Once Cameron Hulst wrapped his arm around his opponent’s head, he knew that he had no choice but to finish the job.

“I really sucked him in there and made sure he couldn’t get out,” Hulst said. “I was like, I really need to win this match for my team and my self-confidence.”

And win it Hulst did, putting Fertile-Beltrami’s Tyler Stuhaug on the mat to end his final regular-season match inside the Crookston High School gym with a pin at three minutes and 10 seconds.

“He just did a good job of riding and picking up a pin for us,” said Crookston head coach Wes Hanson.

The Pirates’ dual against the Falcons had already been just about wrapped up, as they went into Hulst’s bout at 152 pounds with a 36-3 lead. But Hulst’s victory brought some of the loudest cheers of the night, as the Crookston fans knew just what was at stake for the senior.

“Feels good having a lot of people out here to support me,” Hulst said. “It really means a lot to the team to be supported well.”

Added freshman Ethan Boll: “Gonna miss him. He commits a lot for the team.”

Much of Hulst’s role is that of a typical elder statesman. He’s the only senior wrestler on a team with six juniors and seven freshmen, and he knows and welcomes the responsibilities of that distinction. However, Hulst tries to be much more than just a veteran presence.

“I like to see myself as a role model for them,” Hust said. “But really, just to be everyone's friend and hang out with everybody and just get along, that's the main goal.”

That description, in some ways, speaks to the Pirates’ progression as a team since the start of the season. With a locker room heavy with youth, finding the right balance has been a challenge, but Hulst believes that Crookston has started to do so, and the benefits are showing on the mat.

“(Our chemistry) has gotten better,” Hulst said. “At the beginning of the season it was a little off, but I think we’ve all really come together.”

Hanson seems to agree, having praised the performance of the Pirates’ freshman during Tuesday night’s meet against Roseau and Fertile-Beltrami.

“They're gritty and they're coachable and they really like to compete in all situations,” Hanson said. “We got a bunch of young competitors that like to wrestle and like to win close matches especially.”

That was on display Tuesday, as despite the lopsided scores — the Pirates beat the Rams 69-6 and the Falcons 64-15, thanks to a large number of forfeits — several matches did go down to the wire, most notably Boll’s bout with Roseau’s Ben Olson at 182 pounds.

Neither wrestler gave each other an inch in regulation, and after six minutes the two went into overtime tied at 1-1. In the overtime period, Boll had multiple escapes, jumping back to avoid being pinned by Olson, and eventually gained the upper hand to score a 6-2 win.

“He stayed in great position from his feet,” Hanson said. “Ethan is very quick and athletic, and he was able to counter some good attacks from the Roseau guy. Staying in position throughout the match, I thought Ethan was able to wear his opponent out.”

Boll capped off his night with a win against Fertile-Beltrami’s Gabe Horgeshimer, moving up a weight class to 195 pounds and winning by decision to run his record as a freshman to 26-4.

“He was a little bigger and a little stronger,” Boll admitted, “but no complaining.”

Added Hanson: “He’s a team guy in terms of willing to do what’s best for the team, and if that means going up and wrestling a weight class he’s always willing to do that.”

The performances of Hulst and Boll were just two of the numerous highlights on the night for the Pirates. Greg Gonzalez picked up two wins at 220 pounds, while Cam Weiland and Braxton Volker won both of their matches at 132 and 138 pounds, respectively, to continue their hot streaks.

So while Tuesday night was for Crookston’s seniors — Hulst and the team’s three student managers — most apparent on the mat was the Pirates’ continuing development into a well-rounded team, one with chemistry and talent at every weight class and grade level.

The Times welcomes your feedback. You can send any comments or questions to our office at (218) 281-2730, Jacob Shames (405) 496-0168 or by email at jshames@crookstontimes.com.

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