The Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus Road Crew wresting team has 18 letterwinners back from a squad that finished 5-0 in the Mid-State Conference and 15-4 overall last season.
The Road Crew, who lost to Detroit Lakes 36-29 in the Section 8AA semifinals last year, return 10 seniors. They include: Anthony Philipson (42-3 last season), Jared Adkins (28-12), Jace Loge (24-18), Triston Rubner (21-6), Ozzy Miller (18-18), Justin Mackenthun (20-12), Brandon Mager (14-11), Cadel Roeder (5-25), Trevor Johnson (6-9) and Lance Squires. Loge is recovering from surgery and won’t likely wrestle this season.
Returning juniors are Nick Gravdahl (24-14) and Dillon Nichols (7-6) while sophomores are Nate Adkins (23-11) and Joe Harrison (1-3). Freshmen are Spencer Richards (21-12) and Evan Gravdahl (4-5) while Isaac Manthei (5-4) is the only eighth-grader.
“Expectations are high with 18 kids with varsity experience, including nine who placed at sections,” said Travis Hoffarth, who has compiled a 42-16 dual meet record in four seasons as head coach. “If our team is able to stay healthy, we will be in the mix at section time.”
Four wrestlers to watch this year will be Philipson, a two-time state qualifier, and Rubner, who went to state as a freshman. Mackenthun and Jared Adkins both placed second at the section meet last year, but lost a true-second match.
“I’m really excited to get the season started,” Hoffarth said. “Our varsity team will have a lot of experience. We have the talent in the room, but it is a matter of getting the best wrestlers in the lineup on a consistent basis.”
Hoffarth said the Road Crew “has a number of capable wrestlers on junior varsity who are ready to make the jump to the varsity. He said those wrestlers are Darion Anderson, Devyn Richards, Peter Koering, Jace Leabo, Chris Foster and Justin Neumann. Other wrestlers are Lucas McCoy, Joe Harrison and Dallin Sonenstahl.
“We have 16 new faces in the room ranging from grades 7-12,” Hoffarth said. “Even with the experience that we return, we still have a few question marks. It’s possible that some of the new guys earn some varsity mat time.”
Assistant coaches are Tom Demars and Keith Lumley.
“Keith (Lumley) is in his fourth season as an assistant coach, and he has done a great job of getting kids interested in wrestling,” Hoffarth said. “When Keith came to our staff, we had seven kids from Pequot Lakes. Now we have 25 Pequot Lakes’ wrestlers.”
Hoffarth added that his coaching staff’s goal was to have 40 wrestlers.
“We have 48 kids in the practice room, and our program’s numbers have increased every year over the last eight seasons,” Hoffarth said. “Numbers lead to depth, and depth leads to competition in the practice room.”