The Perham wrestling team will end its regular season with a marquee matchup when they travel to Frazee to take on the Hornets on Friday, Feb. 2 at 7:30 p.m. The Yellowjackets enter the contest with a 23-1 mark in dual meets and are coming off a win at the Heart O’Lakes Conference Tournament.
The Hornets are coming off a second-place finish at the HOL Tournament and a 37-27 victory over West Central Area in a highly anticipated dual between Class A powers.
One of the unique aspects to the rivalry is the atmosphere at the Frazee gymnasium. Fans are expected to get there early as the gymnasium usually fills up fast when the two area state powers get together. Perham head coach Robb Moser said one of the things that makes it fun is the long history of the rivalry. He compared it to the basketball rivalry of Perham-Breckenridge and Perham-DGF, but add 30 years to it.
“I expect it to be a fun crowd and a big crowd. I expect Frazee to weigh some guys in at weights they don’t usually weigh them in at,” Moser said. “That’s part of the fun about wrestling, the jockeying around of people and creating some matches that the outsider hasn’t really thought about much before. It’s kind of a chess match.”
While its a big rivalry for the two teams, Moser said it’s mainly about refining techniques. The Yellowjackets are in Class AA, while the Hornets are in Class A. It gives both teams an opportunity to stamp their season with an exclamation point as they get ready for the postseason. This marks the final dual meet of the season for Perham. The Yellowjackets are ranked fourth in Class AA and are coming off the Heart O’Lakes Tournament in which they finished first, ahead of Frazee.
The two teams met once prior in Bemidji in the championship of the Rick Lee Duals. The Yellowjackets won the first meeting, 32-28, but were without Leighton Rach. The Yellowjackets have several state-ranked wrestlers heading into the contest. Owen Werner is ranked sixth at 106. Dylan Johnson is ranked 10th at 113, while Rach is ranked seventh at 132. Dawson Kellogg is ranked fourth at 170, Zach Peterson is sixth at 182 and Ty Moser is third at 195.
The Hornets are ranked second in Class A and have a strong contingent of ranked wrestlers as well. Michael Miller is ranked fourth at 113, while Tanner Schermerhorn is third at 126. Hudson Hiemenz is 10th at 152, while Tanner Eischens is ranked third at 160. Frazee’s Brett Graham is ninth at 182 and Luke Tweeton is ranked fourth at 220. Rounding out the field of ranked wrestlers is Tony Malikowski, who is ranked fifth at 285.
Moser said the key will be getting bonus points from their big guns. He said the Hornets know where the big guns lie for the Yellowjackets and they have to prevent giving up bonus points to those kids.
“In any of these duals at the end of the year that are high intensity, you can get a few pins here and there, you have to take those points,” Moser said. “Conversely, when you are outmatched, you can’t give up those points. Over the years, Frazee has been exceptional at not giving up some of those big bonus points and big pins. We have a team that’s been a little bit different than we have been the last two years. It will be interesting to see the maturation of our kids. For many of these kids, they wrestled Frazee in eighth grade at that gym. It’s come a long way and I think we will see a different maturity in which they are expected to get big bonus points.”
Moser said their tough schedule this year should help them and he hopes the kids won’t be flustered by the environment. Moser said they are excited for it and that the match is a lifetime memory, which they will be able to talk about in 30 years.
“It’s fun. A few years ago, I had a first time wrestling fan come to that match and he was hooked. I told him not to get used to wrestling matches like this. In that situation, it’s a little more rabid,” Moser said. “That’s what’s kind of fun. It’s a different experience for the kids. We tell them they have to enjoy this.”