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Section 3AA individual wrestling: Trojans get five to state

Worthington 106-pounder Hser Eh Pwae controls his rival in the Section 3AA individual wrestling finals Saturday. DOUG WOLTER/DAILY GLOBE1 / 2
Fulda/Murray County Central grappler Clayton Hartle stands atop the victory stand after winning the 113-pound weight class of the Section 3AA Individual Tournament.2 / 2

LUVERNE — The Worthington Trojans wrestling squad made big strides from last season to this season, and maybe even bigger strides from the start of the 2013-14 season to the end of it.

One week after reaching the finals of the Section 3AA team tournament, the Trojans qualified five wrestlers to the Minnesota state individual tournament Saturday from Luverne High School. The Trojans, who had eight matmen in the semifinals, emerged with four champions and one section runner-up.

Tenth-grader Hser Eh Pwae won his weight class at 106 pounds. Teammates Anthony Luft at 126, Zach Kempema at 160 and Blake Schroeder at 170 also won championships. Trojan Carson Hagen placed second at 195 pounds and will also compete at state this week at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Three other area competitors advanced out of Section 3AA. They are Fulda/Murray County Central sophomore Clayton Hartle, a champion at 113 pounds; Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove sophomore Logan Axford, a champ at 132 pounds; and Luverne senior Spencer Oeltjenbruns, a champion at 182 pounds.

Pwae’s weekend performance at 106 pounds was symbolic of the Trojans’ gutty overall effort. He was only the fourth seed, but he won his first three matches by fall before meeting Sean Houk of New Ulm in the title bout and winning there, 2-0 in overtime. Pwae won despite taking an injury time-out late in the third period for an ankle problem. But he took Houk down early in the overtime period to win.

He will bring a 33-7 record with him to St. Paul.

“Feels great. I worked so hard at it,” he said later with a sack of ice taped to his ankle.

Pwae said he felt confident during the championship match because he believed in his conditioning. And he had determination for the tournament because despite his seed he knew he could beat everybody he’d come against. “Two of the wrestlers in this tournament beat me by one point. So I wanted to beat them,” he said.

Luft returns to St. Paul having won a state championship in 2013. He is 38-2 and he moved through the sectional with two falls and a technical fall.

His approach at state, he said, will not change.

“Same as always. Same routine. That’s the only way you’re going to win. I feel like I’m at my peak right now. I’m peaking. The weight’s in check. Wrestling good.”

Luft believes he’s a better wrestler in his senior season because he’s “focusing more on perfecting things” and he already knows when he’s at St. Paul “not to let the crowd get to you. It’s a big place.”

Kempema, a senior, is 33-9 after decisioning United’s Mason Kwilinski 8-4 in the 160-pound title bout.

Schroeder, another senior, is 32-10. He had to go double overtime to dispatch Joe Weeding of United in the 170-pound championship, 5-3. The score was knotted at 2-2 after the first overtime period.

The fifth Trojan to earn a berth to St. Paul, junior Carson Hagen, will take a 32-4 record with him. Hagen, who finished fourth in the state tournament at 195 pounds last year and is currently ranked No. 2 in the state at the same weight, was the favorite to win his weight class on Saturday. But he lost a tight 5-4 championship bout to a physical Kory Brown of Fairmont/Martin County West, the tournament’s second seed. Hagen had to compete in a true second match, as well, where he prevailed in a fall in 5:23 over Lorenzo Hernandez of New Ulm.

At 113 pounds, Hartle went 4-0 in the sectional to improve his record to 25-7. In his title match, a 3-2 decision over Donny Bothun of United, he took a cautious approach and was called twice for stalling. In the third period he chose to be in the down position, and from there he shot out and scored a takedown with about 30 seconds remaining to secure his victory.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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