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Trojans' Cole Hennings a Big South wrestling champion

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Worthington Trojan wrestler Cole Hennings (on top) takes New Ulm Area wrestler Julian Hernandez to the mat in the 220-pound championship of the Big South Conference Individual Wrestling Tournament. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Eight Trojan wrestlers earned places at the Big South Conference Tournament Saturday at Worthington High School, including three who finished high enough to earn all-conference awards.

But the biggest feather in the WHS cap came at 220 pounds where sophomore Cole Hennings captured the crown. Hennings advanced to 17-5 on the 2019-20 season by decisioning fellow sophomore Julian Hernandez of New Ulm, 10-3.

His head coach, Kirk Feit, was understandably pleased.

“He’s been progressing all year,” said the first-year Trojan mentor. “Every time he takes the mat he’s getting a little bit better. I’m very impressed with him.”

Hennings was in control throughout his title bout.

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“The best thing for him right now is he’s just taking everything in, and he soaks it up like a sponge. He listens to the coaches well, he keeps good position, and he’s hard to score on,” said Feit, who added, “Physically, he’s starting to grow into his body.”

Worthington’s Damon Schutz placed third at 138 pounds and 285-pounder Kyle Mullaney was third at 285. Ethan Meyer, at 106, lost his first match of the day but won the rest to place fifth. Teammates Jaden Hennings (145), Kent Lais (160), Juan Guizar (170) and Tanner Hennings (195) earned sixths.

Three other area wrestlers -- Pipestone Area’s Hunter Burnett at 106, Windom/Mountain Lake’s Kade Sammons at 132, and Jackson County Central’s Payton Handevidt at 145 -- also won championships.

Windom/Mountain Lake’s Brett Willaby, who earned a Class A 126-pound state title last year, was second at 138 in the very tough conference field. JCC’s Logan Butzon (113) and Sam Dunker (195) also got seconds.

Willaby still on schedule

Supremely confident in himself, and with every reason to be, Windom/Mountain Lake’s Willaby doesn’t mind sustaining a few losses before section competition. He takes ‘em all on, and by state-tournament time, he’s usually right where he wants to be.

“My mental shape is sharp as iron, so you want to go after the better kids,” said the senior standout midway through the Big South tournament. Willaby approached his junior campaign exactly the same way en route to a state Class A championship at 126 pounds.

The state champ lost four matches heading into the Big South meet, in part because of a slow start due to an extended Mountain Lake Area football season. On Saturday, he finished second at 138 pounds after succumbing to a fall in 5:26 against Connor Simmonds of Fairmont/Martin County West.

Willaby, who is ranked third in the state at 138 in Class A, is just now starting to feel like himself on the wrestling mat. He admitted to being out of shape early in his senior wrestling campaign, and in each loss prior to Saturday he said he learned from the loss. No doubt, he’ll gain a more knowledge from the Simmonds defeat. Simmonds is ranked No. 2 in Minnesota Class AA.

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“You don’t want to dwell on (the losses). You just want to learn from ‘em and move forward,” Willaby said. “Just wrestle anyone who’s there, and not dodge anyone.”

Going from 126 to 138 is a significant step, but Willaby says he’s likely to stay at the weight he’s at now. It’s, in part, the result of a lot of work in the weight room, and it means he won’t need to cut much weight prior to state.

Championship round

Here are the results of the championship round of the Big South Conference Tournament:

106 -- Hudson Burnett, Pipestone Area, decisioned Carter Brandt, Redwood Valley, 6-4

113 -- Mason Gehloff, Waseca, decisioned Logan Butzon, Jackson County Central, 3-2

120 -- Lucas Jagodzinske, Fairmont/MCW, decisioned Hsa Khee Lar, Marshall, 9-3

126 -- Jaxson Rohman, Fairmont/MCW, major decisioned Davis Sunken, Blue Earth Area, 9-1

132 -- Kade Sammons, Windom/Mountain Lake, decisioned Blake Jagodzinske, Fairmont/MCW, 7-5

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138 -- Connor Simmonds, Fairmont/MCW, pinned Brett Willaby, Windom/Mountain Lake, in 5:26

145 -- Payton Handevidt, Jackson County Central, decisioned Cale Steuber, Fairmont/MCW, 2-0

152 -- Payton Anderson, Fairmont/MCW, decisioned Wareke Gillette, St. Peter, 5-2

160 -- Max Ehrich, Blue Earth Area, decisioned Grant Louwagie, Marshall, 8-6

170 -- Eli Hunt, St. Peter, decisioned Nathan Simmonds, Fairmont/MCW, 4-2

182 -- Spencer Wambeke, Marshall, decisioned Nick Frank, Blue Earth Area, 8-2

195 -- Jacob Rahn, Fairmont/MCW, pinned Sam Dunker, Jackson County Central, in 5:00

220 -- Cole Hennings, Worthington, decisioned Julian Hernandez, New Ulm, 10-3

285 -- Kaleb Haase, Redwood Valley, pinned Jacob Hertzog, Waseca, in 2:38.

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