Detroit Lakes brings back six state wrestlers after significant senior departure
Detroit Lakes head coach Rob Ullyott looks to lean on the veterans to help guide a young core of wrestlers through the early part of the 2021-22 season.
The Detroit Lakes wrestling team has its work cut out this season in replacing a big senior class from last year. However, the Lakers will look to lean on its six wrestlers who have competed at the state level to help set the tone in a competitive Section 8-2A field.
"It's a big transition year for us," head coach Rob Ullyott said. "We graduated 11 seniors, so now it's time to figure out who the new guys are going to be and who's going to step up. It's a big learning time for us. It's all about figuring out our team."
Bradley Swiers, Cade Jackson, Jacob Ehnert, Cole Weber, and Tyson Ullyott qualified for state individually last season, with Brock Okeson going the year before.
"There's some experience here," Ullyott said. "It all comes down to where they sit in the lineup and what inexperienced guys can step up and fill some of those spots. Right now, we have our four leaders, and they're our seniors. We count on them to lead and set the tone with work ethic.
Swiers, Weber, Ehnert and Austin Thompson are the senior captains this season and are embracing new leadership roles. While each of them has aspirations individually, they know they have to play a more significant part in this team's success than they have in previous years.
"It's a great honor to help kids in and outside of wrestling," Ehnert said. "Whether it's personal matters or school work, or if I need to help them inside the room, I will do it. It means the world to me to be a part of this team and to have a positive influence."
Ehnert qualified for the state prelims at 220 pounds in his junior season. His goal is to make it back in his last high school season.
"It felt great to get a taste of what it's like to wrestle that upper class," Ehnert said. "I'm ready to come back and give it again. I'm more than prepared for it."
Cole Weber has been to state twice, with the last coming at 120-pounds. This year he's wrestling at a 132-pound weight.
"I'm probably going to have tougher competition at 132 compared to 120 last year," Weber said. "I'm going to go up against more kids my age and strength. Last year, I was cut down enough that I was wrestling kids younger than me. It was easier, but I'm ready for 132 this year."
In the Section 8-4A football championship, Bradley Swiers broke a toe in the second half against Becker. While he plans to be back in wrestling action sooner rather than later, his injury has him on the shelf for the first few weeks of the season.
"It's definitely a setback, but I'm excited to be back on the mat," Swiers said. "It's going to drive me to work a little harder when I come back. I definitely want to get back to state. We couldn't go to the (Xcel Energy Center) last year with Covid and stuff, but we went my freshman year. I haven't won a match at state individually, so that's definitely my goal."
Thompson is happy to be back in a normal capacity after the 2020-21 season. He's looking forward to competing in tournaments without restrictions.
"I think it was pretty hard for everybody last year," Thompson said. "We didn't get as many chances to throw people into tournaments like we usually can. Some kids didn't get much of the spotlight. I'm really excited for tournaments again. I think we all are, and I think that's really motivating."
The Section 8-2A field is competitive again, with several teams on the rise. However, Ullyott believes two programs are the early frontrunners.
"Pequot Lakes-Pine River-Backus is probably the top returning team, but Thief River Falls is right there with them too," Ullyott said. "Pine River was the section champs last year and advanced all the way down to the state tournament. Thief River Falls paired with Red Lake County Central. So they lost some kids but also got a lot more back. They're going to be a very solid team with hammers in the middle, which is a lot like what we had in the past."
Perham is always a solid team," Ullyott said. "I think Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton could be improved this year, and I think Alexandria will be better. I think there will be some parity, but those top two are the ones we're all chasing."
Ullyott expects his group to look different in March than it does right now. How different will depend on the work put in from top to bottom.
"There's a lot of expectation on them," Ullyott said of his seniors. "We always have some talent in the room, and it's just a matter of how far they go. Work ethic is what's going to get us there."