by Eric Oslund
The Zimmerman wrestling program continues to move in the right direction after another successful week. They participated in a dual against Princeton on Thursday, Jan. 5, and then a tournament in Ogilvie the following Saturday. As a team, they did not win either event, but they continued to have individuals who really stepped up and performed well.
Head coach Mark Hayes typically likes to split up his JV and varsity kids at meets, and often doesn’t bump up the JV wrestlers because he doesn’t view it as beneficial for them. He would rather have them wrestle in a JV match and last through all three periods than wrestle on varsity and get pinned right away – it doesn’t do anything for them.
But the Princeton meet was a little different.
“We had some good things in there. We bumped some of our younger kids up to get matches where we thought it might be beneficial, and to just get some mat time for them again,” Hayes explained. “There were spots where Princeton didn’t have guys (on JV), so for our guys to get a match we bumped them up.
“I left a lot of it up to them, whether they wanted to (wrestle on varsity) or not. With those guys who only have that limited experience, I wasn’t going to force them to go up there, so I left the option open to them if they wanted to come up and wrestle, which I think I had three or four guys that ended up doing that. It was good. You’re going to learn a lot of your stuff when you’re on the mat, and as coaches, that’s where we’re going to observe you and can actually work with you better when we can see what you’re doing on the mat. Half of it is just trying to get them confidence to even take a shot, or do the things we’re doing in practice.”
Two wrestlers really stood out at Princeton and that was Joe Montplaisir and Evan Carr. Both of them avenged losses at this meet, which did a lot for their confidence. Montplaisir was unable to ride that confidence heading into the Ogilvie tournament because of a sickness that kept him sidelined, but Carr was able to take full advantage of it.
He is a wrestler that has all the skills and tools to be great and make some noise later in the season. He just needed to gain confidence, and his win over his Princeton opponent, Kyle Boeke – who is ranked in state – appeared to do just that.
When it was all said and done, Carr walked away from the weekend tournament as one of the Thunder’s three champions.
“I think he’s finally understanding what we’re telling him as coaches,” Hayes said of Carr. “You saw him do what we were asking him, for the most part, in that match at Princeton against Boeke, and it paid off. He’s got the skills to do it, he just needs the confidence. And after that win against Boeke, he wrestled really well at that tournament, so he’s carrying that confidence into what he’s doing now, which is going to make him even more dangerous.”
The other two champions the Thunder had were Kaleb Kliever and Justin Robinson. They have been the Thunder’s heavy hitters all season long, and only have one loss between the two of them. Kliever was also named the outstanding wrestler for the tournament, which is something that is voted on by the participating coaches.
The Thunder are following up the Ogilvie tournament with a dual against Little Falls Tuesday, Jan. 10, a tri against Foley and St. Cloud Apollo on Jan. 13, and then a tournament in Elk River on Jan. 14.