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Wadena-Deer Creek's Sam Waln placed fourth in his weight class at the Section 6A individual wrestling tournament. Waln posted a mat record of 30-10. The senior is rated as one of WDC's best grapplers as the 2012-2013 high school season begins. Photo by Brian Hansel

Wolverines have solid wrestlers

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Individual victories may overshadow dual victories this season as Norm Gallant makes adjustment to his Wadena-Deer Creek wrestling team.

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With former state standout Mitch Steffens, section finisher Jacob Ludovissie and big Mason Lohmiller among those graduating, the Wolverines will be shy of the wrestlers needed to fill all 14 weight classes. Only 20 grapplers answered the call to join this year's team.

"We will not fill all the varsity weights, particularly from 160-182," Gallant said. "I believe the kids I have will have good seasons and have the potential to improve a lot."

Leading the way for the Wolverines will be Sam Waln and Josh Lawson. Waln will wrestle 120 or 126 this season after going 30-10 and placing fourth in the section last year.

"He's a very good all-around wrestler," Gallant said. "He is excellent in the top position."

Lawson is set to go at 138 or 145. Gallant calls Lawson's cradle "devastating" and expects a big season by the upperclassman, who placed third in the section last year with a 16-22 record.

Key juniors on the team include Devin Barthel and Caleb Monson. Barthel posted a 20-21 season record en route to a third-place finish in the section.

"His biggest strength is that he hates to lose," Gallant said.

Barthel will be used at 126, 132 or 138.

Monson had a 5-21 record as a sophomore, but Gallant feels he is stronger this season and should give the Wolverines a good wrestler at 195 or 220.

Another junior on the squad will be heavyweight Tristian Baker.

The Wolverines have a gem in sophomore Tristin Godel, who is slated for duty at 113 or 120 after winning 19 of his 28 matches and placing fifth in the section.

"He exceeded our expectations," Gallant said.

Gallant is still uncertain about the wrestling status of sophomore Isaac Malone. The athletic Malone was injured during the football season.

Gallant wants to employ him at 160 or 170 this season. Malone was a late bloomer last season and won three of his 26 matches.

Gallant has liked what he has seen from transfer Cody Bauer. The former United North Central wrestler has displayed some good mat talent, and Gallant wants to use him at 113 or 120.

The Wolverines have a good freshman ready to go at 113 or 120 in Corie Hurtig. Gallant calls his young wrestler "a speciman" and rates his cradle as one of the best on the team.

The Wolverines have freshman Jake Waln preparing to wrestle at 145 or 152. Waln was 1-6 last year.

Gallant has six eighth-graders and two seventh-graders ready to compete.

"Some of these guys are going to get thrown into the fire," Gallant said.

Eighth-graders ready to go include Brandon Monson (195-220), Lance Pierce (138-145), Tyler Wheeler (138-145), Blaine Snyder (126-132), Carter Wright (106-113) and Lee Spencer (106-113).

Seventh-graders on the squad will be 138-pounders Steven Erckenbrack and Joseph Baker.

Gallant feels Detroit Lakes and Pequot Lakes-Pine River-Backus will be Mid-State Conference favorites and sees Park Rapids putting a much improved team on the mat.

The Section 6A team title should go back to Barnesville after the Trojans placed sixth in the state last year. Gallant also likes New York Mills, Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale and Border West.

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