Robert has been the Sports Editor for the Focus since 2010 covering multiple state and national championship teams and is a mainstay at state tournaments each season covering the successful, athletic programs of Perham and New York Mills High Schools.
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The New York Mills boys basketball team continued on a tear defeating Pillager 80-77 at home and on the road at Henning 67-55. The victories are the seventh and eighth consecutive wins after the Eagles got off to a tough 2-4 start to the season. NY Mills holds a record of 10-4. "We played some tough teams early," Eagle forward Isaiah Bauck said. Two of those early losses came to #3 ranked Sebeka, Battle Lake, who remains undefeated at 13-0 and 9-3 Bertha-Hewitt. On the contrary, Pillager came into the NY Mills gymnasium winless at 0-11.
The combined nature of heavy and hopeful Perham hearts was bolstered by sincere empathy from the West Central Area team and fans during and after the game Tuesday evening. Little sympathy was shown to the hosts on the floor, as the Yellowjackets improved to 12-0 after a 64-13 victory. Even missing Zach Gabbard, the Perham defense picked up right where it left off, holding the third team this season to single digits at the half.
The Concordia Cobbers had an historical evening at the Minnesota Duals Friday night in Perham. The Cobbers won three duals - including two against NCAA Division III top 10 teams - and also had two wrestlers break the school record for career victories. Seniors Justin Berns (157) and Phil Moenkedick (184) both won three matches to run their career win totals to 125, a new school record. "It was fun," Cobbers head coach Clay Nagel said.
Great teams have great leaders and the Yellowjacket gymnastics team routinely gets great performances from their leader, Kelsi Vomacka. Vomacka led Perham to their seventh consecutive State True Team title winning the all-around title with a score of 38.875, a new school record. Vomacka, the 2010 state runner-up in the all-around and on the balance beam, powered Perham to the title, with gold medal performances on the vault, balance beam and floor exercise. The only event she did not win was on uneven parallel bars, where Detroit Lakes' Amy Crawford took gold with a 9.725.
An injury depleted New York Mills girls basketball team came up a point short in a heartbreaker to Rothsay, 36-35 and were outgunned by Bertha-Hewitt, 58-34, both at home. "(Rothsay) was a game we knew we really had a good chance at winning, but we didn't play our best ball," Head Coach J.J. Weller said. Rothsay scored buckets early to take a lead and gain confidence.
Sam Pirrotta hit the mat and took care of business to quickly get Perham up 6-0 pinning Steve Holecek at 1:59 at 103 pounds. The high drama would come at 215 pounds, where with the help of a forfeit to heavyweight Jesse Hein, Cody Nylander brought home a 36-30 victory for the Yellowjackets in exciting fashion. The marquee matchup was to be Hein, ranked #2 in Class 2A versus #3 Nick Cervantes.
Just when it appears the Perham gymnasts have peaked, or can really do no better, barring perfection, they top themselves again. The Yellowjackets scored a season-high 147.75 points defeating Bemidji by over 26 points. Kelsi Vomacka continues to prove untouchable taking another all-around title with 38.50 points.
The New York Mills wrestling team kept rolling along after their victory over Perham, defeating Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale 44-25 and taking home a nail biter versus Barnesville 32-31, by criteria. Tyler Ehnert, Michael Meyer, Peter Stark, Seth Hofland and Tyler Patron all scored pins in the Eagles solid victory over Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale. Jeremiah Harper got the Eagles on the scoreboard early with a tight 4-3 decision over Justin Goron. New York Mills, 32 Barnesville 31 Tommy Selander and Shane Novak got the Eagles started on the right foot versus Barnesville. Selander was victorious at 103
It is never easy to go into the Frazee gymnasium and beat the Hornet wrestling team-even worse to have to do it twice. Perham returned to Frazee after a 60-6 defeat in December. This time, the Hornets were victorious, 47-13. Brandon Lueders came back in the waning seconds of his match versus Jordan Ketter at 119 pounds to keep the match close early. Lueders scored a near fall with under eight seconds remaining in the final period to come from behind for an exciting 5-4 victory. Lueders win cut Frazee's lead to 7-3.
Jayden Cullen, 100 butterfly, Ben Collette, 500 freestyle and Zach Langendorfer, 500 freestyle-all qualified for sections as Perham dominated Morris Area 118-63. The Jackets took first place in nine events. Randy Swanson held the top spot in the 200 I.M., along with Leighton Covington and Luke Potts finishing second and third. Swanson was also tops in the 100-butterfly in a time of 1:04.27. Cullen took second three seconds behind Swanson. Potts, Covington and Jonathon Siira swept the top three spots in the 100-backstroke.