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With only five juniors and seniors, but plenty of success, it's easy to forget just how young some of Valley City High School's wrestlers are.
But in Thursday's 36-33 home dual loss to Jamestown, several of the Hi-Liners struggled against older competition in key matches.
"In reality we're a really young team," said Valley City coach Aaron Larson. "We wrestled fine, of course we wanted to win, but we're learning."
Larson said the dual played out about how he expected it to, with one of the key matches coming at 132 pounds.
The match pitted Valley City's Jackson Lemnus, a freshman, against Jamestown junior Mitch Ova.
Lemnus controlled the bout early, but made a late mistake and eventually lost 9-5.
"He wrestled fine, he just made one mistake," Larson said. "He tried a move we call the suicide cradle and he got caught. That was the difference in the match."
Later on, the Hi-Liners faced a similar age disadvantage when freshman Taylor Johnson lost by decision to Junior Ryan Hillerud.
But, in terms of the score, the Hi-Liners were constantly forced to come back.
Jamestown took an 18-0 lead early after Paxton Mewes pinned Cole McGough at 106, won by forfeit at 113, and had a pin by Jaden Horsted, a junior, over seventh grader Cody Peterson.
The Hi-Linersâ€™ first points of the match came at 126 pounds, when Mark Miller got a technical fall in the third round over Keith Shahin to narrow it to 18-5, and the Lemnus loss made it 21-3.
Shane Undem then beat Brandyn Harr and Reed Beckman won by forfeit at 145 pounds to make it 21-15, but lost the next two matches by a decision and by forfeit to go down 30-15.
Stephen Radermacher then picked up a decision win at 170 pounds but the Hi-Liners' Wyatt Bjornson lost by pin at 182.
The next two matches were both forfeits by the Blue Jays, who opted not to wrestle Brandon Larson at 195 or Brady Beckman at 220.
"I was a little disappointed that they forfeited to our two seniors at their last home dual," Aaron Larson said. "They had kids weighed in and ready to compete, so I was a little disappointed in that."
Instead, Noah Kaber officially got the win at 195 and Larson had his hand raised at 220.
The forfeits narrowed Jamestown's lead to 36-30.
Steven Horner faced Nate Purcell in the heavyweight match, largely controlling the match until he was injured with one second left in the second period.
He then wrestled defensively in the third period and got a 10-4 decision.
The meet was the final dual of the season. The Hi-Liners wrestle at the Fertile-Beltrami tournament this weekend and then have the Eastern Dakota Conference Regional Tournament in Devils Lake Feb. 14.
Though Aaron Larson was disappointed over the dual loss, he felt good about the team heading into the final stretch of the season.
"Overall we're practicing hard, we're actually fairly healthy for this time of year and we're hoping we can have a good tournament on Saturday and carry it into regionals," he said.