The Hutchinson/Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart wrestling team looks to send more grapplers to state this season after last year's two state entrants — Christian Kurth and Tucker Gifferson — graduated. To do so, head coach Todd Card said the team must continue on with the competitive spirit it has already established.
“It's going to rest a lot on these seniors and trying to take a leadership role and making sure this team is the best that they can possibly be.” Card said.
The Tigers' goals according to Card, are to bring a proper attitude and work ethic to practice each day, and have a growth mindset to work hard and challenge themselves the best that they can.
Using that ethic, the team has enjoyed quite a bit of success over the past few years. The Tigers have won the Cass Lake-Bena Big Bear Tournament six of the last seven years. The tournament is one of the largest in the state early in the season, with 39 other teams from throughout Minnesota competing. Hutchinson has also been a final four team at the section tournament for a number of years, and several individuals have finished their seasons at the state tournament, many returning home with medals around their necks.
Some of Hutch's top returning wrestlers include Cody Kurth, Alex Nelson, Jesse Reiner, Payton Jepsen and Tanner Gill. They will all be looking for a larger role on the team while others try to fall in place.
“You expect each grade level to step up and fill in the gaps as best they can,” Card said. “We have some kids who've been pretty productive in the program before that should step in and do some good things for us.”
Many of the team's wrestlers also played football, and therefore they got a slow start to the winter season. Card is a believer that success breeds success, however, so he isn't worried that many of the wrestlers were gone at the start of practices. He hopes the football team's success at a high level carries into the wrestling season.
The depth for each weight class is not where Card would like it to be, but the Tigers have to work with what they have. That is why Card is stressing that they want to maintain health and be injury free. Going into the year, he thinks his team is capable of sneaking up on opponents and surprising them.
“We're excited about the team in general,” Card said. “I think some teams in the section might think we're down a bit, based on what seniors we graduated. But I'm confident these kids coming back this year will put a very competitive team on the mat. I'm excited to see what we can do.”
The season begins at 5 p.m. Thursday in Watertown with a triangular meet against Watertown-Mayer and St. Peter.