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Titans send 13 wrestlers to State

After a phenomenal showing at Regions, the Tea Area High School wrestling team will bring 13 wrestlers to the State Meet scheduled to begin Thursday, Feb. 24.

“We’re excited and hungry to take the big stage at the State Tournament this weekend in Sioux Falls — the kids have lofty goals and are sitting in a good position to achieve them,” said Titan head coach John Niesen. “Pacing ourselves will be important, as it gets to be a long tournament over the course of Thursday and Friday. The squad qualified for the State duals on Saturday as well, so we’re grateful for the opportunity to compete as a team one last time and try to put a great endcap on our season.”

The team competed in the SDHSAA Region 1A Tournament at Sioux Falls O’Gorman on Saturday, Feb. 19 and four Titans claimed the Championship in their weight class — Tyler Woodring at 106 pounds, Maddix Slykhuis at 120 pounds, Wyatt Stuntebeck at 138 pounds, and Connor Eimers at 145 pounds. Sam Werdel, wrestling at 152 pounds, and Jackson Tschetter, at 113, came just short of the Championship titles in their respective weight classes, earning runner-up honors. Also punching their ticket to State were Isaac Johnson who placed third at 182 pounds; Griffen Schnider who placed third at 220 pounds; Hunter Wilson who placed fourth at 126 pounds; Austin Eimers who placed fourth at 132 pounds; Gavin Van Emmerik who placed fourth at 170 pounds; and Nick Rosas who placed fourth at 285 pounds.

With the number of Titan athletes having State-qualifying performances at Region, the team set a new high for points in a single tournament, recording 233.5 team points to capture runner-up honors at the Region 1A Tournament. Watertown took the Region title with 256.5 team points.

In their Championship runs, Woodring took first by pinning Sioux Falls O’Gorman’s Cael Lynch in 1:11 to advance to the semi-final where he pinned Sioux Falls Jefferson’s Aidan Wells in 4:54. In the Championship match, Woodring once again recorded the pin, pinning West Central’s Karson Vessels in 5:59. This is the first time qualifying for State for Woodring who is an eighth-grader.

Coach Niesen has referred to his performances on the mat as “fireworks”.

He added, “He’s as exciting as they come and you can never count him out of a match.”

Woodring, who brings a 36-14 season record to State, opens the State tournament with a match against Brookings’ Tate Helmbolt (25-17).

Also capturing the Championship title at Regions was Slykhuis who began Regions with a forfeit by Sioux Falls Jefferson. Slykhuis automatically advanced to the semifinal where he won by technical fall, 19-3, over Watertown’s Braden Le. Slykhuis then went on to win by major decision, 16-6, over Brookings’ Nolan Miles to claim the title. This marks Slykhuis’ second State tournament appearance. In 2021 he claimed third place honors. Coach Niesen is once again expecting big things from him.

“He’s one of the best in the business; he has an unreal gas tank, is super mat-savvy, and can scramble like crazy when necessary,” said Niesen. “Maddix earned the top seed coming into the tournament with good reason — he’s legit.”

Slykhuis, a junior, brings the best season record in his weight class of 40-1 into State. He is set to face off against Milbank’s Jacob Johnson (18-11) to open State.

At 138 pounds, Stuntebeck claimed top honors after opening Regions with a bye. He then faced off against Dell Rapids’ Kaiden Lowman and recorded the pin in 52 seconds. In the semifinal, Stuntebeck won by major decision, 12-0, over Brookings’ Gabriel Stern and won by major decision, 9-0, in the Championship match over Madison’s Isaac Henry.

Stuntebeck, a junior, is making his third trip to State. He earned third place in both 2020 and 2021 and is looking to reach the podium once again.

“Wyatt is an absolute hammer — one of the most physical wrestlers from around the state and with some sneaky athleticism, it makes him one of the most dangerous guys in his weight class,” said Coach Niesen. “After taking third the last two years, he’s looking to make a title run and come out with a vengeance.”

Stuntebeck, a junior and team captain, brings a 47-4 season record into State and will face off against Chamberlain’s Bryce Reuer (24-20) to open the State Meet.

C. Eimers will also look to make waves at State after capturing the Region title at 145 pounds. Eimers began Regions winning by technical fall, 16-0, over Kaden Duffy of Sioux Falls Roosevelt. In the semifinal round, Eimers pinned Watertown’s Derek Hanson in 55 seconds and went on to win by decision, 5-1, over O’Gorman’s Keenan Sheridan.

Eimers, a senior and team captain, will be making his fourth State appearance. Eimers took sixth in 2019, fourth in 2020, and sixth in 2021. Coach Niesen expects a performance to remember from the veteran.

“Connor is as smooth as they come. He is super methodical and technical which makes him very difficult to score on. That, combined with a ton of tournament experience and the ability to work through tough situations puts him in a spot to win the whole thing this season,” said Niesen.

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