BELLE FOURCHE — Belle Fourche brought a young wrestling team into the 2019-20 season, and ended it with seven state Class A tournament qualifiers.
Two of them placed in their respective weight classes.
Broncs’ head coach Bill Abell said the team brings in young athletes each season, but retaining them through high school poses a great challenge.
“That seems to be the common theme that I’ve been dealing with. I just finished my seventh season,” Abell said in describing that cycle.
“Having a room full of first- and second-year wrestlers, and then being able to finish like we did at state: that was relieving,” Abell added.
Ninth-grader Thomas McCoy (126 pounds) and senior Michael Streeter (285) earned sixth-place honors at state. Junior Colton Shelley (113 pounds), seventh-grader Owen Schreder (120), sophomore Cayden Wolfe (145), sophomore Cade Bickerdyke (160), and senior Chase Bickerdyke (182) also qualified.
Belle Fourche wrestlers won a total of seven matches at state in 2020. The Broncs did not win a single state match in 2018 or 2019.
Abell said that youth and a few early injuries were concern areas coming into the season
“We just kind of kept pushing through it, and the right kids were stepping up at the right time,” he added.
Abell said one of the biggest strengths centered on Chase Bickerdyke and Streeter, who represented the senior class. Both rebounded from early injury issues.
“They know how things are supposed to be and how things go,” Abell said. “They wanted to have their best senior year possible. Having that kind of leadership out there was great.”
Belle Fourche finished second at the Black Hills Conference tournament. McCoy won the 126-pound division title to lead the way; Streeter was second at 285.
The Broncs placed fifth at the Region 4A tournament, with Streeter claiming top honors at 285 pounds.
Abell addressed the team’s evolution throughout the season. He said some athletes competed the same way throughout and did not adjust accordingly.
“Some kids responded; some kids didn’t,” Abell said when discussing the post-match instruction they received. “The ones that had the most success were the ones responding to that intense criticism.”
On-mat highlights for Abell also included wrestlers faring better at state as the tournament progressed. He said they bounced back from first-round losses and finished to the best of their ability, with several battling for fifth and sixth places.
Abell immediately cited the name “Michael Streeter” when asked who improved leaps and bounds over expectations this season.
Streeter’s high school record was in the 48-win, 75-loss range coming into this season. “Just the way he wrestled was amazing,” Abell said of Streeter’s state effort.
Abell said Streeter fought his way through a knee injury that was originally thought would end his season.
“He didn’t let that get out in front of him,” Abell said. “I can’t say enough about him.”
Chase Bickerdyke and the coaches worked intensely on injury issues and the like. “For him to finish the way he did as well: that was pretty amazing,” Abell said.
Abell added Chase Bickerdyke especially stepped up at the Belle Fourche Invitational, placing third at 182 pounds.
“They expect wrestling practice to be tough,” Abell said in describing the seniors’ contributions. “They knew their role as team captains, and they took that seriously.
“They made sure everybody was in check and were in line with what we’re doing.” Abell added that determination helped the team finish as strongly as it did.
Abell sees a lot of promise in the future, with young athletes coming through the middle school ranks. He said a key is to keep McCoy healthy from past shoulder ailments.
To read all of today's stories, Click here or call 642-2761 to subscribe to our e-edition or home delivery.