Lakers develop youth
Instead of a season in which the Detroit Lakes wrestling team would have been considered contenders throughout the 2009-10 season, a couple of crucial injuries forced it into a season of transition for the future.
With seniors Nate Duchene and Justin Holm having to end their seasons early due to injuries, Laker head coach Rob Ullyott was forced to plug the holes with youth.
Although Ullyott was pleased with how his younger wrestlers performed and worked on the mat, it's hard to replace two senior leaders like Holm and Duchene.
"Nate and Justin were two vets who were pegged to be important parts in the lineup," Ullyott said. "It did affect us. But it also gave an opportunity for some younger kids to gain some mat time and that is certainly good for our future."
The Lakers finished 15-9 in duals, while senior Alex Feldt capped the year with a fifth-place finish in the Class 2A state individual meet.
Overall, DL did see some positive glimpses of what could be, with five seventh and eighth graders seeing a bevy of varsity action.
"We had two starting seventh graders (Nate Francis and Parker Jackson) regularly in the lineup and I can't say enough about their effort," Ullyott said. "But I also give credit to our seniors, who showed great leadership and helped the younger kids' transition into the lineup."
Sophomore Gabe Foltz was a good spark plug for the Lakers, who started meets off well at 103 pounds with a 28-13 record.
"Gabe was an important part of the lineup, he started us out strong," Ullyott added.
At 119, junior Mike Bellefeuille was consistent, recording a 31-10 record and was one match away from going to state after finishing third in the section.
Junior Tony Sims missed a part of the season with injury, as well, but had a strong finish for an 11-9 record at the 125-30 weight classes, while at 135 junior Justin Tweeton had a 20-7 mark.
"When fully healthy, Tweeton could wrestle with anybody," Ullyott included.
With a 27-13 record, senior Garrett Foltz was a stalwart at 140, after a career of a lot of mat time.
A should injury hindered senior Travis Sims' season at 145, but he was able to gut out much of his matches and not give up the crucial bonus points, while finishing 14-19.
With Duchene out of action in the middle of the lineup, senior John Palubicki picked up the slack, despite being an inexperienced wrestler.
Feldt finished his stellar career with 120 wins, ranking him No. 5 all-time in wins in Laker history.
"I just praise Al for his work ethic and leadership ability," Ullyott said.
Feldt, who was a varsity contributor since his eighth grade year, had two state meets and was a three-time Mid-State All-Conference honoree.
Sophomore Ben Gailfus improved much to finish 16-20, after wrestling against much more experienced upper classmen for much of the season at 189.
First-year wrestler junior Bryce Dutton was forced into action with Holm going down, and went 12-10 on the season.
"Getting 22 matches under his belt is big for Bryce, who was a fast learner with a good work ethic in his first year," Ullyott said.
The Lakers also gained plenty of contribution from their young wrestlers.
Francis went 7-19 in his first year of action, but stayed close to his opponents on the scoreboard, while Jackson posted an impressive winning record of 20-15 and was fourth in the section at 125.
"At 130 and 135, eighth graders Brandon Dahring and Jarrett Nosal each did a great job and always went out tough," the DL coach included.
"Josh Webber (eighth grader) also wrestled tough at heavyweight for us, despite going up against junior and seniors most of the time."
With all the youth gaining that all-important seasoning, it bodes well for the Lakers down the road.
"There is a tremendous amount of up side for us," Ullyott included.