Jan. 23—WORTHINGTON — Wrestlers from all across the midwest gathered at Minnesota West Community and Technical College for the annual Worthington Open on Saturday.
More than a hundred Division I, Division II and junior college matmen competed on two mats in the Minnesota West gymnasium and two other mats at the nearby Worthington Area YMCA. Nearly 20 schools sent wrestlers to the 32nd annual college invitational, ranging from bigger schools like the University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska, South Dakota State University, North Dakota State University and Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D. to a handful of two-year colleges from around the region.
Minnesota West Athletic Director and former wrestling coach Bob Purcell said that not all schools could get into the Open because the field was full.
"Jerry Jansen started the tournament and when I took over, I took over for 20 years and been here and we kept going and I'm telling you, Brayden (Curry)'s done a super job," Purcell said. "He's got the numbers up, big time and we had probably two or three schools that couldn't get into our tournament because it was full."
Every year, the Worthington Open gives an opportunity for underclassmen and wrestlers not quite on their school's varsity lineups to compete and showcase their skills. It also provides great exposure to those wrestlers hoping to get noticed more, which could lead to a scholarship or one day a transition to a bigger school.
Because of the unique opportunities the Open can provide, the wrestlers compete hard, which is always a treat for the fans in attendance.
Purcell also mentioned that hosting the Open is great exposure for both the Worthington community and the Minnesota West wrestling program.
"...When these families come in, and they see this opportunity, 'hey, maybe we're going to send our next kid to Minnesota West,'" Purcell said. "It's a nice clean school, exposure, they don't have to decide on what four year school they want to go to and find out later that they're never going to start because some varsity guy's in their weight class. They're going to come here maybe and wrestle, beat somebody, get a scholarship to wherever they want to or still go back to where they wanted to go in the first place."
Along with invitations to some of the top-ranked schools in the nation, Minnesota West had wrestlers compete as well.
Nine wrestlers represented the Bluejays this year, compared to only three from last year. Those nine were Jacob Hernandez (125, New Hope), Ethan Meyer (133, Worthington), Kaiden Lowman (141, Dell Rapids, S.D.), Ty Borge (149, Colstrip, MT), Ian Johnson (157, Watertown, S.D.), Joseph Kallevig (165, Willmar), Daunte Hill (174, Burnsville), Deante Porter (197, Brooklyn Center) and Brody Knapp (285, Rapid City, S.D.).
While none of the wrestlers placed in the top six on Saturday, the Open still gave them a good opportunity to potentially face quality competition from the D1, D2 or Juco levels.
"Say one of our wrestlers beats one of those kids from those schools. Not only are they going to get looked at by those schools to get scholarships, potentially, but from other schools that say 'hey, we need that kid so we can compete with these top teams,'" Purcell said. "So for the student itself, it just is huge."
The Bluejay wrestlers did win a couple of matchups. One was from Hill at 174 pounds. After losing his first match by fall, Hill won his first consolation match by a 9-4 decision over Robert Solorio from the University of Sioux Falls. He lost his next match by fall.
Another win came from Borge at 149. He lost his first match in the bracket by a 20-3 technical fall before bouncing back to win over Nathan Patrick of Iowa Central Community College by a 14-11 decision. It was a hard-fought contest that Borge came back to win in the end after a solid takedown.
Complete Worthington Open results can be found online on trackwrestling.com.