Well the leaves have fallen, the temperature has fallen, and we've even had some snowfall, which means only one thing -- winter is approaching.

And winter is wrestling.

With many varsity wrestling programs starting up practice this week I thought I’d recognize some of the Tri-County area’s top wrestlers.

For those of you who follow wrestling closely these young men and their accomplishments will come as no big surprise. But for those of you who may not follow as closely, these are kids who could be competing in the Minnesota State Finals at the Xcel Energy Center this upcoming March.


    Grade: Junior
    School: St. Cloud Apollo High School
    Last Year: Class 3A State Champion @ 119 pounds
    2012 Expected Weight Class: 126 or 132
    Mitch Bengston is possibly the most decorated high school wrestler this area has ever seen. In 2011 he won the class 3A state title at 119 pounds and finished the season with an undefeated record. He also won the class 3A state championship in 2010 at 112 pounds, and in 2009 at 103 pounds. In 2008 he placed 5th at the state tournament at 103 pounds as a 7th grader. If Mitch can win another state championship this year he would be the 16th person in state history to win 4 Minnesota State Wresting titles. And he would also have the opportunity, in 2013, to become just the 5th person in state history to win 5 Minnesota State Wrestling championships! Mitch holds a high school career record of 178 wins to just 5 loses and is currently rated 7th in the nation, at 126 pounds, by Intermat.

    Mitch in 2011 after winning his 3rd state title. (Facebook)

    Grade: Senior
    Foley High School
    Last Year: Class 2A State Champion @ 160 pounds
    2012 Expected Weight Class: 160 or 170
    Taylor Lewandowski won the class 2A State Championship, in 2011, at 160 pounds when he defeated Micah Barnes (then ranked #1 in AA at 160 by The Guillotine) of Simley by a score of 3-2. This was Taylor’s first state title; however it was not his first trip to the tournament. In 2009 he qualified for the tournament as a freshman, and in 2010 he got his first taste of the podium when he placed 5th at 160 pounds. Taylor’s 2011 state title was the 3rd for a Foley wrestler in the past 5 years.

    Taylor in 2011 after winning his first state title. (Submitted Photo)

    Grade: Senior
    School: Holdingford High School
    Last Year: Class 1A Runner-up @ 135 pounds
    2012 Expected Weight Class: 145 or 152
    Mike’s 2011 state finals appearance was his first, but it came as no surprise. He qualified for the state tournament in 2009 as a freshman and won 2 matches at the tournament in 2010 as a sophomore. Mike won his first 3 matches of the 2011 state tournament before losing the final to Bronson Steuber of Jackson County Central by a score of 6-3. Mike has already became one of the most accomplished wrestlers to ever walk the hallways of Holdingford high school, and in 2012, he will look to cap off his great career with a high school state championship.

    Mike (right) in 2011 just seconds before competing for a state championship. (Facebook)

    Grade: Junior
    School: Foley High School
    Last year: Placed 3rd @ 103 pounds in class 2A
    2012 Expected Weight Class: 113
    Tristan made his first ever state appearance in 2011 and he made it count! He advanced to the semifinals before losing an exciting match to the eventual champion, Kyle Gliva of Simley, by a score of 3-2. Tristan got back to his winning ways in the 3rd place match and defeated his opponent by a 9-3 decision. Tristan recently saw success at the USA wrestling nationals, where he placed 2nd, in Greco-Roman as a Cadet and you can bet he’ll have a state title in his sights this year.

    Tristan Manderfeld. (Facebook)

    Grade: Senior
    School: Sauk Rapids-Rice High School
    Last year: Placed 4th @ 103 pounds in class 3A
    2012 Expected Weight Class: 113 
    Erik advanced to the state semifinals for the first time last year but fell just short of the state finals. He is a 2-time state entrant and has taken home a section 8AAA championship both years. Erik will enter the season as one of the top 113 pounders in the state and will look to become the first state wrestling champion in Sauk Rapids-Rice history.

    Erik scoring a takedown in 2011 during his 3rd place match. (Facebook)

    Grant Nehring - Junior- St. Cloud Apollo - Placed 3rd in 2011 State Tournament.
    Marcus Hamer - Junior- Kimball - Did not place in 2011.
    Tanner Mills - Junior- Kimball - Did not place in 2011.
    Keith Thell - Junior- Foley - Did not qualify in 2011 (injury); Placed 5th in 2010.
    Jerrad Nieland - Junior - St. Cloud Tech - Did not place in 2011.