Leavin' it all on the mat
The same blood, sweat and tears that these young men expelled from their bodies through a long arduous season was left on the wrestling mats at the Xcel Energy Center Saturday, as four area grapplers claimed the Minnesota State High School League...
The same blood, sweat and tears that these young men expelled from their bodies through a long arduous season was left on the wrestling mats at the Xcel Energy Center Saturday, as four area grapplers claimed the Minnesota State High School League's ultimate prize -- a state title.
The final day of the tournament culminated with the team and individual championship bouts, where Jared Knips, Nick Henning, Travis Elg and Torey Stewart finished the day with gold medals hanging around their necks. Andy Witzel, Cody Reverts and Cole Von Ohlen each donned a silver medal at tournaments end.
"I'm a little relieved," three-time state titlist Elg said following his 140-pound title match. "But there wasn't a lot of pressure on me since I didn't win last year."
Elg (pictured above, center) claimed his third title with a 10-7 decision over Matt Burns of Watertown-Mayer. Elg was the 2003 champ at 103 pounds and won again in 2004 as a 119-pounder. Elg, a senior with the Windom/Mountain Lake-Butterfield-Odin Cobras, finishes the season with an unblemished record of 45-0.
Elg appeared apprehensive to start his match, falling behind 2-0 after the first period. But Elg stormed back in the second with two takedowns and a reversal to lead 6-5 heading into the final period of his high school career. Two more takedowns in the third put an exclamation on the match -- earning Elg another trip to the podium.
"I had a terrible first period," Elg said. "I was a little timid, but I turned it around in the second and third -- started wrestling more aggressive."
Knips (pictured far right) and Stewart, both members of the Jackson County Central Huskies, won their first state titles. Knips, a senior heavyweight at JCC, will have to look toward the collegiate ring for more championships, while Stewart, a sophomore will have two more years to earn some more hardware.
The only points scored in Knips' match with Fulda/Murray County Central's Andy Witzel came in the second period with Knips in the down position. The towering heavyweight pulled out of Witzel's grasp and swung himself behind the Warrior wrestler for two points. The remainder of the match was just chin-to-chin grappling.
"It feels great to win the title," Knips said. "I wrestled hard through the tournament and managed to get a reversal on Andy in the final."
Stewart found himself behind early in his match, as opponent Chris Kragt of Milaca/Faith Christian scored a quick takedown to go up 2-0. But the muscular 130-pounder bounced back to lead 6-3 by the end of the first. Stewart was well in control the rest of the way, scoring on several takedowns and two nearfalls -- winning a 16-4 decision.
"I wanted to go out there and outwork him," Stewart said. "I tried to listen to my coach as much as possible and do what he suggested. He's (Randy Baker) a great coach -- just went out there and won it for him."
Henning, from F/MCC, entered the competition with an impeccable 41-0 record. His opponent, Brent Eidenschink of Detroit Lakes, boasted the only other perfect record (36-0) in the 189-pound division. They each managed to post a single point in the first period and the 1-1 score held until the closing moments of the match.
With 15 seconds remaining and the wrestlers in the neutral position, Henning bulled Eidenschink to the mat. He fought to gain control, and with 3 seconds left muscled his way into position for a 2-point takedown and a state championship.
"It's really great to have it over with," Henning said following the match. "I was nervous the whole match -- just tried to keep my focus. He's (Eidenschink) great -- really good competition."
Von Ohlen, another JCC product, was moments away from a title of his own. The 103-pounder fought his way to a 7-7 tie in the third period with St. Michael-Albertville's David Thorn.
It looked as though the Huskie sophomore had scored a takedown with about 20 seconds left in the match. But the official ruled that Von Ohlen didn't have control before going outside the ring. Thorn recuperated to score a takedown of his own with 3 seconds left to win the title with a 9-7 decision.
Reverts, a junior from Adrian, met up with the defending champion at 215 pounds -- Joe Nord of Waconia. The senior was primed for another title, as he wrestled with perfect technique and control. Reverts' advances were thwarted each time by Nord's calculated responses. Scoring a few points each period, Nord won by a 9-1 decision and claimed the title.
Dragon teammates Will Lutmer (Hwt.) and Brandon Bullerman were slated to wrestle in the afternoon session for third and fifth place, respectively. Lutmer fell in his bid, as Andrew Peralta of Thief River Falls -- an opponent Lutmer defeated to reach the semifinals -- squeaked out a 3-1 decision, leaving Lutmer in fourth place.
Bullerman, who finished in sixth place last year at 135 pounds, was back looking for fifth place in the same weight class. But unfortunately for the senior, he was injured in Adrian's third place team match earlier in the day and forfeited his match to Samuel Schad of Long Prairie-Grey Eagle.
W/ML-B-O's Josh Falk (103), who lost Von Ohlen in the quarterfinal round of the tournament, also wrestled for fifth place in his class. But Luke Schlee of Grand Meadow/Leroy Ostrander/Kingsland ran away with it 13-3, putting the eighth-grader in sixth place.
""I was just happy to make it to the state tournament," Falk said. "And I placed, so I feel good about making it this far."