Wrestling: Little Falls season preview

Some teams would be very pleased, thrilled even, to reach the section finals.

That’s not the case for Little Falls, which is looking to get back to state for the second time in three years after a narrow defeat to Moorhead in last year’s Section 8AAA championship dual put a damper on a 24-7 season.

The Flyers will turn to a deep group of returners that features eight section placewinners and a state entrant to lead them, including seniors Tyler Gastecki, Derek McMahan and Trysten Ross, juniors Logan Kapphahn and Axel Lange, sophomore Justin Jenks, freshman Josh Beack and eighth-grader A.J. Jenks.

Also coming back with varsity experience are seniors Levi Hoffman, Easton Johnson, Dan Mushel and Austin Olson, junior Mercedes Waagen, sophomores Gabe Blechinger, Mitchel Magee and Mikel Schultz, freshman Lane Rutten and eighth-grader Leo Wilczek.

Senior Tom Tabatt will look to join the varsity lineup as well at 285 pounds, out for the sport for the first time after a dominant football season.

Alexandria, St. Cloud Tech, Bemidji and Sartell-St. Stephen will be the frontrunners in the section, with usual powers Foley and Milaca leading the Granite Ridge Conference.

“We have a very tough schedule this year,” Little Falls head coach Mike Hendrickson said. “This will hopefully prepare us for the end of the season run.

“Our strength will again be our balance,” he said. “We will hopefully have a quality, experienced wrestler at almost all 14 weight classes.”

Graduating from last year’s team were Gregory Ross, Connor Scherping, Jordan Petrone, Keith Yorek, Joe Reis, Tyler Webb, David Copa and Conor Swanson.

Little Falls opens the season at Milaca, Friday,  Dec. 6, with its first home action coming in a tri against Zimmerman and Albany, Dec. 17.