State Champions, Jackson County Central wins Class A state wrestling team championship, capture four individual titles

ST. PAUL -- Trailing 27-10 entering the 171-pound contest, the Canby Lancers were running out of time in Saturday's Class A team championship match against the Jackson County Central Huskies.

Cole Von Ohlen
Jackson County Central's Cole Von Ohlen, class A state champion. (Kevin Kyle/Daily Globe)

ST. PAUL -- Trailing 27-10 entering the 171-pound contest, the Canby Lancers were running out of time in Saturday's Class A team championship match against the Jackson County Central Huskies.

The Lancers sent Brock Claeys to the mat to square off against the Huskies' Calvin Ferguson.

The JCC senior quickly scored on a takedown, but the Canby sophomore returned the favor with a reversal to even the match at 2-all. Ferguson scored again on a takedown and led 4-2 heading into the second period.

In the second, Ferguson took control, taking down Claeys and earning crucial back points. Over the final two minutes of the match, the lanky Ferguson scored more back points, and as the clock ran out, JCC fans erupted with cheers and rose to their feet to acknowledge their Huskies -- the 2008 Minnesota State High School Class A team wrestling champions.

"I just went out there, wrestled my hardest and got it done," Ferguson said. "I'm not usually strong on takedowns, but I've been working hard on them in practice, and I came through."


After winning the prestigious Rumble on the Red and placing second at the Clash during the regular season, and cruising through the Section 2A tournament, it appeared the Huskies were destined to wrestle for a state title.

"This is an awesome group of seniors we have on this team; a lot have been wrestling varsity since they were eighth and ninth-graders," JCC head coach Randy Baker said. "They took a lot of lickings, but they learned a lot through that.

"I'm really proud of them, but at the same time, Canby is a great team," Baker added. "We got a few early and took them mentally out of it. It could have been a lot different. I told my guys to 'make sure to win graciously,' because they are a great program."

The match started off well for the champions, as Bronson Steuber, who felt heartache earlier in the day with a title-match loss to Minneota's Christian Skillings at 103 pounds, opened the match with a 13-4 major decision against the Lancers' Ted Berckes -- giving the Huskies a 4-0 lead.

JCC's Spencer Johnson (112 pounds) followed with a strong match against Canby's Jake Long, earning a 4-1 victory with superior technique in the neutral position. Johnson's win put the Huskies up 7-0, and the JCC faithful sensed this was their year.

"It was good to get the crowd out of it early," Baker said. "We had a seventh-grader wrestle an awesome match; we weren't sure we were going to get that one."

The Lancers fired back at 119 pounds, as Trevor Citrowski won an 8-0 major decision over JCC's Patrick Hanson to cut into the deficit. But the Huskies' Taylor Menke (119), who bowed out of the individual tournament in the consolation quarterfinals, quickly pulled those points back for JCC and then some.

Menke chased his opponent, Brett Citrowski, around the mat for nearly five minutes before putting him on his back for a pinfall, four minutes, 58 seconds into the match -- giving JCC a 13-4 advantage.


"I wasn't wrestling one of my best matches," Menke explained. "He took me down, and I tried to get away, and he went down to my leg. Baker taught us how to do a spladle earlier in the year, and I was up by three points, so I tried it, and I pinned him."

After witnessing the demise of his teammate, Canby's Daniel Deslauriers (130) wanted no part of his opponent, Cole Von Ohlen, who won his second consecutive individual title just an hour before to the team event.

Deslauriers, like many of the other Lancers, appeared content to circle the perimeter of the mat like a frightened satellite orbiting Earth. But the end result was the same for the Canby senior, as Von Ohlen manhandled Deslauriers to the tune of a 22-7 technical fall to give the Huskies a commanding 18-4 advantage.

JCC sent eighth-grader Cooper Moore (135) to the mat at 135 pounds, where he faced another Canby senior, Jacob Jelen. Moore clinched with Jelen and chased him around for six minutes before earning a 3-0 shutout and another three points for the Huskies.

The Lancers responded by sending out one of their supposed big guns, Alex Kontz, who was the runner-up at 140 pounds earlier in the day against the Huskies' Randy Hummel. For a second-place finisher, Kontz did not impress as Hummel held his own over six minutes before relinquishing three team points on an 8-3 decision -- keeping the damage to a minimum.

The Huskies returned the favor at 145 pounds, sending their individual state champion, Torey Stewart, in to battle the Lancers' Chris Hoffman. Hoffman was by far the most aggressive Canby wrestler to take to the mat for the Lancers during the finals. Hoffman nearly pulled off an upset, putting Stewart on his back for a 3-point nearfall in the first period.

But the champion roared back over the next two periods to win a 10-9 decision, as the JCC fans expelled a collective sigh of relief.

With a 24-7 lead, the Huskies pitted Jacob Johnson against the Lancers' Austen Citrowski in the 152-pound bout. Johnson had trouble scoring points, as the Canby senior fled Johnson's advances at every opportunity, prompting the official to give the JCC grappler a point on a stalling violation.


In the end, Johnson won a 6-2 decision, and the Huskies inched closer to donning gold medals.

"I'm happy my guys showed up and wrestled hard at every weight," Baker

said. "Everybody gave a tremendous effort from 103 through 285."

The Lancers managed just one more victory in the match. Coming at 160 pounds, Canby's Jon Verhelst claimed a 5-0 decision over JCC's Devin Bezdicek to give the Section 3A champions 10 points.

But that was all the Lancers could muster, as the Huskies, beginning with Ferguson's victory, won the final four matches to defeat Canby, 42-10.

Travis Rutt, who won his second straight individual title at 171 pounds for JCC, stepped up to 189 pounds for the dual and won a 22-6 technical fall against Canby's Ethan Kockelman.

Caleb Lines (189), who also won an individual title Saturday for the Huskies, took the mat as a 215-pounder against the Lancer's Travis Hansen. Lines easily won a 9-3 decision, setting the stage for the heavyweight battle between JCC's Joe

Skow and Canby's Brad Wollum.


The Lancers must have thought this bout was in the bag, as Wollum had just placed second in the individual competition, while Skow bowed out of the 215-pound class in the consolation quarterfinals.

But Skow, like the rest of the champion Huskies, stayed aggressive and took the match to the bigger Wollum. Skow was the better wrestler in this match, winning a 5-3 decision, and was immediately hoisted up on his teammate's shoulders to the sound of 'JCC, JCC' coming from the Huskies' supporters.

"It was a phenomenal tournament for us," Baker said. "Von Ohlen had a tremendous tournament, as did Rutt, Lines and Stewart, individually. And as a team, you couldn't ask for more out of these boys. All their hard work paid off."

Class A Individual

With a pre-tournament goal of five individual state champions, the Huskies were right where they wanted to be on the last day of competition, placing five in the finals following Friday's semifinal matches.

Steuber, Von Ohlen, Stewart, Rutt and Lines were all through to the championship round Saturday, where a lone opponent stood between them and gold.

Stueber was the first to take the mat for the Huskies in the finals. The talented freshman must have been nervous in the first finals appearance, as the wide-eyed youngster was slow to react to Christian Skillings' (Minneota) advances.

After two periods, Steuber found himself in a 6-3 hole with two minutes to go. While Baker tried to motivate him from the edge of the mat, Steuber just couldn't get the takedowns he desperately needed and fell by a score of 8-3.


"I was a little nervous and wasn't as aggressive as I should have been," Steuber said. "I wasn't taking my shots like I should have and didn't wrestle like myself. It's tough, but I'll be back next year."

The other four JCC finalists left nothing to chance, as each, with the exception of Lines, won in convincing style.

Von Ohlen, who basically wrestled his championship match on the second day of competition against Southland's Jon Hegge, won by technical fall (16-0) over Minneota's Sam Derynck.

"The whole tournament was tough, but we all came out strong in our final matches," Von Ohlen said. "It's great to finish my varsity career with another state title."

Stewart, last year's 135-pound runner-up, also had a fairly easy time of it in his championship bout against Staples-Motley's Jordan Bendson, pinning the sophomore at 3:20 of their match.

"We came out knowing what we had to do and got it done," Stewart said. "It feels great to be back on the podium. I put last year's final behind me and focused on this year."

Rutt, who was the 160-pound champion last season, made it two in a row, as the senior one-upped Stewart with a fall against Ortonville's Eric Croatt just a minute and 10 seconds into the match.

"It's great to have a team title to go along with an individual title," Rutt said. "Nothing compares to winning a team title. Everybody put their hearts into this one."


Lines was in his first state championship final and was going up against the powerful Aaron Norgren from Maple River, a wrestler who accounted for all three of Lines' loss this season.

Going into the match, Lines and Baker formed a game plan.

Lines flawlessly worked the plan and scored twice on takedowns, his first points ever against Norgren, and then held on for a 4-3 victory.

"The plan was to go away from my usual plan; do what I normally wouldn't do," Lines explained. "He (Norgren) leads with his opposite leg all the time. I could never get to his leg in our first three matches. So, I had to shoot on a leg that I never, ever shoot on.

"I had to have the confidence to do something unusual," the senior added. "This was the last chance to do it, and it all worked out in the end. It feels fantastic"

Class AA Individual

While no area individuals qualified for the finals, two were slated to wrestle for third place and three others for fifth.

In the 189-pound third-place match, Fulda/Murray County Central's Kody Kramer came up against Zimmerman's Jeff Nielsen. Kramer, who vowed not to lose again following his championship quarterfinal bout, came into the match with his game face on.

Kramer quickly scored on a takedown to set the tone for the match. Another takedown in the second period to go along with an escape paved the way for a 7-1 decision and a bronze medal for the senior.

"I pulled my head out after that quarterfinals match and knew I couldn't get away with that kind of performance if I wanted to place in this tournament," Kramer said. "I ended up pulling off a takedown at the end of the first period, and that allowed me to stay in control and ride him out in the third period."

Also wrestling for third place was Adrian's Zach Reker. The 215-pound Dragon senior had his hands full with St. Michael-Albertville's Kyle Schumm. In a match of takedowns and escapes, Reker outlasted the Knights' senior for a 14-12 victory.

The Windom/Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin Cobras, while bowing out of the Class AA team competition after two matches, still had a pair of team members, Bill Hochstein and A.J. Sevens, left in the individual competition -- wrestling for fifth place.

Hochstein (135) went toe-to-toe with Park Rapids' Colter Uscola for six grueling minutes before claiming a 4-3 victory.

"I knew I had to stay up and take my shots when they were there," Hochstein said. "He wanted to get a quick takedown and try to ride me out. I worked the switch from the bottom and turned things around on him. I would like to have done better, but I have two more years, so fifth place feels pretty good right now."

Stevens (140) had an equally hard time getting at his opponent, Perham's Dwight Jenne. A pair of takedowns and an escape was all the senior needed to win a 5-1 decision and his second consecutive fifth-place medal.

"It was a tough tournament for me, but it was nice to be here as a team this year," Stevens said. "I hoped to place better this year, but I'm going out with a win, so that's something to be happy about."

F/MCC's Justin Reinsma, who lost a last-second heartbreaker in his quarterfinal match, rebounded in his 125-pound fifth-place match.

Battling Orono's Ryan Arne, Reinsma got a takedown and an escape and finished with strong defensive positioning to claim a 3-1 victory.

"I was disappointed after losing that match, and I really wanted to come back and get fifth," Reinsma said. "The early takedown really helped. I knew I could ride the kid and I beat him off the whistle for an escape. Losing that close one really made me go after it today."

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