by ADAM GRUENEWALD
The Central wrestling team won a key first round Section 4A match in exciting fashion over Spectrum last Thursday, 39-34, before losing to #1 Lake Crystal, 57-9.
In the final four matches hosted by Central, #2 Sibley East defeated #3 LeSueur-Henderson in the semifinals and then beat Lake Crystal, 31-23, to advance to state. The Raiders finish 12-12.
#1 Lake Crystal 57, #4 Central 9
On the important Saturday matches, Central wrestlers lost to Lake Crystal, 57-9.
Central head coach Darrin Fox was pleased with the way his team wrestled and they were in position to win in the third period in several matches.
“I think our kids really wrestled hard in a lot of spots where we had matchups that we thought we could win or stay close in,” he said.
The Knights opened with an early 10-0 lead as they got a pin at 106 and a 11-1 decision at 113.
The Raiders’ Josh Hendel did well in his match to avoid the pin and secure a point in the second period.
Zeke Dodge then got the first win for Central at 120, in a match that was stopped several times due to blood on the Knights’ wrestler.
Ahead 4-2 after the second period, Dodge got several takedowns in the third for the 8-2 victory.
“I think Zeke had a really good match,” said Fox. “I think it was a dominating performance. The score wasn’t a dominant score but he controlled the match the whole way through.”
Lake Crystal then went up 33-3, getting a quick pin at 126, a third period pin at 132, a technical fall at 138 and a quick pin at 145.
At 150, Jared Wickenhauser fell down 0-2 after the first period, was tied 4-4 in the second before winning the 150-pound matchup, 10-4, for Central second win.
The Knights added another quick pin at 160 prior to the best match of the night at 170.
Facing Shane Nelson at 170, Alex Meeker battled to a 5-2 lead after the second period. Nelson secured an escape and a takedown to tie the match up at 5 and then got a late escape for a 6-5 edge.
Meeker then got a late takedown for the 7-6 decision to make it 39-9 Lake Crystal.
“I think that he has been one of our most improved kids,” Fox said of Meeker. “He’s a shade over .500 but at one of the tougher weight classes. I think he’s starting to put it all together here at the end which is perfect timing. He really has wrestled hard and done a lot of good things in the last three weeks.”
The Knights then added a first period pin at 182 but two Central seniors performed well in the next two matches. Jordan Kohls lost by a narrow 4-2 decision at 195, and Steven Smith lost a 7-4 decision at 220.
“This is kind of time in the season where they start to feel the pressure a little bit,” said Fox. “I think they have prepared themselves the last two or three weeks really well to get to this point. They took it upon themselves to really want to finish as best as they can.”
Fox also took positives from the experience gained by younger wrestlers including Peter Barth, Eddie Mendoza, Alex Farrell, Ty Volner, Zeke Padilla and Nick Forner.
“For us to continue to be in that tournament every year we have to have those kids wrestle matches in that setting,” he said. “What we’re hoping is by having that experience they get that itch that they really want to get back there again and realize it takes a lot of work to get there.”
Lake Crystal closed the match with a quick pin at heavyweight.
#4 Central 39, #5 Spectrum 34
The Raiders advanced past Spectrum last Thursday in NYA in a difficult match that was closer than their previous contest.
With two of their regular wrestlers out, Central relied on their upper weights to get significant wins, including Steeven Smith’s clinching pin at heavyweight.
Central also benefitted from a total of four forfeits and a disqualification due to clasping by a Sting wrestler.
Down 28-9 the match then started turning around for Central as they won four straight matches, beginning with a forfeit win by Anthony Rice at 160.
The 170 match proved to be one of the night’s highlights as Alex Meeker would up winning at 170 after Shane Herrlin lost several points before getting disqualified for clasping.
Meeker was ahead 4-3 late in the match when the disqualification happened.
Clasping, a rule where the top wrestler clasped his hands together without having the bottom wrestler on their back, is well known but rarely seen at the higher levels.
Central head coach Darrin Fox said he couldn’t remember someone get disqualified for the illegal hold at this level in his time coaching.
“It was big,” said Fox. “With that I thought Alex wrestled a really, really good match. He stayed in position the entire time. We talked about it earlier in the week a gameplan for this kid… He executed it to perfection.”
Zeke Padilla and Jordan Kohls then added forfeit wins at 170 and 182 for Central’s 33-28 lead.
With the match going down to the wire, Nick Forner trailed 0-5 before getting pinned late in the third period by Elliot Uecker, which gave the Sting a 34-33 advantage.
“Forner wrestled really hard against a kid who is a little over .500,” said Fox. “He’s a got whose got a little bit better frame than Forner does right now. I thought Nick did some good things against him. He was in a good position.”
Steeven Smith then got the pin at heavyweight.
“That’s what a senior should do and that’s what a leader should do,” said Fox. “He stepped up to the plate and knew what he had to do. It’s easier to win a match when a pin a good than letting it go three periods… It’s easier to go out there and get the job done. That was a really good way for him to finish.”
The contest was close from the outset as Anthony Hennen won a 1-0 decision at 106, scoring a reversal in the second period.
“Hennen was fantastic for us,” said Fox. “We told him Monday that he was probably going to be in the match that won the match for us. It ended up that way.”
Spectrum’s Esteban Teigen then added a pin of Peter Barth at 113 and Ryan Killeen added a 14-6 major decision at 120 over Josh Hendel for a 10-4 advantage.
Luke Nolden added a 15-5 major decision over Ben Barth at 126.
Zeke Dodge then got a forfeit at 132 for Central to make it 16-9 Sting.
Fox said it was unexpected to not get as many wins from the lower weights, but credited the Sting.
“They have three very good kids down below,” said Fox. “We had some things that didn’t go in our favor before we even stepped on the mat, which made it difficult for us to make a lot of changes down there.”
The Sting then got a pin at 138 from Mitsuru Morita and Josiah Roberts added a 5-0 decision over Josh Lord at 145 and Noah Rogers added a 11-5 decision over Bennett Hatterschide for the 28-9 lead.
“We needed to score more points and not give up points,” said Fox. “They at least kept those to decisions which is huge this time of year. That was big for us to hold those points down.”
Fox called it a “survival match.”
“Sometimes when your team faces adversity you have to find a way to survive and that’s what these guys did,” he said, adding his team can use it to get better. “There’s a lot of things we have to keep doing as a program to get better where we don’t have those matches. If we want to take those steps forward, we can’t be scared to go out and get that.”
The individual Section 4A tournament will take place on Feb. 21 and 22 at LeSueur-Henderson High School.
“What we have to do is go in there with the mindset of wrestle the best matches we have wrestled all year,” said Fox, adding several wrestlers have chances depending on the draw to advance to state. “We want to come home and have everybody have a medal.”
The Class A state team matches are held at the Xcel Energy Center on Feb. 27. For full schedules, visit www.mshsl.org.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at firstname.lastname@example.org.