State Wrestling: Five Cards in top four
ST. PAUL—Three Willmar Cardinals neared the pinnacle of the high school wrestling world but ultimately left Saturday's Class AAA state tournament at the Xcel Energy Center with a bittersweet taste.
Israel Navarro (120), Cael Carlson (126) and Clay Carlson (132) wrestled in succession for their respective championships but each fell just short in their bid for their first title.
Navarro, a junior, entered the tournament with a 34-2 record and breezed through his opening rounds. He advanced past Coleton Pertucci of St. Francis with a pin in 25 seconds and followed that up with a quarterfinal victory over Stillwater's Trey Kruse by 11-3 major decision. His semifinal matchup was a defensive battle with the Guillotine's third-ranked wrestler Colby Njos of Anoka. Navarro staved off a number of takedown attempts in the later periods and held on for a 2-1 victory.
He was forced to go on the attack in the championship bout, however, after falling in a 5-0 hole in the opening minutes against top-ranked Patrick McKee of St. Michael-Albertville who entered the tournament with a 43-1 record. McKee, also a junior, was last year's 106 pound champion.
The aggressive nature of the match opened an opportunity for McKee to pin the second-ranked Navarro in 5:12.
"He fell behind early so he had to be a bit more aggressive than he would have liked," said Willmar's head coach Ed Oehlers. "He had a solid tournament and he battled for second place."
Cael Carlson followed Navarro with a match against the Guillotine's top-ranked 126 pounder in Carson Manville of Shakopee. The sophomore Carlson entered the tournament with a 36-7 record and a second place finish in last season's 113 pound state tournament. Like Navarro, he cruised in the opening rounds to a technical fall over Faribault's Josh Oathoudt and a major decision over Roger's Bret Wilson. He required an upset victory by 8-5 decision over second-ranked Rylee Molitor of Sartell in the semifinal to earn repeat trip to the championship bout.
Carlson and Manville were like-matched, needing all three periods to decide the victor. For the second season in a row, though, he finished the state tournament with a second place finish after falling to Manville in a 3-2 decision.
"This year he narrowed the gap," Oehlers said. "He's right there and I know he's capable of finishing on top. He's got the work ethic and ability to do that."
His cousin, Clay, was even more dominant in his road to the final. The junior started with a 39-4 ranked as the second-best wrestler in 132 pounds and logged pins in both his tournament opener and semifinal. Like his cousin, though, he was the underdog against a Shakopee competitor which led to a defensive battle. His opponent was Brent Jones, a senior who won last season's 126 pound championship and entered the tournament with a 44-2 record.
Clay, like the two Cardinals before him, tried to amp up the pressure late in the third period but fell short and lost by a 3-2 decision.
"I'm really impressed with what those three guys did this weekend," Oehlers said. "I know it's not the ending they wanted but they had a great weekend. The best part is that each of them will be back next year, too, so they'll fight to get back here."
Senior Brady Reigstad (285) and sophomore Lincoln Shinn (160) also placed for the Cardinals. Reigstad, who took second last season, finished in third place this season and Shinn took fourth in his first trip to state.
Reigstad, a St. Cloud State University commit, eased into the semifinals with a decision and win by fall but fell victim to a last second takedown in the semifinals and lost to Anoka's Brandon Frankfurth by a 3-1 decision. He battled back in the consolation bracket with a 3-0 decision win over Tim Mandyck of Coon Rapids and wrapped up his collegiate career with a 5-3 decision victory over Corey Guenter of Minneapolis North.
"It's pretty exciting to take third place," Reigstad said. "I couldn't get my offense going in the semifinal and I'm obviously disappointed to not be in the championship but Coach Oehlers gave me a good pep talk and got me back on track."
Oehlers said he was happy to see Reigstad leave with some hardware.
"For him to end his career with a victory is pretty special," Oehlers said. "He's been a rock for this program and he's going to do some great things at St. Cloud."
Though he only started wrestling as an eighth grader, Reigstad said he's happy with his high school career.
"I'm sad to be done but it's been a great time," Reigstad said.
Shinn had some big shoes to fill for the Cardinals wrestling at 160 pounds just one year after Colten Carlson took home the championship. With that in mind, though, the sophomore was up to the task. He won the opening round with a technical fall but lost in the quarterfinal to eventual champion and top-ranked wrestler Kenny O'Neil of Prior Lake. Shinn battled back through the consolation bracket, however, recording a pair of pins including one against Anoka's Calvin Germinaro-Nahri, the Guillotine's second-ranked wrestler. Shinn was pinned, however, in the third place match against third-ranked Tony Struntz.
"Lincoln is going to be tough (next year)," Oehlers said. "Heck, he's tough now. That win against Germinaro-Nahri was a milestone win for him. He's going to be a handful for people in the next couple of years."