Bigger numbers add depth to UCB
There will be a familiar face in a new place for the United Clay Becker wrestling team this season.
For the past five years, Brenton Newling aided Travis Nagel in rebuilding the Lake Park-Audubon wrestling program, which later formed a cooperative with Hawley to form the UCB Badgers.
After Nagel accepted a Principal job in the Ogema-Waubun Elementary School District, thus leaving the head coaching job to the next obvious choice -- Newling.
The new head coach has already raised some expectations after a 2-11 dual record last year, which is keyed by an influx of a higher number of kids out for wrestling.
"In the past years, we were having around five to six forfeits, but with a lot of younger kids out and if they can contribute, we should be fine," Newling said. "I think we have a good opportunity to win an extra five or six duals."
The Badgers do have a good, strong core returning in state qualifier senior Wyatt Wixo, along with past state qualifier Mason Swegarden.
Senior Logan Gage is also knocking on the door as a state wrestler, as is junior Matt Pepper.
But the depth has improved dramatically, with 15 out in grades seven through nine and an all-time high of eight wrestlers out from Hawley.
"If you are going to build up a program, you have to start with the younger kids," Newling said.
Wixo returns as the No. 8 ranked at 145 in Class 2A and will look to continue his success from last year, where he qualified for the state meet.
Swegarden suffered a "heartbreaker" in the section meet last year, just missing out on a state berth. He will potentially bump up to 126 pounds from 119, while Wixo will bounce from 145 to 152.
Gage has also been on the path of improvement and he will anchor down at 132, while Pepper will wrestle at 220.
"We'll be pretty strong from 126 to 195," Newling said.
Those youngsters who will be looked upon to contribute will start at 106 with eighth grader Jarrett Lange kicking things off.
"He's tough and has shown a lot of improvement," Newling added. "(At 113) Nick Wamre had a strong offseason and looks improved."
Eighth grader Jonah Lange has put in his time during the offseason and will wrestle at 145, while junior Alex Lindsay has the inside track at 170.
The Badgers will once again compete in Section 8-2A, where the favorites will be Perham and Thief River Falls, with Detroit Lakes and Fergus Falls also being possible contenders.
But the Badgers will continue to build on what has been worked on the last several years, now with Newling heading the way.