The Webster Bearcats will look to extend their wrestling dominance when the annual Northeast Conference Tournament takes place Saturday at the Webster Armory.
When the action starts at 11 a.m., the other NEC squads will likely be trying to chase down the Bearcats, who have only lost two regular-season tournaments in the past two seasons, both coming at the Lee Wolf Invitational.
“We don’t put a lot of emphasis on this, but obviously you want to be the best in the conference,” said Webster coach Wade Rausch.
Winning the NEC tourney has become nearly synonymous with postseason success in the past. For that reason alone, Webster would like to take home another title.
“In the Northeast Conference, if you’ve done well, you usually do pretty well in the postseason, there’s no doubt about that,” Rausch said.
While the Bearcats will be searching for another team title, many individual wrestlers will be looking to add to their NEC totals. One of those will be Aberdeen Roncalli’s Tyson Mitzel, who will be attempting to become the first Cavalier in school history to be a three-time conference champion. He is one of just three Roncalli wrestlers who have won back-to-back NEC titles.
While doing well at the conference meet is noteworthy, both Rausch and Aberdeen Roncalli coach Justin Briese said the NEC tourney is not the biggest meet on their schedules.
“It’s not really a big tournament for a lot of the guys,” Briese said. “They look more to the bigger picture at the end of the year.”
One of the reasons why the conference tournament has become just another event might be in where it falls on the schedule. Most teams are still trying to shift their lineups around with the season barely two weeks old.
“We’re going to adjust our weights this weekend,” Rausch said. “It’s one of those deals. We’re going to try to get down to the weights that we want to compete at for the postseason. We’ve been wrestling a little bit heavy.”
Briese said conditioning is another factor that the tourney is not as important as events later in the season.
“Being at the beginning of the year, kids aren’t in their best shape,” Briese said.
Because of a lack of numbers, Roncalli focuses more on individual accomplishments than on team placing.
“The last few years we haven’t been able to compete team-wise,” Briese said. “We go there and wrestle hard and do what we can.”
Webster, which won the State B championship two years ago, is gearing up for another strong postseason run and this weekend will provide another stepping stone on that path.
“The kids want to win the conference. I want to win the conference,” Rausch said, trying to put the event into perspective, “but it’s not a top priority on our list this year.”
Sports writer Dave Vilhauer
The Barnett Center on the campus of Northern State University will host basketball classics in late December. Dates, times and pairings are as follows: