Four was definitely not the loneliest number for Perry’s matmen at this past Saturday’s Raccoon River Conference Tournament.
The Bluejays had their fill of the podium as four wrestlers stood tall and proud representing several different weight classes at the Jan. 26 event hosted by Bondurant-Farrar High School.
“Another hard fought day for the Bluejays,” head coach Mark Weber said. “The Raccoon River Conference featured some very tough teams this year.”
As he’s been doing most of this season, veteran 138-pound Kaleb Olejniczak represented his team at the top of the winner’s podium.
“Kaleb finished the regular season strong today with his first-place finish,” Weber said.
The senior only faced two competitors. He defeated the first with a 17-2 Technical Fall and the other in a 12-3 Major Decision in his first place bout. He now turns his attention to the post season.
“Sectionals is up next,” he said. “Just the fact that I have experience, so I am not nervous, just excited.”
Freshman teammate, 106 pound Cole Nelson, was one win behind Olejniczak for first. Nelson’s second place finish saw him earn a 4-3 decision before his final match.
“Cole Nelson followed behind, losing in the finals to a tough opponent who we hope to see again this post-season,” the head coach said.
Nelson stood toe-to-toe against the host’s very own Riley Anderson. The two went through all three periods before the latter earned the 4-1 decision.
Cole Snyder and Justin Stammer placed fourth in their respective weight class. Snyder, a Perry junior, wrestled in the 182 class while Stammer, a senior, grappled at 152.
Snyder won his first match with a 35-second pinfall, but was sent to the consolation rounds after dropping the next match. He earned another pinfall win before dropping his third-place match, an 8-4 decision.
“There was some tough competition,” Snyder said. “For sectionals, I just have to keep moving no matter what happens and take it one match at a time.”
Stammers’ road was almost identical to Snyder’s. He also won his first match by pinfall before being bounced to the consolation round in his next match. He then won a 4-3 decision but also lost his third-place match in a 13-4 MD.
“I felt like I wrestled smart in my matches but I need to be more aggressive on my feet and on top as well as not giving up easy points in order to make it late into the postseason,” Stammer said. “For me, it was one last test to see what I need to fine tune before we get into the postseason.”
Two other’s Bluejays recorded fifth-place finishes, including Tanner Burgin at 120 and Jacob Nelson at 132.
According to coach Weber, he was under the assumption that it would be 1-5 on the podium just like last season. However, they wrestled out to fifth place, he noted.
Burgin began his day with a loss in the quarterfinals and then another one in the consolation semifinals before winning his fifth-place match with a 2-1 decision.
It was different for Nelson, who won his first match and then found himself winning the fifth-place match due to an injury after losing in the semis and consolation semis.
A trio of Bluejays also placed in the top 10. Bryan (145) and Erick (160) Funez, along with Riece Graham (113), earned the sixth spot.
Unfortunately for Bryan Funez, the junior suffered a season ending injury during his final match. He dislocated his elbow and was transported to the hospital in Des Moines where it was put back into place, according to Weber. He is already on the road to recovery.
“I don’t think there is much to say but to thank everyone who has supported and believes in me to get better soon and work hard to finish off where I was stopped sadly,” Bryan Funez said. “It’s hard finishing a season early with an injury but it’s very exciting knowing I have one more year to improve and to hopefully do better next year.”
“I am very grateful that I have family and friends who are helping me on this road to recovery, I cannot thank them enough. And I want to thank my teammates and coaches especially for helping me get better in the room and be a better person every day.”
Overall the Bluejays finished seventh with 91.5 points. The top six schools were Carlisle with 205.5, Ballard with 164, the host with 159, Winterset 153, Carroll 144 and ADM 118.5. Boone was eighth with 70.
“Today was a good test for the team before sectionals next weekend,” Weber said. “Despite how everyone finished, today was once again full of fight each match. We had numerous ‘rematches’ from earlier in the season in which we narrowed the gap and showed improvement in small ways. With every competition, the guys learn more about themselves as wrestlers and as fighters, so each time on the mat is an opportunity to learn.”
The Bluejays are off from competitive matches until Feb. 2 when they compete in sectionals at Webster City.
“This week will be all about building confidence for each individual and fine-tuning their best positions,” Weber said. “No matter how the season went for them all, this postseason is a clean slate and the goal is to win one match at a time. The most important match is the one right in front of you. Each individual controls their fate. That is the best part about wrestling. Leave it all on the mat and give it all you have.”