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Gallant has proven talent returning on Wadena-Deer Creek mat squad

Wadena-Deer Creek standout Mitch Steffens hoists wrestling partner Josh Lawson into the air as they practice a move. Steffens placed third in the section tournament last year and is ranked in the Guillotine's Top 10 at 112 as the season begins.1 / 2
Manager Meggie Rentz puts the finishing touches on a Wadena-Deer Creek wrestling poster. The Wolverines open their 2009-10 season Saturday hosting their annual invitational meet.2 / 2

The ranks are thin but the front line talent looks good as the Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines open their 2009-10 wrestling campaign.

Four wrestlers with 20 or more wins last year will be back for Norman Gallant's Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines.

"We return an experienced group of juniors this season, many of whom have been on the varsity three and four years," Gallant said. "Our key will be filling the weight around them and improving throughout the season. We think we're going to be a pretty good team. One big key this year is to stay away from injuries."

Sophomore Mitch Steffens will be one of the team's best bets to challenge for a state berth after going 29-7 last year and placing third in the section at 103. Steffens is Class 2A's seventh-ranked wrestler at 112 in Class A as the season begins.

The Wegscheid boys, Jared and Jacob, are juniors this year. The pair went 26-13 and 24-17 last year and finished fifth in section competition at 125 and 135 respectively.

The Wolverines will also be able to count on some good wrestling from junior Jordan Rentz, who won 22 of his 37 matches and finished fourth in the section at 119.

Graduation cost the Wolverines three of their top wrestlers. Matt Hagen won the section title at 130 and wrapped his career at state with a 31-5 season mark. Eddie Lustila was 23-12 at 285 while Josh Sweere finished 20-13 at 215.

The Wolverines also have returning starters in senior Tyler Wohlwend (14-17) junior Derrick Rude (16-19), junior Isaac Lustila (12-22) and junior Zach Bernu (11-16). The four wrestlers competed at 189, 140, 171 and 119 last year. Rude was quite a surprise in the section meet where he placed third behind two of the state's top finishers. Gallant believes he could have a breakout season.

Other returning lettermen are senior Aaron Uselman (3-12), sophomore Jacob Ludovissie (1-24), freshman Tony Reurink (7-7), eighth-grader Isaac Schroeder (6-11) and junior Dylan Anderson (2-4).

Freshmen Sam Waln and Josh Lawson are likely to battle for the 103 spot. Junior Nolan Johnson is expected to provide depth at 171 and 189. Other varsity candidates include eighth-graders Devin Barthel, Caleb Monson, Tristian Baker and seventh-grader Tristin Godel.

The Wolverines won 11 of their 21 dual matches last year and face heavy competition in the Mid-State this season from Staples-Motley and Detroit Lakes. Gallant rates Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale and Border West as two of the strongest Section 6A contenders. New York Mills and West Central Area have the potential to be tough by the end of the season.