SHERBURN -- A seventh-grader won the biggest match of the night. And the team’s lone senior brought it home.
The Worthington Trojans edged New Ulm 39-36 in their first match of the Section 3AA team wrestling tournament Thursday at Martin County West High School, earning the No. 2 seed a berth in Saturday’s semifinals.
Worthington’s Chase Byrne defeated New Ulm sophomore Brayden Gibson by fall in 3:44 at 138 pounds in a match WHS head coach Kirk Feit called the most crucial one of all. After Worthington won 152 and 160 by forfeits, however, the Eagles won three straight matches by fall at 170, 182 and 195 to forge a 36-31 lead. The Trojans’ Cole Hennings beat Julian Hernandez by technical fall at 220, setting up a showdown of heavyweights with the team score deadlocked at 36-36.
Kyle Mullaney, ranked No. 10 in Minnesota Class AA as an individual, squared off against New Ulm’s outstanding 285-pounder, Colby Wenninger, who brought a 30-11 record into the bout. Mullaney scored on an escape in the second period, then with 21 seconds remaining in the same period, he tacked on a takedown for a 3-0 lead. That was all he needed for the eventual 4-2 victory.
The takedown was everything, Mullaney said.
“I like underhooks. I have a preferred side, and once I get to that side I’m pretty confident of getting the takedown. I knew I had a better gas tank; it was all about if I could get that takedown,” he explained. “I think I was pushing him more than he pushed me. I thought I was in total control. I had a couple of times where I had to scramble.”
Worthington will face the Marshall Tigers, the top seed in the northern half of the section, Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. In the other semifinal match at SMSU, Fairmont/Martin County West, the No. 1 seed in the south, will go against Dawson-Boyd/Lac qui Parle Valley/Montevideo. The winners contend for a state tournament berth later at 2 p.m.
On Thursday, Marshall outscored New London-Spicer 45-31, Fairmont/MCW shut out Luverne 81-0 and DB/LQPV/M overcame MAHACA 39-30.
Worthington started strong against New Ulm with a 5-2 decision by Ethan Meyer at 106 and a major decision by Oscar Galvez at 113. The Eagles won 120 and 126 with falls, but Worthington came back with a fall by Damon Schutz at 132.
Then came Byrne, who had wrestled just five varsity matches going in.
He scored the first takedown against Gibson with 1:01 remaining in the second period. His pin lifted his teammates off their folding chairs in celebration.
“Huge,” said Feit. “We had to have that. Chase is only a seventh-grader. To come in and get a fall, that’s really big for us. I would say Chase was the key wrestler for us in the match. Without that, we wouldn’t have won this.”
“I went in there thinking that I needed a win,” Byrne said afterward. “I didn’t know I was going to wrestle that match until (coach) called me in. … I had my mindset I was gonna get a pin. I didn’t really know the kid, but I’ve been wrestling well all year. I thought if I wrestled my match, I could get a pin.”
And that, he did.
“It feels pretty good that I actually mattered in the dual,” Byrne said.