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Young Raiders out to grab more mat victories this season

Bertha-Hewitt-Verndale's Nick Bennett is one of Mike Barthel's varsity wrestlers this season. The Raiders have high expectations after qualifying two wrestlers for state and seeing six more place high in the section last year. Photo by Brian Hansel

Mike Barthel's young Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale Raiders might be ready to start shaking up conference and section foes this winter.

Barthel will tell you the BHV grapplers have much more under the hood than their 10-12 record indicates.

"With the parity in our section, it is nice that there are 6-8 teams who feel they could win it," Barthel said.

The Raiders lost state heavyweight qualifier Colin Turchin to graduation, but they have plenty of returning talent.

Dillon Card also reached state at 182 after topping Breckenridge star, Greg Erlandson, 4-3 for the Section 6A championship. Card went 2-2 in his first state meet but failed to place.

"A lot of people were kind of surprised by how good he was. He has spearheaded that young group," Barthel said. "He's very dedicated and very much a leader."

The Raiders were terrific in the Section 6A meet last February. In addition to Turchin and Card gaining state titles, they saw Dakota Finck place third and Justin Gordon, Hayden Truax, Nick Bennett, Andrew Bounds and Dalton Baker place fourth.

Finck, now a junior, is a good bet to wrestle at 145 this year. Barthel is awed by his headlock.

Gordon, another junior, gives the Raiders a very solid wrestler at 113.

The junior class also includes Baker, who Barthel sees wrestling at 220, Bounds, who tore his ACL during the football season, and Bennett, a 152-pound candidate. Baker is "just a bull," Barthel said, but very coachable. Bounds hopes to be back by the end of the season. Bennett is the same kind of quiet leader Baker has proven to be.

Truax is one of BHV's best sophomore matmen. He has the size and strength for a good season.

"He'll probably be a 25-match winner for us," Barthel said.

Barthel is also high on sophomore Marshall Willis, who attended a couple of wrestling camps over the summer and will be competing at 120 of 126 for the Raiders.

"He is really coming on," Barthel said. "I think he'll really bust out."

While the Raiders might be able to match up well in at least seven of the 14 weight classes, Barthel is not overlooking some of his lesser-known grapplers. BHV wrestlers falling into that category include senior heavyweight Hunter Truax and senior 132-pounder Eric Waln, sophomores John French (220), Andrew Cihlar (132) and Anthony Kern (106) and freshman Cameron Powell (heavyweight).

Other wrestlers on the squad this season are junior Dillon Denny (182), sophomores Austin Ortiz (138) and Brady Baker (152), freshmen Nick Peterson (106) and Jarrod Hall (182-195) and eighth-graders Raphial Ortiz (120), Ethan Kimber (138), Zach Waln (126) and Austin Laust (106).

Barthel does not expect to spend much of his time trying to motivate this year's team. The Raiders gave powerful Border West a good battle last year in the Section 6A team tournament, before losing 41-30.

"They don't have to be motivated," Barthel said. "They know they have a good shot, and they want to do it."