The Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus Road Crew wrestling team returns after one of the most successful seasons in program history - setting a team record for wins and finishing 27-7 overall.
The team’s season ended with a Section 8-2A semifinal loss to top-seed and eventual champion Detroit Lakes. But the Road Crew went on to have 12 wrestlers place at the section individual meet, including a pair of state qualifiers - juniors Caleb Ruhl (113 pounds) and Connor Tulenchik, who finished as a Class 2-A state runner-up at 145.
“We are excited to get an opportunity to take the mat this season,” said Road Crew coach Travis Hoffarth, whose squad opens Thursday, Jan. 14 at Pierz. “We are aware things are going to look and feel a lot different at times with Covid-19 restrictions in place, but when the whistle blows we will be ready to wrestle. We have a lot of experience returning this season and are excited to build off of last season’s success.”
Ruhl enters this season ranked sixth at 126 while Tulenchik is ranked third at 160. The Roadcrew is in the Lean and Mean (honorable mention) in the Class 2-A rankings for The Guillotine magazine.
Other returning letterwinners include: Quinten Ellsworth, Earl Stockman, Eli Abraham, Tayten Mick, Sean Kilpatrick, Garrett Carlson, Caleb Swenson, Korey Kinyon, Karsen Kinyon, Logan Carlson, Chance Abraham, James Cummings, Logan Mejdrich, Riley Peters, Brady Ruhl, Payton Scott, Grant Thompson, Max Trumpold, Wyatt Bean, Trey Tuchtenhagen, Matthew Foster, Finnegan O’Dell, Corbin Knapp, Austin Staricha and Owen Carlson.
The Road Crew should again challenge for one of the top section spots with a veteran lineup and top win-loss records like Tulenchik (47-5), Carlson (38-12), Ruhl (35-16), Knapp (28-16), Kinyon (25-19), Staricha (24-18) O’Dell (22-14) and Thompson (21-22). Carlson and O’Dell were both third at the section meet.
Others who could contribute on varsity are Parker Zutter, Easton Miller and Thomas Cobb.
In last year’s section meet, top-seeded Detroit Lakes downed the No. 2 Road Crew 58-12 in the semifinals on the way to claiming the section title. The Road Crew had downed Pierz 53-21 in the quarterfinals.
In section individual competition, Ruhl and Tulenchik both qualified for state as true-second finishers. Ruhl was 37-15 overall at 113 pounds.
At state, Tulenchik became the first Road Crew finalist since 2003 when he lost the state title match at 145 pounds against Ryan Sokol of Simley. Tulenchik, who finished 47-5 overall and set a program record for wins, was attempting to become only the second wrestler in the combined Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus program history to win a title. Ruhl won his first match at state before losing to top-seeded Reid Nelson of Simley. Ruhl, who finished 35-16, lost to Foley’s Levi Jacobson in the wrestleback round.
The Road Crew also finished 3-2 against Mid-State Conference competition. The team also earned the Silver Plaque for MWCA Academic last season.
Hoffarth, who has compiled an admirable 178-76 coaching record going into his 11th season, assisted by Tom Demars, Justin Franke, Pat Foster and Alex Diaz.
Road Crew wrestling
14 - Road Crew at Pierz triangular, 5 p.m.
21 - Road Crew vs. Bagley-Fosston, Fertile-Beltrami at Bagley, 5 p.m.
22 - Road Crew at Park Rapids triangular, 5 p.m.
29 - Milaca, Minnewaska at Road Crew triangular at PR-B, 5 p.m.
30 - Road Crew at Royalton triangular, 9:30 a.m.
4 - Road Crew at United North Central triangular at Sebeka, 5 p.m.
9 - Staples-Motley, Sauk Centre/Melrose at Road Crew triangular, 5 p.m.
12 - Road Crew at Fergus Falls triangular, 5 p.m.
16 - Road Crew at Isle, TBD
19 - Road Crew at Mora, 5 p.m.
25 - Road Crew at Detroit Lakes, 5 p.m.
26 - Road Crew at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, 5 p.m.
1 - Road Crew at Walker-Hackensack-Akeley, 5 p.m.
2 - Road Crew Invite at Pequot Lakes, 5 p.m.
4 - Road Crew Invite at Pine River-Backus, 5 p.m.