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Phoenix celebrate return of wrestling at LPS

December 15, 2018

Wrestling returned to Luther Prep on Thursday night, and the home crowd turned a simple exhibition into a celebration.

The Phoenix, who are wrestling as a varsity program for the first time since the 2004-05 school year, hosted reserve teams from Watertown and Lodi and got 18 matches in and won seven of them.

Each time a Luther Prep wrestler won, large portions of the student sections on opposite corners of the gym led raucous cheers.

“It’s really exciting how many fans that we had and I think it was giving our guys some emotion,” Luther Prep wrestling coach Ben Ewings said. “They were super excited to have the fans here. It’s fun to have that many people here. The No. 1 takeaway is that we got experience and that’s just so important for our wrestlers.”

Winning by fall against Lodi’s reserves were Ben Hillmer and Kevin Kamps each at 152 pounds and Kostia Skoryenki at 182. Nathan Wendland (120), Noah Cooks (126) and Jed Mittelstadt (160) won decisions. Josiah Moore won by fall at 138 in a match against Watertown.

The Phoenix wrestled two varsity duals earlier this season, winning at Big Foot before losing to Winnebago Lutheran Academy.

“We’re moving along,” Ewings said. “The thing that’s tough is we’re going against teams that have so much more experience than us. We’ve got very few with actual wrestling experience. As we move forward, not just this year, but down the road, too, we’ll hopefully build some of that experience. That’s just so helpful in wrestling. You really learn through experience as a whole.”

Skoryenski, a senior from Ukraine who enrolled at LPS as a sophomore, swelled with pride after pinning Lodi’s Ben Simplot in 3 minutes, 34 seconds. He went over to some of his fellow students in the front row and chest bumped one of his buddies, which earned his team a one-point unsportsmanlike conduct deduction. But it was just a scrimmage, after all. Better here than at the regional.

“We’ll be talking about that a little bit,” Ewings said. “We’ve had the wrestling club for the last two years. He’s been very excited and he’s been waiting for this, to show what he knows. He did a sport called Sambo and Judo as well growing up. They do a lot of physical sports in the Ukraine, not like a lot of the ones we have in the United States. I’ve had him in phys. ed and given him a hard time for that. I’m proud of him. He’s really working hard in the wrestling room and as a leader. He’s a good leader.”

So is Ewings, a former state medalist heavyweight for Lakeside Lutheran, who now teaches and coaches at his former rival school just a few miles down the road from Lake Mills.

“I still get to get out on the mat a little bit,” Ewings said. “I can’t say I didn’t picture this. This is exactly what I dreamed of as a high school student, coaching football and coaching wrestling, and here I am doing both of those things and working with kids as well.”

Luther Prep wrestles again on Saturday at the Waterloo Invitational.

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