PREVIEW: Detroit Lakes wrestlers poised and prepared for state wrestling tournament
The Detroit Lakes wrestling became the third Laker squad to advance to the state tournament and begins its quest for the best finish in school history Thursday morning at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
The Lakers are seeded fifth and open with No. 4 Dassel-Cokato/Litchfield. DL’s opponents are making their first-ever state appearance as a co-op but both schools have past state titles.
Dassel-Cokato won the 1998 state AA championship with appearances in 2000 and 2001.
Litchfield were 2002 AA runners-up, 2003 AA champions and made state trips in 2004 and 2006.
“They’ve got a very nice team,” Detroit Lakes head coach Rob Ullyott said. “I call it a super team, almost. You go through that lineup and they don’t put a bad kid on the mat. Our challenge is going to be to keep up with the consistency of their lineup. I think we can compete and it can be a good dual for us. It’s going to come down to a couple of our better kids beating a couple of their better kids and on the other end our average kids not getting pinned or getting a win. On paper, we’re certainly not favored. We’re going to have to win a couple matches we’re not expected to win to get that edge on them.”
The Lakers are making their first team appearance since 2005. DL and Litchfield actually met in the 2004 consolation final: Litchfield 35, Detroit Lakes 23.
DL’s one state win came in the consolation semis that year 36-31 over Milaca.
In 2005, St. Michael-Albertville defeated DL 53-12 in the championship quarterfinals. BOLD/Buffalo Lake-Hector knocked the Lakers out of consolation 43-25.
While bettering those performances is part of the team’s goal structure. According to Ullyott, the results are less important than the process and his goals for the team reflect that.
“It’s to continue to work hard and do our best down there,” said Ullyott. “There is no pressure on us. The pressure is over. Winning the section title was our number one goal this year. Now it’s all icing. Our hope is that we go down there and continue to wrestle well and perform well. That’s all we can do. If we win some duals, then that’s fantastic. If we don’t, that’s ok too, as long as we’re working hard and performing at that next level we’re looking to hit.”
A fifth place or better finish would be a top mark for the wrestling program and would be an impressive finish for a team that came into the season familiar with recent section final disappointment and also without the services of two-time, defending state champion Isaiah Thompson in his senior season.
“It would be quite impressive to have the highest placing in history,” said senior captain Jordan Skadsem. “We knew we could get here. We knew we were going to have to work for it pretty hard.”
Thompson continued DL’s charge of individuals to the state tournament, did it with excellence and flair, and his efforts put Detroit Lakes wrestling in the state spotlight with back-to-back undefeated runs through his brackets.
In his senior year, while he won’t be competing individually, he’s going to experience that team aspect which makes the state weekend something unique to only 24 squads.
“Usually we leave Thursday morning so we can start watching team; that’s such a fun part of it,” said Ullyott. “Now that you’re one of those teams, I’m getting goosebumps just talking about it. I remember the first year we were down there and you’re standing in the tunnels and that guy calls your section out onto the mat and it’s your team, it just about brings tears to your eyes. Everybody thinks wrestling is such an individual sport. I think it’s one of the biggest and best team sports. There is no question that these guys wrestle for each other. They cared more about sending the team to state than any of the individual stuff. That’s what is so special about these guys. We want to go down and have a great experience and a lifetime memory that they are associated with.”
While the spectacle is enjoyable, the Lakers have a 15-dual winning streak coming into Thursday. The Section 6AA champion Chargers are in the same boat having won their last 16 matches.
“We have to go out there and have the right mindset as a team,” junior Brody Ullyott said. “We can’t just be satisfied with making it to state. We’ve got to accomplish something down there. We’re trying to prove ourselves that first round.”
Brody joins freshman Tyson Ullyott and Cade Jackson in the unique situation of competing alongside their fathers. Cade is the son of assistant coach Todd Jackson.
“It’s a little different because our dads are with us the whole time,” Cade said. “They’re probably a little harder on us than other kids, but when I knew I was going to state it was fun to be able to celebrate with my dad right away.”
Brody is one of six DL wrestlers competing individually Friday and Saturday joining fellow section champions Skadsem and freshman Cade Okeson, along with 8AA runners-up Jackson, Blaine Henderson and Andreas Barnett.
“We have to practice really hard and have the right mindset to try your best because everybody is good down there,” Okeson said.
There are plenty of opportunities to overthink at state.
“You have to go in there not thinking about who you are wrestling,” Brody Ullyott said. “You just have to wrestle the way you have the whole season and things will work out in the end if they’re supposed to.”
All of that comes to fruition as the journey begins at 11 a.m. on mat 8 where the 23-6 Lakers will butt heads with the 18-2 Chargers. Dassel-Cokato/Litchfield will need to get up on DL early. In close victories, DL has seen consistent scoring in crunch time from their heavies starting with Henderson in a versatile role at 170 or 182 and leading to Nolan Mann, Andrew Annette, Skadsem and Andreas Barnett in the anchor position.
“Henderson has been doing a great job,” Coach Ullyott said. “Nolan Mann is not one of our studs yet, but we’re hoping next year he hits that. He’s done such a great job of learning how to battle against tougher kids and that’s huge for our team. Andrew Annette will get out there and battle with anybody. Whether they’re good or average, he’s going to beat the average kids and not give up bonus points to the horses. Jordan has been doing a great job at 220 and Andreas has improved a lot for us.”
That group was key to securing the section title against Thief River Falls.
“I think we show consistency in that area,” said Coach Ullyott. “We’re going to put a guy on the mat you can’t take a break on. You’re going to have to compete that full six minutes.”
DL’s lightweights and middleweight guys put the 8AA semifinal away quickly. DL is dangerous in all parts of their lineup. Tyson Ullyott, Okeson, Carson Wold and Jackson can put points up quickly before handing off to senior co-captain Blake Weber, Bradly Swiers, Brody Ullyott, Thad Schlauderaff and recent comeback to the team Garret Nelson in mids.
The Detroit Lakes wrestling team wrapped up Tuesday practice tonight before state on Thursday. The Lakers got a load of well wishes for the tournament from kids in the elementary wrestling program. pic.twitter.com/7011Bmdupl
The Detroit Lakes wrestling team wrapped up Tuesday practice tonight before state on Thursday. The Lakers got a load of well wishes for the tournament from kids in the elementary wrestling program. pic.twitter.com/7011Bmdupl— Robert Williams (@DLakesSports) February 26, 2020
A dozen Laker wrestlers have 15 or more victories this season led by Brody Ullyott’s 37 wins in 40 matches. As a junior, part of his mindset at state is setting up the 2021 season and creating momentum for future Laker teams.
“We’ve got to use this year to build onto next year and it will help us drive further and further going to sections next year,” he said. “Two in a row is better than one.”