Park Center wrestling finished the season strong last year with one state berth and several podium finishes at the 5AAA section meet.
Although a large group graduated from that team, there is still a lot of talent that is expected to not only return but to continue to improve to help the team in the next few seasons.
For some of the more inexperienced wrestlers, 2021 looks to be tough with the COVID-19 pandemic delaying practices until Jan. 4 and delaying meets until the first one of the season at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15, in a triple dual against Blaine and Becker at Blaine High School.
The pandemic protocols also will have a more localized schedule with postseason plans not finalized by the Minnesota State High School League yet.
So for some, the 2021 season will be just to gain more mat time and get momentum for next season. But anyone with experience should be just fine with whatever the season ends up looking like.
Junior Ismael Kante is one of the stronger wrestlers in the state right now after a very successful sophomore year where he was a win short of making state for the first time – taking third overall in the 5AAA section at 160 pounds.
Kante was ranked 10th overall at 170 pounds on TheGuillotine website’s Nov. 11 pre-season rankings. The next pre-season rankings came out on Jan. 10.
Kante was tied for second on the team with 28 wins last season, including 12 pins, two technical falls and three major decisions.
Junior Samson Oyedokun also finished third at sections last season and had 28 wins overall, including eight pins, a technical fall and three major decisions. He wrestled at 138 pounds.
Juniors Sam Paye, Adam Adeboye, Amarion Carter and DeCarlon Henderson also did well at sections.
Adeboye finished with 23 wins, including 10 pins, and he took sixth at heavyweight. Paye finished with 21 wins, including 11 pins, and he took third at 220 pounds.
Carter finished with 16 wins and he took fifth at 182 pounds, and Henderson had 14 wins and finished third at 152 pounds.
Senior Victor Perez-Mesa had 13 wins at 145 pounds last season, and junior Kellen Kopp finished with nine wins and took fifth at 195 pounds at sections.
Freshman Olivia Sackor had 10 overall wins at 106 pounds and also finished third at the Minnesota Wrestling Coaching Association girls state championships.
There are some varsity lineups spots that will be need to filled with the graduations of Alvin Vue (state qualifier, runner-up at section, 120 pounds), Abel Vue (fifth at section, 126 pounds), Zeph Yang (fourth at section, 132 pounds), Jonathan Oyedokun (third at section, 145 pounds) and Gbolahan Oyetunde (fourth at section, 170 pounds).
Lucas Lee (152 pounds) and Osiris Moor (170 pounds) also graduated.
Alvin Vue finished with 12 wins, but he was injured for much of the season before returning and making a run to state. Jonathan Oyedokun led the Pirates with 30 wins, and Yang finished with 28 wins.
Oyetunde had 26 wins, and Abel Vue had 18 wins. Lee added 16 wins, and Moor had 11 wins.
Sophomore heavyweight Denny Ngo wrestled on varsity and junior varsity and finished with 15 wins. Junior Steven Dolomengi had four wins at 113 pounds. He wrestled junior varsity and varsity, as well.
Junior Rodiah Adeduntan wrestled at 120 pounds and finished second at MWCA girls state. She had six wins overall. Eighth-grader Randy Smythe (152 pounds) and freshman Emerson Flores (138/145 pounds) each had 10 wins on the junior varsity squad.
Seniors Molly Helgeson (106 pounds) and Hanan Doud (132 pounds) and junior Deja Moua (113 pounds) all wrestled at the MWCA girls state tournament and each earned at least one victory last year.
Sophomore Eli Bridges (160 pounds) finished with nine wins, mostly on junior varsity, and freshman Jereis White (113 pounds) added eight wins. Senior Jason Somers (145 pounds) had seven wins, and junior Kaivon Edwards (195 pounds) finished with five wins.
Freshman Cole Benske (106 pounds) and eighth-grader AJ Dawson (182 pounds) also had at least one win in 2019-20.
Park Center plays in the 5AAA section, which has Class 3A ranked teams St. Michael-Albertville (third), Wayzata (fourth) and Osseo (honorable mention).
STMA defeated Wayzata in the 5AAA team section and finished third overall at state. STMA has six individuals ranked.
Junior Caleb Thoennes is ranked first at 106 pounds, and junior Cole Becker is ranked second at 145 pounds. Sophomore Parker Janssen is ranked third at 126 pounds. Freshman Jed Wester is ranked third at 152 pounds. Eighth-grader Landon Robideau is ranked third at 113 pounds, and senior Isaiah Mlsna is ranked seventh at 132 pounds.
Robideau was a state runner-up at 106 pounds, and Janssen finished fourth at state at 113 pounds. Becker finished third at state at 138 pounds, and Wester took fifth at state at 120 pounds. Mlsna also made state.
Wayzata has eight ranked individuals. Senior Cael Swenson is ranked first at 152 pounds, and senior Cayden Homme is ranked second at 195 pounds. Sophomore Calvin Lonnquist is ranked second at 126 pounds, and sophomore Kyler Wong is ranked second at 132 pounds.
Freshman Logan Swenson is ranked fourth at 106 pounds, and sophomore Adam Cherne is ranked ninth at 138 pounds. Senior Adam El-Damir is ranked ninth at 160 pounds, and freshman Dominic Heim is ranked ninth at 170 pounds.
Cael Swenson won a state title at 138 pounds, and Homme finished second at state at 182 pounds. Lonnquist finished third overall at state at 113 pounds, and Wong finished fourth at state at 126 pounds.
Cherne, El-Damir and Heim also advanced to state last season.
Osseo senior Jagger Schack is ranked second at 220 pounds, and junior Jacob Meissner is ranked third at 182 pounds. Meissner and Schack both finished fourth at state.
Rogers senior Will Yasseri is ranked fifth at 152 pounds, and junior Max Ricks is ranked seventh at 113 pounds. Both advanced to state last season.
Armstrong, Cooper and Maple Grove are also in the 5AAA section.