winter sports

Thirty-one Knights ready to hit the mat

Kingsbury County Knights ready for season

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One thing is for certain. Wrestling’s popularity is stronger than ever in Kingsbury County. This year the Kingsbury County Knights (KCK) have a total of thirty-one wrestlers practicing for the season. Local popularity is boosting the team’s numbers as evidenced by the larger number of sixth graders coming into the program than the coaches anticipated.

Years ago, the schools were struggling with just seven students showing up for wrestling, and now this year, the numbers are up again. Not only is wrestling popular with the students, but attendance is increasing with aunts, uncles, grandparents, family and community supporting their events.

The KCK wrestling team is a cooperative between three schools, Arlington, Lake Preston and De Smet. Team practices rotate through the schools’ facilities. By utilizing a cooperative between the three schools, the numbers are there to have a high school team and compete statewide. The Knights’ team is currently made up two wrestlers from Lake Preston, thirteen from Arlington and sixteen from De Smet.

“We have some hard-working kids with quite a bit of experience,” said Assistant Coach Mike Johnson. “We did lose some good kids obviously, but we have a number of wrestlers returning. We have two state place winners returning. The kids have worked hard in the off-season. So, we're looking to have a good year.”

This year the team lost three seniors, all three had qualified for state, and one, Alec Dobson, was a three-time state place winner. KCK faces another challenge this year.

“We have many of our kids bunched up in the same weight classes,” said Head Coach Steve Gilbertson. “We would like to have them spread out throughout the different classes. The team is also short on upper weights, but that's just the way it goes as some things you can't control.”

Injuries kept some of the players from competing at state last year, but this season they are healed up and ready to go along with the returning state qualifiers.

“We're glad to have them back,” said Gilbertson. “That is really a boost for us. We have good young kids, good middle, good upper-class and all great kids. We have quite a variety.”

Last year, the COVID pandemic also brought up some challenges for all state high school wrestlers with restrictions, and the way the competitions were set up. This year, activities should be back to “normal.”

Gilbertson has been the head coach for the last thirteen years and assistant coach eight years before that. In the eighties and nineties, Gilbertson was the head coach in Hamlin.

“We're excited about how the team is developing,” he said. “Those young kids are getting better and replacing those kids that went out last year. We are excited about trying to make it to the team's Dual’s State Tournament and qualifying as many kids as we can for that. So, we are looking to improve every day.”

Johnson is the assistant coach and has been with the team fourteen years. He wrestled for De Smet when he was a high schooler and then at Northern State University.

“We have a good team and a bunch of hard-working kids,” said Johnson. “That is the one thing I will say. You never have to tell kids to work hard because they have a good work ethic. I can develop wrestling skills with a kid, but I cannot develop a work ethic. So, that is a great thing about the wrestlers. Come on out and support the Knights, because they are a lot of fun to watch right now. They really are.”

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