Forty-four wrestlers, grades 7-12, are preparing for the Gobblers upcoming season. “We should be strong in the lower and middle weights, but also have good competition at the upper weights,” said coach Larry Liljenquist. “We are young with only one senior, Nathan Rom, who has looked really tough in practices; but we have a lot of mat experience.”
The Gobblers return Tyler Spolarich, a state entrant last season, and ranked number seven in the Guillotine at 152 pounds. Also returning as State entrants are Marshall Larson and Carson Kullhem. All three wrestlers recorded more than 30 wins each, last season.
Also returning from last season’s State qualifying team are James Erickson, Walker Jones, Rom, Daniel Decent, Tyler Decent, Jack Workman, Tanner Hills, Jacob Espeseth, Hunter Hills, Craig Ashton and Nathan Stifter.
The Gobblers look good in Section 7A. Blackduck and Royalton also return a solid squad, but the Gobblers should be in the hunt. In the Mid-States Conference, top contenders will be Detroit Lakes, Pequot Lakes and the Gobblers.
What Liljenquist likes most about this team is their work ethic. “This group works hard and is willing to learn; they are very coachable.”
The Gobblers host only four home events this season. Because the state reduced the number of events to 16, but raised the number of matches to 45, the only way individuals can wrestle 45 matches is at larger tournaments.
One of those tournaments is at Jackson County Central. “They have historically good wrestling in the southwest so we will likely wrestle kids who will be vying for a place at State,” added Liljenquist. “If we don’t wrestle them head to head, we will have common opponents which will give us a good indication of our ability level.”
The two other big meets that Aitkin will attend are Rumble on the Red at the Fargodome over Christmas break and the Big Bear at Grand Rapids. The Rumble on the Red will host more than 90 teams and 1,500 varsity wrestlers.
POSSIBLE LINE-UPS FOR EARLY SEASON MATCHES:
106-Nathan Trotter (8th)
113-Marshall Larson (10th)
120-Walker Jones (8th)
126-Carson Kullhem (10th)
132-Nathan Rom (12th)
138-Jacob Williams (7th)
145-Jack Grell (9th)
152-Tyler Decent (11th) or Daniel Decent (10th)
160-Tyler Spolarich (11th)
170-Zack Leitinger (10th)
182-Hunter Hills (11th)
195-Jacob Espeseth (10th)
220-Craig Ashton (9th)
Hwt.-Nathan Stifter (10th)
The tournament scheduled for Grand Rapids on Saturday was cancelled due to the weather and has been rescheduled for Feb. 1. The Gobblers are slated to wrestle in Holdingford Thursday, Dec. 5 and on the home mat for Tuesday, Dec. 10 against Hibbing.
Aitkin will be hosting their annual Junior High Tournament on Saturday, Dec. 7 with 11 area teams. Wrestling will start at 10 a.m.