After an intense Section 2AA competition, the Waconia wrestling team is sending two Wildcats to the state tournament. Senior Max Bullock will be making his tournament debut, while junior Jacob Steinbauer is a 2012 veteran looking to advance past the first round.
The Class AA individual first rounds begin Friday, March 1 at 9 a.m. at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Waconia head coach Kelly Wagener said both are headed to state looking for success and truly believes it is achievable.
“We’re going down there with the full intention to medal,” he said.
Bullock, who competes at 182 pounds, heads into the tournament with a 35-7 season record. He is set to face Park Rapids junior John Kyllonen (29-8) in the first round. Steinbauer, 132 pounds, is 37-4 this season and will wrestle Cannon Falls junior Connor Rohr (31-8).
Steinbauer was crowned Section 2AA champion at 132 pounds on Feb. 23, after finishing as runner up the previous season.
“Jacob came on a mission,” Wagener said. “Overall, he dominated.”
Bullock had to face more adversity in his matches, facing opponents he had lost to earlier in the season. It took three overtime periods for Bullock to win his semifinal match and Wagener said Bullock’s conditioning showed and he outlasted the opponent.
“It was probably the best I’ve seen him wrestle this year,” Wagener said.
Bullock met Watertown-Mayer’s Austin Torres in the finals, losing 6-2, but earning a true second match and another shot at state. Bullock would win that final match to be the section runner up and earned the second 182 pound berth to the state tournament.
Wagener said many other wrestlers had great matches and battled hard against quality opponents. Sophomore Mason Hemze, who has tallied over 30 wins this season, lost a true second match to a New Prague contender, narrowly missing a chance at state.
Sophomore Nick Green and freshman Owen Hemze both finished fourth in their respective weight classes.
Wagener said wrestlers throughout the weights, including Green, the Hemze brothers, sophomore Eli Teeselink, eighth grader Justin Schultz,junior Zach Buffington, eighth grader Dylan Gluck, senior Riley Trnka, and sophomore Jed Waligoski, among others, fought hard in their matches and had many close calls that could have turned matches in their favor.
While youth and inexperience played a factor for some, Wagener said many wrestlers continued to improve as the season ended and he expects a lot from the returning squad next season.
Contact Melissa Marohl at [email protected]