VIDEO: Community welcomes back state wrestlers
Sirens and flashing lights escorted the Detroit Lakes wrestling team’s return from the state tournament to the wrestling building where two-time champion Isaiah Thompson, Cade Okeson, Cade Jackson, Bradly Swiers, Fabyon Greer, Noah Olds and Charles Barnett were greeted by family and wrestling fans from around the area.
The group of seven wrestlers that advanced from sections was the largest DL contingent to make the state tournament in program history.
Laker head coach Rob Ullyott introduced all seven wrestlers and gave an emotional speech about their seasons and the support the team has gotten from the community.
“To qualify for the state tournament is just a huge accomplishment and Minnesota is one of the strongest wrestling states in the nation,” Ullyott said. “If you make it to the state tournament in this state, you really have done a great thing.”
While Isaiah Thompson garnered much of the attention after repeating as the Class AA 170-pound champion, the thrill of competing at state and watching Thompson was not lost on his teammates.
"Just making it down there is a huge accomplishment and kids like Isaiah winning state championships two years in a row is one of the craziest things,” said Barnett.
Emotions were mixed, especially for the seniors, being in the wrestling room for one of the last times of their careers but sadness was boosted by the show of people who braved eight-below temperatures to welcome the team back to town.
"It's so bittersweet and hasn't quite sunk it to me,” said Barnett. “Being here, knowing this is probably the last time I'll step into this room, it brings me back and I get a little reminiscent. It's kind of surreal to see the amount of support that we have, truly, with all the parents and people's friends. It didn't used to be like this. When I was a freshman we didn't have this much support and to see how it's grown over the last few years, it's really crazy. It feels amazing."
A big part in gaining a new level of support comes from winning. Much of that can be put at the feet of this year’s departing senior class of Barnett, Greer, Brennen Sather and Olds, along with the star of the team Thompson who returns next year for his senior season.
In the past two seasons, the Lakers have compiled a duals record of 44-10.
“How fortunate we were as a community to have these gentleman represent us down there,” said Ullyott. “They did just an excellent job and we couldn’t be prouder of them.”
For Thompson, experience made his second trip as the defending champion easier and he had a big group of teammates, along with his crew of coaches, for support.
“Bringing seven guys is pretty amazing,” Thompson said. “I have to work with these guys every day and seeing them put in work every single day is a great accomplishment for us.”
Hard work is something Coach Ullyott demanded of Thompson this year and it showed at state.
“Personally, after every practice coach would have me stay behind to practice harder shots or harder standups,” said Thompson. “Just to get the feel of it.”
Thompson handled the pressure of 2017 shrugging off the fact of Detroit Lakes never having had a state champion. He is now a favorite to become the school’s first three-time wrestling champ.
Thompson ended his second consecutive undefeated state run in St. Paul Saturday night with a backflip he has been doing since third grade that he made public after wins on the gridiron last fall. He back-flipped after winning his second state title at the request of his friends and got a big response from the crowd.
“It went from just the whole DL section to the whole arena getting hyped,” he said.
After winning in 2018, Thompson was spotted working out the next morning at the DLCCC and his plans are similar this year as he prepares for the upcoming track and field season and freestyle Greco wrestling coming up this summer.