When it comes to blue-chippers, Rapid City Stevens is no match for Bismarck. But, oh, can those Raiders ever raise Cain in the wrestlebacks.
Stevens wrestlers stormed through the consolation bracket at the Bismarck Rotary Tournament on Saturday to lift the Raiders to their second Rotary championship.
Trailing Bismarck 163.5 to 153.5 when the Event Center closed down Friday night, the Raiders took care of business on Saturday. They scored 58 points, 50 of them in the consolation bracket, to overtake BHS 211.5 to 192.5 in the final tally.
Stevens wrestled especially well in the sixth round of wrestlebacks, winning six of seven bouts, including a pin and two majors. That windfall lifted the Raiders into first place with 196.5 points.
Raider 182-pounder Dante Colicheski, one of two Stevens individual champions, said Friday night's 10-point deficit was reason for concern.
"That did worry us a little bit, but our wrestlebacks were awesome," Colicheski said. "That provided a big morale boost for the guys."
All told, Raider wrestlers placed in 10 of the 14 weight classes. Colicheski and 132-pounder Spencer Stockman garnered titles and their teammates provided two thirds, four fourths, a fifth and an eighth.
Bismarck won four of its five championship matches on Saturday with Laken Boese (120 pounds), Ryan Ripplinger (126), Devin Steidler (145) and Chase Dockter (220) claiming individual titles. In consolation action, however, BHS drummed up just a fifth and two sixths.
Mark Lardy, who shares BHS head coaching duties with Jeff Schumacher, said he knew it would be an uphill battle trying to hang onto first place on Saturday.
"We only had three kids in the wrestlebacks, so We knew it would be a tall order to keep up with (Stevens)," Lardy observed.
"With five finalists and four champions we were definitely happy with our placing round," he added.
Stevens' championship gives South Dakota four Rotary titles in a row. Rapid City Central won in 2015, followed by Pierre the last two years.
The upper reaches of this year's final standings have a heavy South Dakota tinge to them, too. Five of the top 10 teams hail from south of the border.
Trailing the Raiders and Demons in the standings were Pierre with 185 points, Sidney, Mont., with 163.5 and Rapid City Central with 157.5. The second five consists of West Fargo (153), Minot (135), Watertown (130), Aberdeen Central (127) and Mandan (119).
Two of the five wrestlers vying for repeat championships failed to make the grade. Ripplinger, a junior, captured the 126-pound title, Jared Franek of West Fargo prevailed at 160 and Kolby Kost of Rapid City Central won at 170. Ripplinger and Franek, who was voted the outstanding wrestler by tournament coaches, won for the third time.
Top-seeded Lincoln Turman of Pierre, seeking his third Rotary crown, suffered his first loss of the season at the hands of Boese by an 8-6 count in the 120-pound final. In the 132-pound championship match, Brody Armstrong of Minot, on the hunt for a second Rotary title, fell victim to Stockman, 5-1.
Three men survived the Rotary with their records unblemished. Steidler improved to 23-0 at 145, Garrett Jangula of Napoleon pushed his record to 22-0 by winning at 152 and Dane Stahl of Watertown upped his record to 22-0 when he won the heavyweight championship.
The other champions were Cael Larson of Rapid City Central at 106, Reece Barnhardt of St. Mary's at 113, J.J. Harms of West Fargo at 138 and Matthew Kaylor of Legacy at 195.
Ripplinger and Kaylor were the only wrestlers to secure pins in the finals. Ripplinger stopped Christian Dean of Sidney in 2:59 and Kaylor won by fall in 1:12 over Nolan Smith of Rapid City Central.
Ripplinger said he and Dean had crossed paths before.
"We wrestled last year (at the Rotary) and I pinned him in the quarterfinals," Ripplinger recalled.
Ripplinger said he used the same move on Dean in both bouts.
"It's a pull-back half. We work on those a lot in the (wrestling) room," he noted.
This year's win keeps Ripplinger on track to become a member of a tiny elite club -- the band of four-time Rotary champions. He said he's considered the possibility and what it could mean.
"My ultimate goal is to wrestle in college, and this is a stepping stone to get there," he said.
After finishing second to Kyle Burwick of Hettinger in the Mandan Lions and Rapid City Invitational tournaments, Ripplinger has won at the Valley City Invitational, the Rumble on the Red in Fargo and at the Rotary. He said winning at home is always satisfying.
"I look out (at the crowd) when I'm getting ready for my match and I don't want to let them down," he said.
Colicheski said tournament championships have a special luster now that he's a senior. The best scenario is to win individual and team titles at the same time. He accomplished that for the second time on Saturday.
"Your senior year every tournament championship you get under your belt is an awesome feeling," he said.
Colicheski received a bye and then ran off three straight pins before defeating Kaden Wolsky of Carrington 5-3 for the 182-pound championship.
He said he knew a fourth straight pin was a long shot.
"I wrestled that guy in the quarterfinal in the Rumble (on the Red) and it was a 7-4 match. I knew he was a good wrestler, but I wanted a major for the team points," he said.