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Paynesville weathers rugged road to state

PAYNESVILLE -- Paynesville wasn't give much of a chance to dethrone five-time defending Section 5A champion Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City in the wrestling final last Friday in Paynesville. After all, ACGC prevailed 44-21 in a West Central South Conference meeting earlier in the year, the Falcons won the conference title with a perfect 8-0 mark while Paynesville fourth, and ACGC finished second to Paynesville's sixth-place finish in the conference tournament on Jan. 30.

But the Bulldogs emerged as section champs this time, winning the final seven matches against ACGC for a 33-22 victory and the team's first trip to state in nine years.

"We knew we had a good chance as our lineup finally settled in at the end of the year,"said Paynesville coach Tim Woehler, in his sixth year as head coach. "We got guys back that had not been in the lineup earlier and everyone was starting to come together at the end. If you look at the last two weeks, we have been wrestling very tough and hungry. We always strive to peak at tournament time." 

Paynesville had three wrestlers that did not compete against ACGC in the first meeting and all three came away with a win.

"We also did not give up a pin this time after we gave up four the first time we met," said Woehler. "We reversed a decision at 112 and we had won two matches by the time we got to 135. Last time our first win wasn't until 135."

Woehler and his coaching staff knew a while back that ACGC would be the team to beat and they tried to stress to the kids that they were not 23 points worse than the Falcons.

"We sat down the next day and explained to the guys that we were better than what we had showed," Woehler said. "And we explained what we needed to do at each weight if we were lucky enough to get to the finals and face them again."

Paynesville doesn't have the luxury of "big counters" in the lineup that they can throw out on the mat and expect a pin or technical fall when it's needed like some other state teams. But the Bulldogs have been able to survive with a lot of grit and determination.

"We have a great group of scrappers who go out there and give it their all," said Woehler. "And when you have a team made up of those kind of guys, you usually find yourself in a position with a chance to win."

Woehler also feels some of his wrestlers don't get the credit they deserve because they don't possess eye-popping won-loss records.

"We've wrestled such a tough schedule," he said. "Our only losses are to teams that were ranked in the top ten or "Lean and Mean" (by The Guillotine wrestling publication) when we wrestled them. Our lower weights sometimes get criticized, but four of our first five guys have winning records and considering our schedule and the amount of bumping guys to fill weights and get match-ups, sometimes I think that gets lost."

Some teams would rather flash a better won-loss record, but the Bulldogs feel that scheduling stronger opponents reaps rewards in the end.

"If we wrestled an easier schedule, we would probably have much better individual records," said Woehler. "But we probably wouldn't talking about our team going to state."

Benson senior Abby Fragodt has been selected to represent Region 3A in the Academics, Arts and Athletic Award program, it was announced recently.

The Triple "A" Award is sponsored by the Minnesota State High School League and goes to the high school seniors with a "B" or better grade-point-average and who participates in League-sponsored athletic and fine arts activities.

Fragodt has earned 15 letters in tennis, basketball and golf at Benson. She has scored over 1,400 points and has over 1,000 rebounds in her basketball career. She has also been an individual qualifier in both the state tennis and golf tournaments and has been all-conference in all three sports.

Fragodt also has participated in choir and swing choir, school musicals, knowledge bowl and student council. She was the MSHSL ExCel award winner as a junior.

League officials will announce the four state award recipients at a banquet and on-court recognition ceremony as the state boys basketball tournament March 27. Each winner receives a four-year $1,000 scholarship.

Three area wrestlers were among 28 who recently earned Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association All-State Academic honors.

Kurt Timmons, a senior for Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg; Ryan Swenson, a junior for Dawson-Boyd/Lac qui Parle Valley; and John Nething, a senior for New London-Spicer, all have achieved the honor based on the required 3.95 grade-point-average, state participation, overall matches wrestled, winning percentage and state tournament placement.

Timmons also was Academic All-State last year.