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Let's examine a few storylines to watch at this year's InterMat Classic.
Cole Fibranz, a 2017 state champion, will look to repeat as InterMat Classic champion at 220 pounds (Photo/Jeff Beshey, The Guillotine)
Five returning finalists back
Five finalists from last year's InterMat Classic return this year. The group is headlined by returning champion Cole Fibranz (Sartell, Minn.). Fibranz, a state champion in 2017 and third-place finisher last season, is competing at 220 pounds, the same weight class he won a Classic title in last year. This past summer, Fibranz became a Junior freestyle All-American by placing sixth in Fargo.
Also in the 220-pound weight class is another returning finalist, Ezayah Oropeza (Rosemount, Minn.). Last year he competed in the heavyweight division at the InterMat Classic, losing in the finals to Anthony Cassioppi. Oropeza was a state runner-up last season.
At 100 pounds, Brendan Howes (Anoka, Minn.) is back in the same weight class in which he finished as a runner-up last year. Howes had bonus-point victories in his first four matches at last year's Classic before falling in the finals. He was a state qualifier at the high school level, as well as a MN/USA Triple Crown winner and folkstyle All-American.
Ryan Henningson posted a 44-2 record last season (Photo/Jeff Beshey, The Guillotine)
Ryan Henningson (Winona, Minn.) will look to capture his first InterMat Classic title after finishing as a runner-up a year ago. He posted a 44-2 record last season and finished third in the state tournament. Henningson was a quarterfinalist in the Junior freestyle competition in Fargo this past summer.
Sebas Swiggum was an InterMat Classic runner-up last year and placed third in 2016 (Photo/Jeff Beshey, The Guillotine)
Junior National folkstyle finalist Sebas Swiggum (Apple Valley, Minn.), a University of Minnesota commit, was a runner-up at last year's InterMat Classic after placing third in the event in 2016. He will attempt to climb one more spot and bring home a title as a senior.
Junior high rising stars
The InterMat Classic has seen junior high wrestlers make their mark against high school competition. In 2011, Mark Hall (Apple Valley, Minn.) became the first junior high wrestler to win an InterMat Classic title when he accomplished the feat as an eighth-grader. He would go on to become a five-time InterMat Classic champion.
In 2016, two eighth-graders, Isaac Klinkhammer (Brandon Valley, S.D.) and Reid Ballantyne (Stillwater, Minn.), won titles. Last year, eighth-grader Logan Vaughan (Kasson-Mantorville, Minn.) won the title at 100 pounds. So who are the junior high wrestlers to watch at this year's event? Below are three wrestlers to keep an eye on.
Ryder Rogotzke, ranked as the nation's No. 7 junior high wrestler by InterMat, is entered at 132 pounds (Photo/Jeff Beshey, The Guillotine)
Ryder Rogotzke (East Ridge, Minn.): Rogotzke, an eighth-grader, is ranked No. 7 among all junior high wrestlers in the country by InterMat. As a seventh-grader competing at the high school level, Rogotzke compiled a 47-6 record with 39 pins. He won a USA Wrestling folkstyle national title this year, going 5-0 with five pins. He was also a national runner-up in Greco-Roman and placed third in freestyle. He is competing at 132 pounds on Saturday.
Pierson Manville (Shakopee, Minn.): Pierson Manville, like his older brothers Mason and Carson, won multiple national titles at the youth level. He claimed a Schoolboy national title this year in freestyle and finished as a runner-up in Greco-Roman. In 2017, Pierson won national titles in both freestyle and Greco-Roman. He will look to become the first Manville to win a title at the InterMat Classic. Mason placed third in 2011 as an eighth-grader, while Carson was a runner-up as a seventh-grader in 2015. He is entered at 106 pounds.
Gavin Nelson (Simley, Minn.): Nelson, who is competing at 152 pounds, won a Schoolboy national title this year in Greco-Roman and finished third in freestyle. He was a 2018 Minnesota/USA Triple Crown winner, claiming state titles in all three styles. Last season, Nelson compiled a 23-7 record as a seventh-grader competing at the high school level.
St. Paris Graham makes InterMat Classic debut
St. Paris Graham (Ohio) has one of the nation's most storied high school wrestling programs. The program consistently produces nationally ranked high school wrestlers, NCAA All-Americans and Olympic hopefuls. This year, for the first time ever, St. Paris Graham will be represented at the InterMat Classic. Ohio state finalists Nick Moore and Jeffrey Thomas, along with sophomore Eric Thomas, will be making the trip to Minnesota to compete against top wrestlers from the Midwest.
Moore, who has two older brothers on the Virginia Tech wrestling team, finished as a state runner-up last season as a freshman. He is ranked among the nation's top-50 sophomores by InterMat. He has been a finalist at the Super 32 Challenge in the middle school division. Moore will compete at 138 pounds, a weight class that includes state champion Blake Legred (United South Central, Minn.), state finalist Jack Ganos (Arrowhead, Wis.) and multiple-time state placer Tanner Kroells (Delano, Minn.), among others.
Jeffrey Thomas, the younger brother of Minnesota Gopher freshman Ryan Thomas, was a state runner-up as a freshman and NHSCA All-American in 2016. He was a state third-place finisher as a sophomore, and last season was unable to compete due to injury. He will compete at 145 pounds, while sophomore Eric Thomas will wrestle at 170 pounds.