PREP WRESTLING: Steuber crowned state champion
ST. PAUL -- Bronson Steuber raised his arms and pointed toward the Xcel Energy Center stands, flashing a wide smile in the direction of his family and girlfriend.
Moments later, the referee gripped Steuber's arm and raised it high above his head, signaling victory and capping the Jackson County Central sophomore's quest for redemption.
One year after falling short in the finals at 103 pounds, Steuber earned a 5-3 victory Saturday afternoon against Medford senior Austin Peters in the Class A championship match at 119 pounds.
"It's amazing," Steuber said. "It's a (heck) of a lot better than getting second, that's for sure."
It's the second time in a week that Peters has finished second behind Steuber, who defeated him 13-2 in the Section 2A championship match Feb. 28. Saturday marked the third meeting between the two friendly rivals. Steuber won all three.
"When you wrestle a kid three times, you know what he's going to do, and it gets to be pretty hard," he said.
That the match took place on Minnesota's biggest wrestling stage and featured thousands of fans, certainly didn't make it any easier.
"I think the nervousness fuels me," Steuber said. "It makes me know that he's good and that I'm going to have to wrestle at my top potential to beat this kid."
Saturday's match was much closer than the previous two meetings, even though it looked early on that Steuber was going to run away with it. He registered a quick takedown and immediately allowed Peters to escape so he could try to repeat the effort.
"I think (getting the first takedown) is really important," Steuber said. "The first one doesn't break a kid, but it shows that you can take him down. And if you're both up in the third period, he has to be on his toes because he knows he can be taken down at any time."
After a scoreless second period, Steuber elected to begin the third in the "down" position. Peters let him up, putting himself at a two-point disadvantage, in order to work from the neutral position. Moments later, Peters shot low, took hold of Steuber's legs and lifted him off the mat. Steuber was hanging upside down on Peters' back, clinging to his opponent's leg, when Peters dropped to his knees and slammed Steuber head-first to the mat.
Peters was penalized a point for the piledriver-like move, giving Steuber a 4-1 lead. Peters then recorded a takedown and immediately allowed an escape to make it 5-3 with nine seconds remaining, but Steuber's sprawling defense prevented an overtime-forcing takedown.
Steuber was the only area wrestler to walk off the mat for the final time this season with a championship.
Adrian's Nate Lynn, Fulda/Murray County Central's Justin Reinsma, and Windom/Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin's Spencer Johnson each suffered losses in their Class AA title matches.
Lynn, a freshman 103-pounder making his first appearance at the state tournament, went back and forth with Thief River Falls/Goodridge's Jacoby Bergeron.
Lynn fell behind 2-0 after allowing an early takedown and eventually took a 3-2 lead. But Bergeron answered with a takedown with 21 seconds remaining in the first period and eventually built a 10-4 lead midway through the third.
Lynn, though, was no stranger to comebacks. He overcame a five-point deficit in the third period Friday to defeat Scott West's Gabe Fogarty in the team consolation semifinals, and he stormed back from a 5-0 deficit in the individual semifinals Friday to defeat top-ranked Max Anderson, of Dassel-Cokato.
Bergeron wouldn't allow a third.
The sophomore, who defeated Fulda/MCC's Elissa Reinsma in the first round, fended off a furious rally and claimed a 12-8 victory.
Johnson was unable to get a comeback started.
The junior 171-pounder fell behind 2-1 midway through the third period and was unable to record a go-ahead takedown in the final 54 seconds
Lynn likely will have three more chances to get back to the state tournament, and Johnson another. Reinsma, however, is done.
Reinsma, a senior, was making his fifth consecutive appearance at the state meet and was coming off back-to-back fifth-place finishes.
His opponent in the finals was a familiar one. Reinsma earned a 5-2 victory against Devon Bonds in the quarterfinals last year at 125 pounds.
But Bonds exacted a measure of revenge Saturday, earning a 6-3 victory over Reinsma to claim the title. He celebrated the victory with a series of backsprings followed by a backflip.
After a scoreless first period, Reinsma opened the second with an immediate reversal. But Bonds made it 2-1 on an escape before taking a one-point lead on a takedown. He opened the third period with an escape to make it 4-2.
A technical foul called on Bonds, who was very aggressive with his hand fakes and was slapping Reinsma's head hard, even cutting him above the eye with a swipe early in the first period, made it 4-3 with 33 seconds remaining. But Reinsma couldn't take down Bonds, who countered a desperation shot in the closing seconds with a takedown to seal the victory.
JCC junior Jessie Regalado overcame a three-point deficit midway through the second period to earn a 4-3 victory over Southland senior Matt Schroeder and claimed third place at 130 pounds in Class A.
Regalado scored on a reversal in the third period to take a one-point lead before riding Schroeder the rest of the way for the win.
Regalado's teammate, Cooper Moore, lost his third-place match Saturday and finished fourth at 140 pounds in Class A.
Moore, a freshman, never led in a 5-2 loss to Yellow Medicine East senior Casey Field, who entered the tournament as the top-ranked wrestler in the weight class.
Windom/Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin's Sam Fischenich, Fulda/MCC's Andy Henning, and Adrian's Shea Klooster each placed fifth in Class AA.
Fischenich, a senior, cruised to a 10-1 victory over Totino-Grace's Quinton Thiele to claim fifth at 135 pounds.
Fischenich registered an early takedown to take a 2-0 lead, and he had Thiele on his back for the final minute of the second period en route to a 7-1 lead entering the third.
Henning, a senior, ended his high school career by pinning Totino-Grace sophomore Anthony Gullickson in 3:19.
Henning built a 5-0 lead midway through the second period before putting Gullickson in a cradle.
Klooster, a senior, ended his high school career by defeating Scott West's Michael Kroells for the second time in three meetings at this year's state tournament.
Kroells, a freshman, earned a 12-10 overtime victory Wednesday in the first round of the individual tournament to send Klooster to the consolation bracket.
On Friday, with Scott West holding a large lead over the Dragons in the consolation semifinals of the team tournament, Adrian's coaches asked Klooster if he wanted another shot at Kroells.
"They asked if I wanted him again, and I said, 'Yeah,'" Klooster said. "They didn't know if I'd see him again, and I wanted another shot at him. I just wanted to show him that the first time wasn't my greatest wrestling out there."
Klooster won a 9-6 decision over Kroells, who lost back-to-back matches in the individual tournament to set up another meeting with Klooster for fifth place.
Klooster, who entered the tournament ranked No. 5 at 189 pounds, trailed 3-1 Saturday before tying the score on a last-second takedown to end the second period. Klooster then earned an escape to start the third, and he followed with a takedown to take a 6-3 lead.
Kroells eventually pulled to within two, 8-6, late in the third period, but Klooster sealed the victory with a takedown.
"I'll take it," Klooster said. "I came here ranked fifth, and I got fifth, so I did what they expected out of me."