Slykhuis, Werdel claim State Wrestling Championship Titles
Tea Area High School’s wrestling team has had a successful run in the 2023 State A Wrestling Tournament held in Rapid City. Head wrestling coach, John Niesen, commended his team for their remarkable performance and fighting spirit.
“Our team wrestled phenomenal in Rapid City and came away with a lot of ‘firsts’ for the program,” Niesen said. “We are so proud of the way our team came to compete. The kids came in with an ‘us-against-the-world’ mindset and performed so well. Even in matches that didn’t go our way, the kids left it all out there and fought with a ton of heart.”
The team placed sixth with 101 points and brought home a plaque, with over half of their state qualifiers making the podium. Additionally, two State champions emerged from the team, including Maddix Slykhuis earning back to back State titles, and Sam Werdel claiming his first title.
Werdel, who finished his sophomore season on a 28-win streak, earned the State crown at 170 pounds. He defeated Lucas Slack in an intense 4-3 decision before facing Trey Lewis in the title bout.
“He was confident heading into the match, having beaten Lewis three times throughout the season, but it is tremendously difficult to win consecutively against tough and savvy competition like Lewis,” said Niesen.
However, Werdel wrestled a smart, controlled match and came away with the 3-2 decision and the title.
“After taking fifth place a year ago, he looked us dead in the face and said, ‘Next year I’m winning the whole thing,’ - I guess he followed through on that affirmation. We’re so pumped for him and proud of his efforts,” exclaimed Niesen.
Slykhuis’ State win was particularly special as it marked his second state championship, making him the school’s second-ever wrestler to accomplish this feat, with Quincy Hulverson the only other Titan wrestler to hold this honor.
“Maddix Slykhuis became our school’s second 2x State Champion this weekend after claiming the title at 126 pounds, up a weight class from a year ago,” Niesen said.
Maddix scored 20 takedowns throughout the four matches on his way to the title, which was a 10-2 major decision victory over Nolan Miles of Brookings.
“Nolan is another wrestler we’d seen a couple of times throughout the season and is very physical/tough to score on. Maddix’s gameplan was to stay patient, and open up on his feet, which is where he excels,” said Niesen. “Maddix has been such a great leader, wrestler, and person in the time we’ve had him, and we will miss him a ton next year. His demeanor, approach, and work habits set him above the rest, and he’ll carry those traits into whatever field he chooses to go into. Thanks for everything, Mad-Dog!”
The team also celebrated Brianna Johnson, who earned the Girls’ Pinner Award for the most falls in the least time elapsed. Johnson ended up placing third in the girls’ 170 pound division, winning by fall in 36 seconds over Viborg-Hurley/Irene-Wakonda’s Gia Miller.
Also making the podium for the Titans were Tyler Woodring at 113 pounds. Woodring claimed fifth place after winning by decision, 11-7, over Sturgis Brown’s Teryn Zebroski in the fifth place match. Woodring also recorded wins over Brookings’ Jacob Milliron (Fall :43); Beresford/Alcester-Hudson’s Dexton Miller (TF-1.5 4:16 (17-2)); and Aberdeen Central’s Porter Lozenski (Fall 1:49).
Parker Wilson also reached the podium, claiming eighth at 138 pounds. Wilson fell by major decision, 11-2, to Watertown’s Derek Hanson in the seventh/eighth place match. He recorded wins over Chamberlain’s Quinn Long (Fall 2:54) and Aberdeen Central’s Brody Aesoph (Fall 3:53).
At 145 pounds, Tea Area’s Wyatt Stuntebeck took fourth place honors, falling in a tight one to Aberdeen Central’s Mason Schrempp in the third/fourth place match. Stuntebeck lost by decision, 8-7. Stuntebeck won by fall in 2:38 over Sterne Pankratz (O’Gorman); won by fall in 3:24 over Aiden Kracht (Spearfish); won by fall in 4:52 over Kalvin Ketelsen (Sturgis Brown); and won in sudden victory - 1, 7-2, over Chandler Carda (West Central). His only loss at State was to Schrempp in both the quarterfinal and third/fourth place match.
Austin Eimers found his way to the podium at 152 pounds, taking eighth place. Eimers lost by fall in 20 seconds to Watertown’s Ian Johnson in the seventh/eighth place match. He earned wins over Belle Fourche’s Thomas McCoy, winning by injury default; he also won by decision over Sturgis Brown’s Dawson Inhofer, winning by decision, 5-4.
Also competing at State for the Titans were Jackson Tschetter at 132 pounds, Dawson Eimers at 160 pounds, Chase DeBoer at 195 pounds, and Keegan DeYoung at 220 pounds.