‘All about experience’

A fast-forward button on Minot High’s wrestling season would be nice.

Not to skip through the whole year, just to pass by the growing pains the young team will endure.

With 22 underclassmen (out of 31 wrestlers), a real-life remote could be useful for Magicians coach Nolan Spooner.

“It’s gonna be a learning experience here at the beginning,” he said, “but by the end of the year, these kids have the athletic ability to make some huge leaps and some huge growth. We’re really talented athletically this year, but also really young.”

Minot returns four state-qualifiers from last year’s squad in eighth-grader Brody Armstrong, freshman Tyler Strandberg and seniors Isaiah Crowe and Gabe Nehlsen. The Magicians placed fourth at the individual state tournament, but none of those returners landed on the podium.

“Those guys have a great opportunity to hopefully be on the podium this year at the state tournament,” Spooner said. “It’s a goal that they have and we’re gonna do everything we can as a coaching staff to help them reach that goal.”

Those four figure to be paramount in Minot’s success early in the year, from both points and leadership standpoints.

“I’m gonna have to step it up with getting pins and stuff like that, especially since we have a young team,” said Crowe, who wrestles in the 285-pound weight class. “I’m gonna have to kind of step it up and help the younger guys get experience.”

With a season under his belt, the 106-pound Armstrong exudes confidence despite being one of four eighth-graders on the roster. He said his teammates took him under their wing last year to help him get acclimated to varsity wrestling.

“The seniors gave me some help,” he said. “They helped me out with a lot of stuff, kind of showed me the ropes. We have a lot of young guys, hopefully I can help them a little bit.”

Crowe said as a senior, it’s his turn to get those new grapplers moving in the right direction. Experience comes best from meets, he said, but plenty can be done in practice, as well.

“A lot of it is drilling with them and going at a speed where they can still keep up, but they’re getting challenged,” Crowe said. “Helping them take what they’ve learned at that mat and transferring it (to meets) and getting better.”

Spooner said he’s made weightlifting a focal point for his younger wrestlers and has contemplated practicing twice a day to develop them more quickly. Though they lack experience, they certainly don’t lack drive, he said.

“With this group of kids, I think they can be convinced to run through a burning building,” Spooner said. “It’s kind of fun to have this group.”

The Magicians’ open their season Thursday with a home match against Dickinson, which placed third at individual state a year ago and returns the third-most state points.

Taking on top competition right away is a good chance for young guys to get their feet wet, Spooner said.

“It’s all about experience,” he said. “The more matches you get, the better off you’re gonna be by the end of the year. That’s just exactly what some of these young kids need.

“We need those matches. We need some close matches. And we need some wins to keep that confidence up and keep us heading in the right direction.”

Ryan Holmgren covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.

Update: This story inaccurately stated the roster status of senior Kimani Benjamin. He does not plan to wrestle this season. Changes have been made accordingly.