For Faribault coach Jesse Armbruster, there’s no better way for his team to start its season.
Saturday, wrestling season will kick off at the 47th annual Dick Shiels Invitational at Faribault High School, hosting 10 total schools, including some of the most talented teams in Minnesota.
“It’ll be a good competitive tournament for our guys and I love starting off with a home event,” Armbruster said. “It really lets the guys see where they’re at and what they have to do.”
The headlining squads include Class AAA No. 2 Stillwater, Class AAA No. 6 Northfield, 2019 Class AAA state qualifier East Ridge and typically tough Owatonna. Individually, there will be 20 wrestlers ranked in the Class AAA preseason polls.
For the Falcons, that includes senior Josh Oathoudt, who starts the year ranked ninth in the 152-pound weight class. That weight also features Owatonna sophomore Landen Johnson (ranked third) and Stillwater freshman Ryder Rogtzke (ranked fifth).
While Faribault doesn’t possess any ranked wrestlers at the lower weights due to the collective youth of that group, Armbruster is confident in how eighth-graders Elliot Viland (1-6), JT Hausen (106), Isaac Yetzer (120) and Deshaun Davis (126), and junior Tyler Boyd will stack up Saturday.
“We’re pretty young down below,” Armbruster said, “but we’re also pretty talented with that group so I feel good with them in there and know that they’ll compete at a high level.”
In the middle weights there’s a ton of varsity experience returning for the Falcons including junior Gael Ramirez (132), senior Riley Stoltz (138) and Oathoudt at 152. Faribault will enter a second wrestler at 138 with senior DJ Saunders, who moved to the area with his family from Washington. Armbruster predicts Saunders will feature heavily throughout the season.
Up top, the depth thins out some, but Faribault hopes to enjoy a fully healthy Dylan Lippert at 195.
“Last year he had some injuries that he dealt with, so it really limited his action,” Armbruster said. “I’m excited to see him back in the lineup.”
There are a couple kids available at 220 and 285, but without much experience Armbruster said he’s not going to enter either in the varsity bracket Saturday.
“We have great numbers,” Armbruster said. “We have almost 40 guys up in the room, but unfortunately we only have three guys over 182 pounds, so we’re very thin up top. With that being said, we’re very strong down below and throughout the middle of our lineup.
“We’ve really been trying to get some of those big guys in our room,” he added, “but we get them up there for a day and we don’t get them back. It’s a tough sport, but we’d love to have some of those guys to come up there and use their athleticism to help our team out.”
Other standouts in the field include Owatonna freshman Cael Robb (second at 106), Stillwater junior Matt Hogue (second at 113), Northfield junior Chase Murphy (second at 120), Northfield sophomore Jake Messner (fourth at 126), Stillwater senior Javon Taschuk (sixth at 126), Sauk Rapids-Rice senior Jared Spohn (seventh at 126) Stillwater junior Reid Ballantyne (first at 132), Owatonna sophomore Kanin Hable (seventh at 132), Stillwater senior Kieler Carlson (first at 138), Northfield senior Drew Woodley (first at 145), Stillwater senior Trey Kruse (second at 145), Stillwater sophomore Hunter Lyden (fourth at 160), Stillwater junior Ramon Rogtzke (sixth at 170), Stillwater senior Hudson Day (seventh at 182), Northfield sophomore Mason Pagel (eighth at 182), Stillwater senior Josh Piechowski (second at 195) and Northfield junior Nick Lopez (ninth at 285).
Even with the loaded brackets, Armbruster is expecting Oathoudt, Saunders, Stoltz, Lippert and Ramirez to all snag higher seeds entering the tournament.
“I’ll be curious to see where our seeds will be,” Armbruster said. “I think all of our guys that we mentioned will all warrant a top-five seed, and there’s a goal of always improving on your seed.”