Prep Wrestling: Cardinals take flight to St. Paul for fifth year in a row

WILLMAR -- For the second time in the day, a seemingly insurmountable lead was on the brink of slipping away from the Willmar wrestling team in its attempt to win a fifth-straight section title.

Willmar heavyweight Brady Reigstad, left, battles Little Falls’ Gage Blechinger in the decisive match at Saturday’s Section 8AAA championship in Willmar. Reigstad earned a 4-1 decision which helped the Cardinals clinch a fifth-straight section championship. (, Clay Cunningham | Tribune)

WILLMAR - For the second time in the day, a seemingly insurmountable lead was on the brink of slipping away from the Willmar wrestling team in its attempt to win a fifth-straight section title.

Luckily for the Cardinals, their star heavyweight was twice up to the task of keeping the postseason hot streak alive.

With Willmar clinging to a one-point lead, Brady Reigstad gutted out a 4-1 decision over Gage Blechinger of Little Falls, securing a 34-30 win and another championship trophy for the Cardinals at the Section 8AAA meet Saturday.

The team state tournament is Thursday, Feb. 25 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul starting at 9 a.m. Seeding for the tournament will take place later in the month.

Following a 24-11 major decision by Colten Carlson in the 160-pound weight class, the Cardinals looked to have things locked up, as they’d stretched their lead to 31-9.


But the next four matches belonged to Flyers, who got three pinfalls and a 9-2 decision to close the gap to a single point, leaving it up to the heavyweights to decide the outcome.

Normally known for his quick-pin ability, Reigstad got all he could handle from Blechinger, as the match was scoreless well into the second period.

But as a packed gymnasium full of Cardinal fans chanted his name, Reigstad finally broke the tie, executing a two-point escape late in the second. From there, he successfully went on the defensive, picking up two more points and running out the clock to secure a Willmar win.

It was the second time during Saturday’s tournament that Reigstad was put in such a situation. The Cardinals also struggled late against Sartell, as a 36-11 lead was cut to 36-34 going into the final match.

The junior star had a much easier go the first time around, pinning Ben Strom in just 54 seconds.

When asked if he liked when the outcome hinged on his performance, Reigstad said, “Not necessarily, but I’ll do what I have to do to win.”

Reigstad, who also earned a forfeit in Willmar’s 41-24 semifinal win over Brainerd, was one of six Cardinals to go 3-0 Saturday.

Israel Navarro (106), Cael Carlson (113), Lincoln Shinn (138) and Logan Walkow (152) were unbeaten with two pinfalls, and Colten Carlson (160) earned his 3-0 mark with a major decision, technical fall and forfeit.


With an entire team that has only known championship success at the section tournament, Willmar coach Ed Oehlers says the sustained stretch of winning is the result of a strong culture that was put in place long before his grapplers reached high school.

“It really takes everyone, all the parents and coaches at all levels coming together to really make this program what it is,” he said. “That’s why we’ve had this routine success.”

But while he stresses the importance of a winning culture, Oehlers says there’s also a much simpler explanation for why this group was able to continue Willmar’s long-standing stretch of prosperity.

“It comes down to these kids performing,” he said. “We went through a little adversity in this tournament and they stepped up when they needed to.”

The Cardinals will participate in the Section 8AAA individual tournament at Moorhead Friday and Saturday. The Friday session is set to begin at 5 p.m. with the Saturday slate beginning at 11 a.m.

Willmar 34, Little Falls 30

106: Israel Navarro, W, maj Gabe Nagel 13-2

113: Cael Carlson, W, pin Spencer Strempke 0:27


120: Leo Wilczek, LF, pin Josh Miley 3:23

126: Ethan Roux, W, pin Jacob Biermaier 5:00 

132: Clay Carlson, W, dec Lane Rutten 9-4

138: Lincoln Shinn, W, dec Wyatt Lillemoe 7-2

145: Grant Litke, LF, dec Breck Erickson 7-5

152: Logan Walkow, W, tf Josh Beack 19-4

160: Colton Carlson, W, maj Trevin Larson 24-11

170: Justin Jenks, LF, pin Josiah Swanson 2:12

182: A.J. Jenks, LF, pin Andrew Reigstad 2:26

195: Mickel Schultz, LF, dec Justin Skaro 9-2

220: Billy Winkelman, LF, pin Nate Laurence 1:06

285: Brady Reigstad, W, dec Gage Blechinger 4-1

Willmar 42, Sartell 34

106: Israel Navarro, W, pin Sam Fernholz 1:09

113: Cael Carlson, W, pin Patrick Hesse 2:41

120: Nick Pelach, S, dec Josh Miley 9-5

126: Ethan Roux, W, pin Tyler Oehmen 2:40 

132: Rylee Molitor, S, dec Clay Carlson 6-4

138: Lincoln Shinn, W, pin Cristian Vance 1:01

145: Jake Fernholz, S, pin Breck Erickson 4:39

152: Logan Walkow, W, pin Jack Engle 1:53

160: Colton Carlson, W, won by forfeit

170: Avery Startz, S, pin Josiah Swanson 2:29

182: Tyler Snoberger, S, pin Andrew Reigstad 1:40

195: Cole Fibranz, S, maj Justin Skaro 12-0

220: Hunter Haugeto, S, pin, pin Nate Laurence 0:53

285: Brady Reigstad, W, pin, Ben Strom, 0:54

Willmar 41, Brainerd 24

106: Israel Navarro, W, pin Brad Patnode 3:35

113: Cael Carlson, W, dec Cole Kubesh 6-5

120: Braden Kramer, B, dec Josh Miley 8-4

126: Clay Carlson, W, dec Drew Breun 8-4 

132: Drew Robinson, B, dec Ethan Roux 4-1

138: Lincoln Shinn, W, pin Max Boran 3:26

145: Andy Schlosser, B, maj Breck Erickson 16-4

152: Logan Walkow, W, pin Eli Horn 1:44

160: Colton Carlson, W, tf Coltan Hardy 22-4

170: Josiah Swanson, W, pin Tate Arntson 2:37

182: CJ Wohl, B, maj Andrew Reigstad 8-0

195: Morgan Gibson, B, maj Justin Skaro 12-4

220: Logan Theodore, B, pin Nate Laurence 5:23

285: Brady Reigstad, W, won by forfeit




Related Topics: WRESTLING
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