The Raiders wrestling program is under new leadership with Tim Haneberg taking over, but don’t anticipate much change. Haneberg, who is going into his ninth year with Hastings wrestling, said there won’t be many major changes as the team looks to reload, not rebuild. If anything, they will double-down on their reputation as being well-conditioned and technically sound.

Hastings came just short of team state last winter, falling in the section finals to East Ridge, but did send six seniors to the individual state tournament. The Raiders graduated eight seniors from its starting lineup last season, but Haneberg said he’s confident in those who will step in to fill the gaps left.

“We graduated a ton of kids but we’re really loaded with a lot of other good kids who’ve been wrestling for a long time,” he said. “We were really fortunate last year, a lot of those kids got varsity experience too, so we’re going to reload with kids who may not be big names or have a ton of varsity experience, but do have some varsity experience and just really good JV records last year and a lot of time on the mat. I think the team that we’re going to put out there at the end of the season is going to be really, really tough.”

The team’s strength will lie in their middle-weights where they bring the most back. Haneberg said that freshman Josh Route put on some good weight in the offseason and will wrestle in the 126-132 pound range after being at 106 last year. Fellow freshman Aiden Erickson, who was right above him at 113 in 2018-2019, will stay above Route this year in the 132-145 area and they both will be followed up by senior John Kendall who was a state qualifier two years ago. As you get to the middle-upper weights, Hastings will get back senior Devon McSorley who missed time last year due to injury. Then in the upper weights, Haneberg said that they have several guys all clustered around the same weight who they will be able to shuffle up and down the lineup. The lower weights will be filled by younger wrestlers.

“I don’t think we have any weak weight classes or anything like that, for the most part it’s pretty consistent all the way through the lineup with above average kids who have a lot of experience,” he said.

Senior John Kendall, who was a state qualifier two years ago, is a captain this season and will be an anchor for the Raiders in the middle of the lineup. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia
Senior John Kendall, who was a state qualifier two years ago, is a captain this season and will be an anchor for the Raiders in the middle of the lineup. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia

Excellence is still expected for Hastings wrestling and their goals this year reflect that.

“Our goal is always to make it to the state tournament as a team and I think we have a really good shot at making it back again, which would be pretty sweet,” Haneberg said. “The team section tournament is in Hastings this year, so that would be pretty cool at home. I think we could send a lot of kids to the state tournament, last year we sent six … we were kind of senior loaded last year, but I think we could go way over that this year. I think we could probably send closer to 10 possibly.”

Defending section champion East Ridge will be a non-factor this year after suffering mass defections, including their top wrestlers and head coach. It will most likely come down to Woodbury and Hastings to determine who moves on to team state. Simley remains the class of the Metro East Conference, but Haneberg said to expect Hastings, Mahtomedi and South St. Paul to be in the tier below with the Raiders having the advantage.

The Raider captains for the year are Kendall and junior Nolan Myers, who will most likely wrestle in the 145-152 range. Their first action comes when they host their annual Raider Duals on Saturday, Nov. 30, which will be an absolute meat grinder.

“Raider Duals is going to be pretty tough this year,” Haneberg said. “We’ve got Shakopee, they’re probably the best team in the state in (class) AAA, Forest Lake who was a team state qualifier last year, St. Francis who always brings a really tough team and Coon Rapids is going to be there as well, they beat us on tie-breakers last year. And we’re wrestling all of them, so it’s going to be a real tough day.”

Other highlights of the schedule are they will be going to Northfield on Dec. 14, they will compete in the Bi-State Classic in Wisconsin again this year as well as the famous Minnesota Christmas Tournament in Rochester Dec. 20-21. After the Raider Duals, they get an early look at Woodbury when the Royals host a quadrangular on Thursday, Dec. 5, and then they go to Park on Dec. 7.