The Howells-Dodge Invitational on Saturday may be the ideal way for the Fremont Bergan wrestling team to start the season.
The Knights, who don’t have any seniors on their eight-man roster, will get plenty of work in the pool formatted tournament.
“There are some good teams there and we should get 35 to 40 matches in,” Bergan coach Curtis Marolf said. “We should have a good idea of what we need to work on and where we’re strong at. With the format, there isn’t a lot of time to think about how your last match went. You just have to refocus and process what happened, whether it is good or bad. You hit the reset switch and go compete again.”
The Knights have two juniors — returning state medalist Jacob Johnson and newcomer Zach Hamilton — on the roster. The rest are freshmen or sophomores.
Johnson returns after earning a fifth-place Class D medal at the state meet last February.
“He has filled out and he looks strong and is quick,” Marolf said. “He had a pretty good season in football on the defensive side of the ball.”
Johnson will compete at the H-D Invite at 145, but is expected to move down to 138 if he meets the benchmarks of his descent plan in the next few weeks.
“He went to a camp in St. Louis during the summer and had a lot of matches and got to work on his technique,” Marolf said. “With the camp and wrestling on a national team, he probably had over 100 matches this summer.”
Marolf said 138 will be a tough class, but Johnson has a high ceiling.
“I think he has the ability to be a state champion, but we can’t win a state title on Dec. 2,” he said. “He has to take it step by step and match by match to get better. He is a hard worker and a grinder. He’ll go a 100-miles-per-hour out there. “
Hamilton transferred to Bergan from Fremont High School. He’ll wrestle at 120 pounds for the Knights.
“I think he has a lot of potential,” Marolf said. “Zach is a pretty talented kid. There were some pretty tough kids ahead of him at Fremont like (state qualifiers) Cody Carlson, (Noah) Molzahn and (Cody) Fielder. That is a tough threesome to break into the lineup. We hope Zach can show he wasn’t too far off from those kids.”
Ethan Villwok is one of four sophomores that will compete in the upper weights for the Knights. He was the Centennial Conference runner-up at 170 last year, but will wrestle at 182.
“All four of them have the ability to drop down a weight class, but we’ll just have to see how they feel and if they are comfortable at their weight,” Marolf said.
Villwok was on the basketball team last season before switching to wrestling at the Christmas break
“He is a powerful kid and if he gets a chance to end (a match), he’ll take that chance,” Marolf said. “We just want to build up some of the basics for him and not have him think he has to go for the big move every time. We want him to work for good position and not force anything.”
Peyton Cone will be at 220 for the H-D Invite, but he is expected to be at 195 for most of the season.
“He is as strong as an ox,” Marolf said. “He has some quickness and I just look for him to continue to improve.”
Eli Simonson will also compete at 220 this week and will be there for the season.
“He was .500 as a raw freshman,” Marolf said. “He is a three-sport athlete and he really wants to get better at wrestling. I think he is a kid that has nothing but an upside.”
David Hinojosa will be at 285.
“He has done some great things and made good progress in the preseason,” Marolf said.
Freshman Martin Venzor will compete at 113. His brother, Mario, finished third in the Class B 138-pound division for Schuyler at the 2017 state meet.
“He is not your typical freshman in that he has been wrestling about 10 years,” Marolf said. “He is a great addition to the team and could be a special athlete by the time all is said and done. He has put a lot of time in already and understands technique. I like his attitude and work ethic.”
At 132, freshman Andrew Fellers will compete for the Knights.
“He is a tall kid with a lot of length,” Marolf said. “He doesn’t quit and has a high motor. We’re still cleaning up some technique things with him, but I like what Andrew brings to the team. He stays after practice and puts the work in to be good.”
Marolf said all of the Knights are striving to be their best.
“They have been a fun bunch of kids to work with,” he said. “They put a lot of time in over the summer and they enjoy wrestling. I’m looking forward to see how we compete.”