PLYMOUTH — In baseball there’s nothing like a clean-up hitter with a .350 average and for Willmar wrestling nothing is better than having Cass Herzog in the on-deck circle with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.
He’s batting a thousand.
The Cardinals’ senior heavyweight watched the 220-pound match go Wayzata’s way in the Section 6AAA championship match Saturday afternoon at Robbinsdale Armstrong High School.
The major decision gave the No. 1-seeded Trojans a 31-25 lead.
Herzog (31-0) then delivered a home run, pinning Drew Greely in 3:06.
But that only tied the score, 31-all.Each team had won 7 matches.
It took the fifth criteria to decide who would advance to the team state tournament: most six-point victories — Willmar three pins to Wayzata’s two.
“We lost two matches on criteria this year and two years ago we lost in the section finals on criteria,” said Willmar head coach Ed Oehlers. “It’s nice to finally come out on top of one of these things.”
The Cardinals were calculating the criteria, confident that Herzog would prevail. But there tense moments, especially if Greely was successful in wrestling to avoid a pin, Oehlers said.
“The thing that was really nerve-wracking is that in the first period, no points were scored,” Oehlers said. “You know Cass: he’s pretty aggressive.”
The Cardinals opted to start Herzog on top to start the second period but Greely managed an escape.
“We were getting nervous,” Oehlers said. “When (Greely) is in a position to not get scored on, it’s a little easier.”
But Herzog eventually took down Greely and quickly wrapped him up.
“Then we knew he had it,” Oehlers said. “The stands just erupted.”
For the second year in a row, Willmar heads to the state tournament after beating Wayzata.
Those two other Cardinal pins were provided by Colten Carlson at 152 pounds and Vaughn Johnson at 170.
Until the post-match celebration, Willmar (16-10) held only two leads in the match, 16-15 and 22-21, and neither lasted a minute; each time Wayzata (15-5) answered with a first-period pin.
Each match was dramatic and full of importance, but also picking up wins for Willmar, each by decision, were Juan Resendez at 113, Austin Miley at 132, Travis Deegan at 145 (a major) and Augustine Hahn at 195.
A large contigent of Willmar mat fans attended the match, which helped the team, Oehlers said.
“We had a great following of fans and there was awesome energy there,” Oehlers said. “Our fans were great.”
The two-day section individual tournament starts Friday at Mound Westonka High School.
The Class A, AA and AAA team tournament will be held Feb. 28 (a Thursday) at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, starting at 9 a.m. The brackets will be determined today after coaches from the qualifying teams will seed the top four teams.
Last year at AAA State, Willmar lost 52-12 to Apple Valley, which went on to win the championship, and 31-30 to White Bear Lake in the consolation semifinals.
Throughout the season, the Cardinals have learned what it takes to compete at the state-tournament level, Oehlers said.
Nate Mittag is an example, undergoing surgery over the holiday break and recovering in time to return to the mat. Mittag earned his 100th career win over the weekend.
“This team’s been through a lot of adversity this season, with illness and injury,” he said. “They overcame a lot of things to get this far.”
Individual ticket sales for the team session on Feb. 28 will go on sale at the high school office beginning Tuesday. Tickets are $14 for adults and $9 for students.
Willmar 32, Wayzata 31
106: Boyd Mumbuwa, Way, dec Jacob Bollig 10-6
113: Juan Resendez, Wil, dec Evan Kluck 4-3
120: Jake Stufft, Way, dec Zach Lueders 6-1
126: Nick Obrien, Way, maj Nate Mittag 17-6
132: Austin Miley, Wil, dec Aaron Cote 7-3
138: Wes Drogenmueller, Way, tcfl Estevan Navarro 19-4
145: Travis Deegan, Wil, dec Mike Ho 14-4
152: Colten Carlson, Wil, pin Blake Hamlin 2:40
160: Collin Sohn, Way, pin Logan Wigton :36
170: Vaughn Johnson, Wil, pin Drake Imholte 5:00
182: Tim Karpitski, Way, pin Kory Welgraven :30
195: Augustine Hahn, Wil, dec Rob Schulke 8-3
220: Eli Hollins, Way, dec Jalen Cabrera 8-0
285: Cass Herzog, Wil, pin Drew Greely 3:06
Willmar 39, Mound Westonka 24
The No. 2 Cardinals and the third-seeded White Hawks were tied 24-all with three matches left. Augustine Hahn won a 7-4 decision at 195 pounds for a 27-24 Willmar lead and Jalen Cabrera cemented the victory with a 2:29 pin at 220.
Zach Lueders at 120, Nate Mittag at 126, Austin Miley at 132 and Colten Carlson at 160 also picked up points for the Cardinals.
106: Jacob Bollig, W, won by forfeit
113: Sam Bennyhoff, M, maj Juan Resendez 13-5
120: Zach Lueders, W, dec Ryan Reid 3-0
126: Nate Mittag, W, pin Drake Heath 3:55
132: Austin Miley, W, dec Adrian Wear 11-4
138: Ben Rogers, M, dec Estevan Navarro 7-5
145: Tyler Hebig, M, pin Eli Gunderson 2:55
152: John Byers, M, dec Travis Deegan 6-3
160: Colten Carlson, W, pin Jarek Witzcek :05
170: Ryder Schmidt, M, dec Vaughn Johnson 2-1 OT
182: Bryan Tierney, M, pin Kory Welgraven 3:59
195: Augustine Hahn, W, dec Ty VanSant 7-4
220: Jalen Cabrera, W, pin Travis Peterson 2:29
285: Cass Herzog, W, won by forfeit
Wayzata 50, Minnetonka 15
Willmar 77, Buffalo 6
This was barely a warm-up as Willmar scored four first-period pins — Nate Mittag at 126, Estevan Navarro at 138, Travis Deegan at 145 and Augustine Hahn at 182 — and received six forfeits.
106: Jacob Bollig, W, won by forfeit
113: Juan Resendez, W, won by forfeit
120: Zach Lueders, W, won by forfeit
126: Nate Mittag, W, pin We Sanderson 1:09
132: Austin Miley, W, won by forfeit
138: Estevan Navarro, W, pin Corbin Ruby 1:05
145: Travis Deegan, W, pin Jose Lara Fuentes :43
152: Logan Wigton, W, won by forfeit
160: Colten Carlson, W, pin Hunter Durand 3:33
170: Vaughn Johnson, W, tcfl Jon Wirkkala 16-1
182: Augustin Hahn, W, pin Vic Jude :20
195: Jalen Cabrera, W, won by forfeit
220: Adam Treptau, B, pin Matt Hennes 5:35
285: Cass Herzog, W, pin Bob Sahli :47
Wayzata 65, Armstrong 7
Minnetonka 46, Hopkins 22
Mound Westonka 47, Rocori 32
Armstrong 39, Cooper 28