Woodward, Weiss, Noem eighth at state

Ron Burtz

A record 11 Custer Wildcat wrestlers qualified for the state Class B wrestling tournament in Rapid City last week and three came away with medals after placing eighth in the tourney. What’s more, all three (as well as most of their teammates) are young enough to have several more chances to make it to the podium in years ahead.
The trio of medalists included sophomore Landon Woodward (120 pounds), freshman Parker Noem (160) and eighth- grader Tray Weiss (106).
Head coach Jared Webster said he is proud of all his wrestlers and noted that Noem was in a “solid, tough weight class and he ended up getting a medal out of it, so that’s great—and he’s only a freshman.”
As for Woodward, Webster said he was “excited that he was finally back out on the mat” and noted that placing eighth as a sophomore was an excellent showing.
A total of seven Wildcats made it to the third round of tournament action at state.
“Four of those were one match away and three of them seconds away from placing,” said Webster.
One of those finalists was junior Mikael Grace wrestling at 138 pounds. Grace pinned Faulkton’s Garrett Cramer in 2:32 to make it to the second round of consolation but lost that match in a 4-3 decision.
“He was in on a leg to finish a takedown to win the match but just couldn’t quite get there before time ran out,” said Webster.
Sophomore Jonathan Lewis advanced to the second round of consolation play in the 145-pound weight class by beating Matthew Steffensen of Kingsbury County by a 1-0 decision in the first round. However, he lost to Jordan Vosika of Burke-Gregory in round two.
Webster says Lewis was on track to win the match but, with only one second left, his opponent stepped over his ankle and scored two points to win by a 4-3 decision.
The only senior on the team to advance to state was 170-pound Eli Steele.
“We’re gonna miss Eli,” said Webster. “He wrestled excellent all weekend too. He was one match away from placing and wrestled people who were taking it to him earlier in the year and came within a couple points of winning. I’m very proud of him.”
Steele beat Parker Snyder of Philip Area by a 4-3 decision in consolation round one but lost to Tucker Even of Burke-Gregory in round two.
“Sterling Sword (152) wrestled an excellent tournament also,” said Webster, “I’m very pleased with his performance all year long.”  
Sword beat Grayson Jacobs of Elk Point-Jefferson by 6-4 decision to advance to round two of consolation play but lost that round by fall in 27 seconds.
Four other Wildcats were two and out in the tournament including junior Pierce Sword, freshmen Zayne Severyn and Ryder Bailey and eighth-grader Leighton Sander.
Pierce Sword had an excellent tournament, according to Webster, making it into the first round of consolation action in the 126-pound weight category.
“It still didn’t go our way but he wrestled tough and wrestled the whole time,” said Webster.
Webster said Severyn had a hard draw in the first round of the 195-pound weight class, taking on a No. 2 ranked wrestler.
Webster also lauded Bailey for making it to state as a freshman and being able to take on the challenges that came his way.
“We jumped him up a weight class or two and he was just always smiling and had an excellent year,” said Webster.
With the whirlwind season now in the rearview mirror, Webster says he is not only proud of what his team accomplished but is looking forward to upcoming seasons with anticipation.
While he is graduating two “incredible seniors that we’re gonna miss” (Steele and Ty Dailey), Webster said he is “very excited to see what we have coming up.”
“The younger generation we took there is awesome to see,” said the coach.
Noting that it’s unusual for Custer to have so many younger wrestlers going to state, Webster credits a community effort in promoting youth wrestling for helping in the team’s success.
“We’ve got a heck of an AAU wrestling program that helps out,” he said. “It just takes a whole community to get these kids where we want them to be.”
“If they keep working all summer long and get back here in the wintertime,” said Webster, “hopefully we bring home a lot more medals and hopefully as a team we can get on the top of the podium.”
As a team, Custer finished 20th in the middle of the pack of 43 teams in the state B finals with a team score of 22 points. East River powerhouse Canton won the team championship with 216.5 points followed by Winner Area, Philip Area, Kimball-White Lake-Platte-Geddes and Redfield Area.
The main effect of COVID-19 on the season, according to Webster, was that activities association rules limited the number of matches, reduced the fan base at meets and limited the size of tournaments, but he says it didn’t impact the wrestling overall.
He also said none of his wrestlers contracted COVID from meeting another wrestler on the mat, adding “and that goes for about every team.”


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