When the 2011 Middle Border Conference Wrestling Tournament is held on Saturday, Ellsworth will again be the favorite to win the title.
Thereâ€™s no surprise there. For the past quarter century, Ellsworth has been the closest thing to a lock that anyone could expect to win a conference title.
While it appears Ellsworth will win another MBC title, great weight class battles should abound in this yearâ€™s conference tournament.
There will be at least one state-ranked wrestler in every weight class, unless there are large shifts made from the patterns used by the MBC wrestling coaches this season. While that wouldnâ€™t be a surprise, this is wrestling after all, it appears that most of the weight classes should have excellent competition.
The lightweight classes are no light weights this year. Both the 103- and 112-pound classes could have four or more ranked wrestlers, depending upon shifts made by coaches.
Here is a projection, based by weight class, on how the Middle Border Conference tournament will stack up.
The lowest weight class is loaded with talented. Ellsworth freshman Jens Lantz is ranked second in Division 2. Prescottâ€™s Josh Farr is ranked sixth in D2 and Ameryâ€™s Keenan Luke is ranked tenth. New Richmond freshman Shane Blackman is ranked 13th in Division 1. Lantz beat Farr 2-1 when they wrestled earlier this season. Donâ€™t be surprised to see them meet again in the finals, though Blackman is capable of getting there too.
Defending state champion Chad Bartschenfeld of Amery leads the class where four more state-ranked wrestlers could compete. Bartschenfeld is ranked first in Division 1, with Osceolaâ€™s John Olson ranked sixth, Somersetâ€™s Bobby LeRoy ranked ninth and Ellsworthâ€™s Brent Stockwell ranked 12th. This may be where Ellsworthâ€™s depth comes into play. Ellsworth may move Brad Cain into the 112-pound class and have Stockwell bump up to 119.
Bartschenfeld is a lock for the title match. Olson and LeRoy will likely have another close battle to be the other finalist.
There are two ranked wrestlers in the conference at 119 pounds. Ameryâ€™s Connor Friese is ranked eighth and Osceolaâ€™s Mitch Dulon is ranked tenth. Donâ€™t be surprised if Stockwell wrestles here for the conference tournament and donâ€™t be surprised to see him in the finals.
Ellsworthâ€™s Roarke Langer and Ameryâ€™s Kyle Larson area prohibited favorites to reach the finals. Langer is ranked second in Division 2 and Larson is ranked ninth.
Expect Baldwin-Woodvilleâ€™s Zac Weyer to move down to 130 for the tournament. Heâ€™s ranked first in Division 1 at 135 pounds. His main competition will come from New Richmondâ€™s Abe Anderson and Ameryâ€™s Mitch Nichols. Nichols is ranked eighth in Division 2 and Anderson is an honorable mention choice in Division 1.
With Weyer moving to 130, Somerset sophomore Gabe Flandrick becomes the favorite at 135 pounds. Heâ€™s ranked third in Division 2. Ellsworthâ€™s Dan Langer has been coming on strong and had a good chance of reaching the finals.
The competition gets thick here, with three ranked wrestlers and several other quality kids. Baldwin-Woodvilleâ€™s Tyler Weyer has to go in as the favorite. Heâ€™s ranked third in Division 2. Durandâ€™s Andrew Hartman is ranked fifth and Ellsworthâ€™s D.J. Yarwood is ranked sixth, based mostly off Hartmanâ€™s recent 6-5 win over Yarwood. Ameryâ€™s Eddie Benitez and New Richmondâ€™s Jason Staples add depth to this class, though Staples may bump to to 135 to avoid this logjam.
Ameryâ€™s Gabe Paulson and New Richmondâ€™s look like favorites to reach the finals here. Paulson is ranked second in Division 3 and Gartner is ranked 14th in Division 1.
152 pounds and 160 pounds
You can almost lump these two classes together, because Ellsworthâ€™s Levi Keusel and Tanner Eggenberger are solid favorites in these classes. Their best competition will come from Ameryâ€™s Jared Nelson, who has missed a large part of the season but has been back in action the past few weeks. Somerset senior Trevor Bushinger could also be a factor at 152 pounds. New Richmondâ€™s Tanner Turany is also 6-1 in MBC duals. Heâ€™s wrestled anywhere from 140 to 152, so heâ€™ll likely be in contention too. Prescottâ€™s Matt Pechacek could also be a contender in one of these classes.
Your best bet for the finals at 171 pounds is Ellsworthâ€™s Noah McLay and Somersetâ€™s Haydon Dvorak. New Richmondâ€™s Grant Nelson is 6-1 in MBC duals, with his only loss coming against McLay, so heâ€™s a threat too.
Ellsworthâ€™s Parker Hines and New Richmondâ€™s Cody Chouinard appear on a collision course to meet in the 189-pound finals. Hines is ranked fifth in Division 2. Chouinard is ranked 13th in Division 1 and has tearing up opponents lately.
Ellsworthâ€™s Zach Reister is the only ranked wrestler in this class. He draws honorable mention ranking in Division 2. The best bet to face Reister in the finals is New Richmond senior Jorden Aufderhar.
The most clear-cut favorite in the conference is New Richmond senior Joel Neumann at 285 pounds. Heâ€™s ranked fourth in Division 1 and three of his four losses this season are against wrestlers who are ranked first in the three state divisions.