DJ Saunders

Faribault's DJ Saunders, top, wrestles against Tri-City United's Hunter Rutt in the consolation championship of the 138-pound weight class at Saturday's Dick Shiels Invite in Faribault. Saunders finished the day 4-1 and ended with the 9-3 win against Rutt, while the Falcons finished fifth out of 11 teams. (Jason Hommes/Faribault Daily News)

Wrestling season officially began for the Faribault Falcons with the 47th annual Dick Shiels Invitational at Faribault High School on Saturday.

Faribault hosted a total of 10 other schools at the meet, and when the dust settled the Falcons had placed fifth as a team.

“We were kind of right in the wheelhouse of where we thought we’d be, and that’s considering the fact that there were a few guys we didn’t have in our lineup," Faribault coach Jesse Armbruster said. “We certainly have a few holes in our lineup and we have some youth, but if you look at some of our veterans you can see that they did really well.”

Armbruster highlighted the performances by Josh Outhoudt and Dylan Lippert. Outhoudt finished in first place in the 170-pound weight class, winning a 9-5 decision over Stillwater’s Antony Tuttle in the championship.

Lippert, who battled some injuries last season, finished a strong second at 195, ultimately losing in the finals in a 9-2 decision to Stillwater’s Josh Piechowski, who's ranked second in Class AAA in the weight class.

“Josh Outhoudt picked up a first place in this tournament, and Dylan Lippert had a great day as well," Armbruster said. "He made it to the semifinals and came in second. Tyler Boyd also had a really great day by making it to the finals. Those guys did a fantastic job, and so did a number of our other guys.”

Armbruster said he was decently pleased with the Falcons’ fifth-place finish, but said he was hoping the team could push its way into third place.

“We were certainly hoping to finish in maybe third place," he said. "Falling behind Owatonna and TCU wasn’t exactly a positive, but we just need to take what we learned about ourselves and implement it into our practice plans this week. We do have some guys who need to grow into their weights a little more, and we have a few guys that we need to fit into our lineup yet. As coaches we’ll work to get those guys going a little better over the next couple of weeks.”

Faribault finished with a team score of 110, just narrowly behind fourth place Tri City United (TCU), which totaled 122.5 points. Stillwater won the meet with a whopping 256.5 points, followed by Northfield with 216 points. Owatonna turned in a strong third place performance with 200.5 points.

The Falcons had a total of 10 wrestlers place in the top six in their classes, including JT Hausen (5th place, 106), Elliot Viland (6th place, 106), Boyd (2nd place, 113), Gael Ramirez (6th place, 132), DJ Saunders (5th place, 138), Aiden Tobin (6th place, 145), Cael Casteel (4th place, 152), Bryce Nolen (6th place, 160), Outhoudt (1st place, 170), and Lippert (2nd place, 195).

“We knew coming into the meet that it would be a challenge for us, but that’s exactly what we want,” Armbruster said. “Our mission as a coaching staff is to make sure we’re seeing great competition throughout the year. We’ll even travel a little farther just for that, because that’s ultimately what’s going to prepare us for the end of the season. We purposefully set a tough schedule because we want to expose our athletes to the best competition we can find.”

Armbruster noted that Stillwater was a state runner-up last year, and came into the Dick Shiels Invite ranked No. 2 overall in Class AAA, while Northfield entered the meet ranked at No. 6 in Class AAA.

“All in all we’re pretty happy with how we stacked up, but we were expecting to put up a few more numbers," Armbruster said. "Not having guys in the 182 or 220 class hurt us a bit, and we do have some guys that we’ll put in there — we just haven’t put them in there yet. But that can definitely make a difference, possibly as much as a potential 15-30 point increase if we get some other guys in there.”

With the Dick Shiels Invitational now in the rearview mirror, Armbruster said the team is already preparing for its next challenge, which will be three dual meets on Thursday at Grand Meadow High School against Rochester Century, Westfield and Grand Meadow/LeRoy-Ostrander/Southland.

“GMLOS actually beat us by just three points last year so we’re really looking forward to battling with them again,” Armbruster said. “We just need to keep focusing on improving as a team— that’s always our main goal. If we take what we learn from our matches and apply it to our training, then we know we’re going to see improvement. We believe that if we can get 1% better every day then we’re going to be well prepared when it’s time for sectionals.”

Sports reporter Jason Hommes can be reached at 507-333-3119. Follow him on Twitter @FDNjason. ©Copyright 2019 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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