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State high school wrestling: Prunty, Byrne part of strong group of area wrestlers taking on Minnesota's best

Looking loose and ready to go, Worthington Trojans Jacob Prunty (left) and Mason Byrne pose as they prepare for the state individual wrestling tournament. (Doug Wolter/The Globe)

Southwest Minnesota will be well-represented at the state high school individual wrestling tournament this weekend, with several matmen hoping to finish higher than they did last year, and two attempting to repeat championships.

If all goes according to plan for Pipestone Area seniors Hunter Burnett and Michael Suda, they will both capture their third straight individual titles in Class A -- Burnett at 132 pounds and Suda at 126. Also in Class A, Jackson County Central’s Dalton Wagner (195) returns after getting a second in 2017, and teammate Jacob Tvinnereim (152) is back after copping a fourth last season. Windom/Mountain Lake’s Brett Willaby achieved a fourth-place finish last March and will fight to improve that this year at 113 pounds. Teammate Alex Borsgard will compete at 138 pounds and try to better last year’s fifth-place finish.

Worthington High School will send two wrestlers into the state AA individual tournament Friday and Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Both seniors, Mason Byrne will take on Minnesota’s best for the first time at 195 pounds and Jacob Prunty will compete for the second straight year at 126.

Last year, Prunty placed fourth at 120 pounds, going 4-2 with both his losses coming by a single point.

This time, the son of WHS head coach Mark Prunty -- seeded third in his weight class -- is determined once again to go all the way. He remains humble, yet confident.

“Everybody is good up there. If I don’t bring my A game, I can lose to anybody there. And if I bring my A game, I can beat anybody,” Prunty said this week.

The dynamic takedown artist missed some time this winter recovering from a concussion, but he’s now fully recovered. A relentless performer on his feet, Prunty is one of the best around at piling on points. “I’m always learning, always working on different moves,” he said.

“Going from one move to the next is a very big key,” he added. “You shoot a single, say, if you don’t get it, it might open up some other shot.”

In the section finals last weekend, Prunty survived a scare against Trevon Johnson of United. Johnson, a well-known pinner, put the No. 1 seed on his back within the first 20 seconds of the match and held a 5-0 lead. Prunty, however, did not panic and pulled out a 12-5 decision.

“We wrestled in the semis last year at the section individual tournament. He threw me at that time, too,” Prunty recalled.

In Saturday’s rematch, Prunty said, “He set it up (a hip toss) and the next thing I was on my back. It wasn’t fun. My first thought was, Oh, man, I’m gonna have a true second match.’ But I was never going to give up.”

Worthington wrestling fans are very pleased to see Bryne’s wrestling progress since his first year on the varsity team as a freshman. He has steadily improved since then, and his entry into the state individual tournament is the reward for a lot of hard work.

“My freshman year, I was right around .500 (for my personal record). And my sophomore year, I got better,” he said. He finished sixth in the section in his freshman and sophomore seasons, and he was third in the section last year.

“Experience is a big part of it. Knowing how to scout opponents, and having good guys in the weight room to push you,” Byrne said.

As a senior, the lanky Trojan wrestled most of his matches at 182 pounds, but a week before the section tournament he decided to move up to 195 where he believed he matched up better against his opponents. The No. 1 seed there, he captured the championship.

Byrne said he’s not expecting to be overwhelmed with his first state individual appearance. He’s wrestled at state twice previously, as part of the WHS team.

He hopes his experience and dedication will pay off in St. Paul.

“I think I missed one practice since my freshman year,” he said. “Just being committed and wanting to be part of it every year.”

With his lean body type, Byrne’s strength may be his ability to ride opponents. He says he likes to use the “deep waist” to stay in control and able to react to anything his opponents do from the bottom.

“There’s a lot of things I can do that others can’t,” he said.

The state team tournament gets under way on Thursday. Fairmont/Martin County West will represent Section 3AA and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove is the representative in Section 3A.

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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