’re bringing in some people to work specifically with him,” Otto said. “I brought in some assistant coaches that are going to spend extra time with him after practice.”

The Raptors have promising wrestlers in freshman TJ Okada, who finished third at the ninth-grade state wrestling tournament last season, along with section placewinners Jake Trevis and Emilio Huerta. Huerta placed fourth at sections while Okada and Trevis each took sixth.

Senior Ryan Thompson also returns this season after missing the section tournament due to a knee injury. Thompson has noticed Otto will push the group hard this season.

“He’s going to push you hard, try to get the best out of you,” Thompson said. “He knows what he’s talking about so just trust him and he’s going to get you places.”

Otto remains unsure on what the group will have with the middle weights, but with Lyden anticipating to wrestle at 126, Thompson at 120 and Okada at 106, East Ridge should have some strength in the lower weights.

“We have a good core group of young wrestlers combined with some experienced seniors, that with some attention on hard core fundamentals while developing our mental toughness, we could see some improvement quite fast both individually and team-wise,” Otto said.

The Raptors open the season Dec. 5 at Mounds View.

—Nick Gerhardt