Five area wrestlers win state titles
ST. PAUL – Saturday was a good day for defending state champions at the Class A individual state wrestling tournament.
All three area wrestlers that won titles last year added their second titles on a day when five different area wrestlers won state championships.
Sibley East junior Nathan Rose defended his title at 195 pounds, Madelia/Truman/Martin Luther senior Adam Cooling won the title at 160 pounds after winning at 145 last year and Lake Crystal Area senior Taner Trembley added to his 2012 title at 132 pounds by winning the title at 138 pounds.
The area’s two first-time champions were LCA sophomore Louie Sanders at 120 and River Valley’s Lance Briard at 285.
Wabasso/Red Rock Central junior Spencer Jenniges (113) and Sibley East junior Hunter Retzlaff (138) ended up with second-place finishes after losing in their respective finals.
Briard wrestled in the very last match of the entire tournament, capping his achievement with an emotional celebration with the focus of the entire audience at the Xcel Energy Center upon him.
“I felt so overwhelmed about everything that was happening, I just let all the emotion go right away, I couldn’t hold any of it in, I was so excited,” Briard said. “This is absolutely amazing, way better than I ever thought it would be. All that hard work that I put in through the year, it paid off, every ounce of it.”
Briard was matched up with Blooming Prairie’s Jarrod Grunklee in his final. After a scoreless first period, Briard earned an escape to open the second period and added a takedown with eight seconds remaining in the period. Briard gave up only a single escape in the third period to earn a 3-1 decision.
Earning the state title was the end of a long road for Briard, accomplishing a goal he has had for a very long time. His dad, assistant coach Jeff Briard, has been there every step of the way, too, with Briard letting out his emotions by jumping into his dad’s arms after the match.
“He’s been working with me all year,” Briard said. “Through the past so many years, we’ve had the same goal in mind – state champion. We’d lift all summer, do conditioning workouts – we’d even have conditioning workouts at 10 at night sometimes, just to get the job done for the day.”
Rose completed his second straight undefeated season with his win against Blue Earth Area’s Kysten Zierke in his championship match.
Rose took a 2-1 lead after the first period, then added two takedowns in the second period and two more takedowns in the third in a commanding 11-4 decision.
“I just had to wrestle smart, because he can throw me around probably, but you’ve just got to wrestle smart every match,” Rose said. “I felt pretty confident throughout the whole match.”
Rose faced a test in his quarterfinal match on Friday, earning a 6-5 decision against Chatfield’s Justin Viss, but dominated his semifinal match en route to the final.
“It feels pretty good being undefeated again, and hopefully I can keep it going,” Rose said.
Winning his second state title has only added more motivation for Rose to keep working to become even better.
“It just makes me want to keep training hard, wrestle more and don’t quit,” Rose said. “Always stay on the mat, because I’m on the mat probably about 11 months out of the year.”
Cooling had a tough trip through the bracket on the way to his title, thrice winning matches by two points or fewer.
His final against Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg’s Jordan Rothers ended in a 2-1 decision, with Cooling earning a takedown with 25 seconds left in the first period and hanging on the rest of the way.
Cooling ended up wrestling a cautious match against Rothers after taking a 2-0 lead with his first-period takedown.
In the second period Cooling assured himself of at least an escape, getting into a standing position and hoisting Rothers’ leg into the air, but he ultimately failed to turn the move into a reversal and Rothers regained control. Cooling later said he got a bit greedy with the move, but he still managed to take a 2-0 lead into the third period.
In the final period Rothers earned an early escape, but Cooling thwarted all of Rothers’ attempts to score further points, taking a defensive approach rather than trying to earn any further points himself.
“I knew if I got out there and went after it I could have ran up the score,” Cooling said. “I hit that first 2-0 lead and that was huge for me, just for my confidence. I definitely probably could have got more in the last period, but I kind of just sat back. I knew he wasn’t a very offensive wrestler, so I just took what I could and tried to stay cautious a little bit.”
The victory gave Cooling an undefeated senior season and gave him a total of 201 career wins after he reached 200 wins with his semifinal victory.
“It just felt great,” Cooling said. “This is what I wanted the whole year and what I worked for the whole year. It wasn’t the match that I wanted, it wasn’t as high-scoring as I could have had it, but I got it done in the end.”
Cooling attributed his close calls throughout the tournament to having a big target on his back being a defending state champion, describing himself as the hunted rather than the hunter.
“It kind of got in my head a little bit, I knew they were coming after me as hard as they could go and it kind of played with my mind at times,” Cooling said. “But I knew I had what it took to win and just kind of kept going after it.”
Sanders was up against New York Mills senior Shane Novak in his final, a defending state champion that had beaten Sanders in the semifinals at 113 last year.
Sanders came out strong, taking a 6-1 lead after the first period en route to a 9-7 decision.
“It still hasn’t really set in, I’m still kind of shocked,” Sanders said. “I didn’t know I could do that and proved myself wrong.”
Sanders now has his sights set on replicating his feat in both his junior and senior seasons to end up as a three-time state champion.
“I can’t be happy with just one,” Sanders said. “I’ve got to keep my goals high and go for three, like I wanted, and just keep adding on.”
Trembley was matched up against a familiar opponent in his final, Sibley East junior Hunter Retzlaff.
In two previous meetings this season, Trembley earned a pair of 3-2 decisions against Retzlaff.
“I was hoping it wouldn’t be close, but I kind of had a feeling it would be close, because it always has been,” Trembley said.
The result was indeed close, with Trembley fighting through Retzlaff’s best efforts to hold him to earn an escape late in the second period. That ended up to be all the scoring he needed, as he held onto Retzlaff the entire third period to eke out a 1-0 decision.
“I kind of signaled over to my coach, my dad, ‘So are we going to let him up maybe?,'” Trembley said. “He was like, ‘No, ride him out,’ so I just listened to my coach and just had faith that would work out.”
Jenniges ran into undefeated Border West sophomore Cameron Sykora in the final at 113. Sykora won last year’s state championship at 106 pounds with a 45-1 record.
This year, Sykora dominated his opponents on his way to the final, with his narrowest victory a 12-0 decision in the quarterfinals. Sykora continued his dominance in the championship match against Jenniges, earning a 16-1 technical fall early in the third period.
“He knows his stuff,” Jenniges said. “You don’t really want to get on the bottom with him, he knows that tilt really good. He’s got takedowns down good – he’s just a good wrestler.”
Despite his loss, Jenniges was happy to improve on his result from first state tournament appearance last year, when he lost his first match and didn’t receive a spot in wrestlebacks.
“It feels a lot better being able to place,” Jenniges said. “Second, that’s a bonus.”
Jenniges noted that he would like to return to the state tournament next year in his senior season to make one last run at earning a state title.
“It’s a good goal, I like it,” Jenniges said. “Hopefully I can come back next year and do better.”
Two area wrestlers ended up placing third on Saturday, with Sibley East senior Aaron Bates doing so at 170 pounds and Wabasso/Red Rock Central senior Tanner Rohlik accomplishing the feat at 145.
Bates defeated Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City’s Maverick Whitcomb with a 5-2 decision in his third-place match. Bates also defeated Whitcomb during the team tournament on Thursday.
Rohlik entered the final period of his third-place match against Holdingford’s Trevor Scott with a narrow 4-3 lead, but earned an escape and added a takedown to produce a 7-3 decision.
“It feels amazing, especially because it was my last career match, and I won it,” Rohlik said.
Rohlik’s teammate, TJ Fulton, lost his third-place match at 132 pounds against United South Central’s Dylan Herman via pin in 2:29 and ended up placing fourth. Fulton had earlier lost to eventual state champion Eliot Jurries of Jackson County Central in the semifinals.
“Everyone’s goal is to obviously be state champ, and I ran into a buzzsaw in the semifinals,” Fulton said. “I just came back, I was going for third, I had the chance there – I was down 4-1 and had to go for probably a tilt or something, and he just caught me and stuck me. But I’m not going to complain with fourth place.”
Sibley East sophomore Jason Meyer (126) and W/RRC junior Alex Schroepfer (285) won their fifth-place matches to end their tournament campaigns on a high note and Sibley East sophomore Austin Brockhoff (132) ended up placing sixth after fighting through a tough bracket.
Both Meyer and Brockhoff wrestled the maximum possible number of matches at the state tournament, nine, after competing in the team tournament on Thursday and going through wrestlebacks after losses in the quarterfinals.
“It’s exhausting,” Brockhoff said. “I’ve never wrestled that many tough matches in that short a period of time. Not only does it push you physically, but mentally. You’ve got to be mentally strong.”
Meyer defeated Windom Area’s Jared Willaby in his fifth-place match with a 4-3 decision in triple overtime.
“It feels good,” Meyer said. “Coming in as the underdog and stuff, people not thinking much of me, it just feels really good to prove them wrong.”
Schroepfer won against Kenyon-Wanamingo’s Nick Langer in his fifth-place match with a fall in 4:09.
Last year in his first state tournament appearance Schroepfer lost in the first round, so he was pleased to be able to earn a medal this time around.
“It feels great, I love it,” Schroepfer said. “It’s what I wanted all year. I wish I was in the finals, but I’ve always got next year.”
Brockhoff earned a last-second two-point near fall to send his fifth-place match against Border West’s Gus McCarthy into overtime tied at 4-4, but McCarthy earned a takedown in the first overtime period to win the match with a 6-4 decision.
Earlier in the day, the championship semifinals began on a high note for area wrestlers when Jenniges won his match against Kimball Area’s Blaine Tschida at 113 and Sanders dominated his match against Jackson County Central’s Jordan Biehn at 120.
Jenniges and Tschida went into overtime tied at 1-1, with each wrestler managing only a single escape in regulation.
After a scoreless first overtime, Jenniges earned an escape in the second overtime period and rode out Tschida the entire third overtime to earn a 2-1 decision.
“After [my escape in second overtime] I knew he would pick down, so I would have to ride him out again,” Jenniges said. “I just got that 2-1 lead and just tried keeping him down. I felt in control right away, but then I almost lost it, but I got it back, so I kept him down.”
Sanders took care of his semifinal by pinning Biehn in 2:24.
Fulton ran into No. 1 ranked Eliot Jurries of JCC in the semifinals at 132, with Jurries winning by a 15-5 major decision.
The 138-pound semifinals went much better for area wrestlers as Retzlaff and Trembley each won to set up their meeting in the final.
Retzlaff did just enough to win against Frazee’s Bruce Lemon in his semifinal, earning an escape in the second period and then riding Lemon the entire third period to end up with a 1-0 decision.
Trembley earned a 5-2 decision against Aitkin’s Brian Wold in his semifinal.
Rohlik’s semifinal against JCC’s Paden Moore had the makings of a championship match, with Rohlik ranked third in the state and Moore ranked second.
Moore earned a takedown early in the first period and then did just enough to hold off Rohlik the rest of the way for a 3-0 decision.
“I knew I had to go out there and just get a couple takedowns, and I wasn’t able to do that,” Rohlik said. “The last period he just rode me out and I wasn’t able to do anything.”
Despite the fact that he and Fulton fell short in their semifinals, Rohlik was happy to see Jenniges represent the Bobcats in the finals.
“I didn’t even know he won the match until he got back in here,” Rohlik said. “I was super happy, but then also mad that he made it to the finals and I wasn’t able to. So I’m happy for him.”
Cooling was matched up with a tough opponent in his semifinal, competing against JCC’s Keegan Moore. Both wrestlers were looking to add to rich family histories in the state tournament, with Cooling and his brother Alex having won state titles in past years and Moore’s brother Cooper having won at 170 pounds last year. Moore’s brother Paden ended up placing second at 145 pounds on Saturday.
Moore almost got a takedown in the first period, but Cooling was able to wriggle out just in time.
The match was tied at 1-1 after Cooling gave up an escape to Moore to open the third period, but neither wrestler was able to make a scoring move until Cooling produced a takedown with five seconds remaining in the match to earn a 3-1 decision.
Bates was also in a semifinal match-up that had the makings of a final, pitting his No. 2 ranking against No. 1 ranked Darick Vancura of JCC.
The match was tied at 2-2 heading into the third period, but Vancura took the lead with an escape to begin the period and then added a takedown.
Bates trailed 5-3 in the dying seconds, with a restart with six seconds remaining giving him one final chance to score. He ended up sending Vancura to the mat, but time expired a split second before he completed the takedown, allowing Vancura to escape with a 5-3 victory.
Fellow Wolverine Rose had little trouble in his semifinal, building up a 15-4 lead thanks to six takedowns and a near fall before pinning opponent Colton Layman of West Marshall in 2:51.
Briard was closely matched with Minneapolis Patrick Henry’s Kelsey Bocek in his semifinal, taking a 5-3 lead into the final period before earning a late takedown and near fall to earn a 9-3 decision.
For the seniors that competed on Saturday, the joy of reaching the end of the season and in some cases taking home some hardware came with one extra sense of relief.
“I’m done weighing in for the rest of my life,” Rohlik said.