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Yellowjacket wrestlers reach career milestone

Ben Nelson

It's been quite the season for the Perham Yellowjacket wrestling team.

The Yellowjackets capped off their 2016-17 regular season with an impressive 25-1 mark, achieved the No. 1 seed for the Section 8AA Team Tournament and a No. 4 ranking in the state by the Guillotine.

Along the way, Ben Nelson, Dylan Fudge and Zach Peterson eclipsed the 100 win plateau for their careers.

Dylan Fudge

"It is a very unique situation to have three guys make it to 100 wins in one season, especially when two of them are sophomores," Perham wrestling head coach Robb Moser said. "We have always tried to have a very competitive schedule, so to see 100 wins is a testament to their toughness, skill and durability." It was a long wait for Nelson to achieve his 100th win. He finished the 2015-16 season with 99 wins. He captured the mark in the first round at the Kaatz Memorial Tournament in Wadena in their season opening match.

"Nelson is older and not prone to saying a bunch. He simply knows how to win. He has carved out a wrestling style that fits his skill set, body time and he is rarely careless," Moser said. "He is an exceptionally smart wrestler. If you think about a guy who does his job every single day, I think it is Ben. He truly has earned his wins."

Nelson has been dealing with the injury bug throughout the season. He is returning to full strength at the right time, with the team preparing to make a run to the Class AA Tournament. Nelson said he feels fresh and ready to go.

"It felt good, especially for my first win," Nelson said. "It set my goals a little higher. I wanted to get to 135, but that didn't pan out. I hope to get top 3 in state. I need to keep my speed up and be consistent. I couldn't ask for a better career. I have accomplished everything I have wanted to and more."

Nelson was joined by a pair of sophomores in the 100 win club. Both sophomores wrestle with a different style, with Fudge bringing the most flash to the team, according to Moser. Fudge achieved the feat during a match with Minneota at the Tracy Dual Tournament.

"He is the one guy that could get a 10 second pin, but he is also the kid that you are not quite comfortable with when he has a 14 point lead," Moser said. "I really think he has matured this season and makes fewer mistakes. He has worked hard to get his wins and he has been a solid anchor in our lineup for much of the last four years."

It was a rough start to the season for Fudge, but he battled back. He's been a key member for the Yellowjackets the past four seasons. Along with his teammates, his eyes are set on a bigger prize.

"I didn't have a good beginning of a year. I'm just staying strong and working everyday to get better and do well at the end of the year," Fudge said. "I'm not focused on how many wins I have, I'm focused on how good I do, hopefully, at the state tournament. I'd rather have a state title."

Peterson eclipsed the 100 win mark at the Mid-State/Heart O'Lakes Tournament in Pelican Rapids, needing to work overtime to pick up his win in a grueling match with Park Rapids' Cody Dravis. Peterson has been a mainstay in the Yellowjacket lineup and eclipsed the mark wrestling in the upper weights, which is a rarity for wrestlers of his age. Moser believes Peterson to be the heart of the Yellowjacket team.

Zach Peterson

"Zach is almost always serious, but rarely is he too serious," Moser said. "His teammates respect him immensely. He is committed to improvement every single day. I believe he sets the tone for our younger kids and he always has the big picture in mind. If you want the definition of a wrestler, I think you have to look to Zach."

Peterson said he was tired after the match, but felt really good and was happy with securing that win. Peterson added that it's an honor to join the 100 win club.

"It felt really good and I was really happy. I thanked my coaches and my dad. It's an honor, with all those Perham guys that have won 100," Peterson said. "They all have put in a lot of sweat and tears, grinding it out up in that wrestling. It felt really cool to be one among them. I want to keep working."

Moser said the team doesn't talk about individual goals; their focus is on team goals. However, he thinks all the Yellowjacket wrestlers know they should aspire to have their names on the state placement board, and to get their pictures up on the state champion board.

The Yellowjackets have their sights set on the Section 8AA Team Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 18 and the Individual Tournament on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 24 and 25, in Fergus Falls.

Jason Groth

 Groth is a Minnesota Newspaper Association award-winning Sports Editor of the Perham Focus and the Wadena Pioneer Journal. Groth worked in Grand Rapids as the Sports Director at KOZY/KMFY radio for two years and prior to that he was the Sports Editor/Writer for the Grand Rapids Herald-Review for seven years. 

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