Wrestling: Benson Brave state champ keeps his word
Thomas Dineen made himself a promise as a freshman to never lose again and he stuck to it by winning his 3rd straight state title. BBE's Hanson also wins a state title and BOLD's Kiecker finishes 2nd.
ST. PAUL — With a tear in his eye, Thomas Dineen made his 15-year-old self proud.
After losing at the state wrestling tournament as a freshman, Dineen never wanted to feel that way again. Now a senior for Benson, that thought rang through his head throughout Friday and Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center.
“I was devastated,” Dineen said. “It sounds like I’m making wrestling the most important thing ever but it was to me at the time. I told myself I was never, ever going to lose again.”
In high school competition, he never did lose again. The Benson senior closed out his prep career with a third straight Class A 195-pound state championship and with 135 consecutive victories.
Dineen locked up title No. 3 with a fall over St. Clair/Mankato Loyola’s Jacob Schimek in 2 minutes, 50 seconds.
“Walking off that mat when I held up the three, I looked at my fans and thought, ‘I did it,’” Dineen said. Benson had five rows of people in the stands clad in yellow-and-maroon cheering on Dineen.
“Everything I woke up for at 5 a.m. when I didn’t want to crawl out of my bed, it all came true. I can’t believe it.”
With a career record of 203-14, Dineen is the fourth area wrestler to win three state championships, joining Renville-Sacred Heart’s John Miller (1982-85), Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg’s Kevin Steinhaus (2007-09) and Minnewaska’s Tyson Meyer (2019-21).
“He wrestled spectacularly today,” said Braves head coach Scott Thompson. “He was very loose and was very controlling. He was dominating. It was fun.”
Dineen (49-0) advanced to the finals with a 6-0 decision over Red Rock Central’s Vander Mathiowetz. It was Dineen’s second win of the season over Mathiowetz.
Both Dineen and Thompson wanted to stay aggressive in the finals.
“Get after him right from the start,” Thompson said. “Get that first takedown and go from there.”
Against Schimek (47-3), Dineen built a 5-0 first-period lead with a takedown and a near-fall.
“I was going to take what came; I wasn’t going to force anything,” Dineen said. “I knew if I won the hand fight, good things would come . … I know I can ride anybody out if I put my mind to it. You just have to go with the flow and take what comes.”
He followed that up with a takedown early in the second and finished off his high-school career with an exclamation point.
Thompson added, “It was awesome to see him go out truly the way he wrestles. He doesn’t hold back and he doesn’t have close matches because of the way he keeps the foot on the gas pedal. I’m glad the way he ended it was with no holding back and just trying to win. He wanted to dominate.”
Using heartbreak as motivation, Dineen became a multi-time champion and Benson’s all-time career wins leader. He’ll wrestle collegiately at Division I South Dakota State University.
“It’s been quite the ride,” Thompson said. “I’ve told him before that I’m one of the luckiest coaches in the state of Minnesota to be able to work with a guy with so much dedication and passion.”
Hanson avenges lone loss
The only blemish on Maximus Hanson’s season came courtesy of Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted’s Collin Boese. When the bracket came out for 170A, the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa junior was hoping for an eventual rematch against Boese (39-4).
That came in the state championship. And Hanson got his comeuppance with a 3-1 decision.
“I had hopes for (a state title) every year, coming in thinking I’m going to be the best,” Hanson said. “To actually do it is amazing.”
It was a 1-1 match through the first five-and-a-half minutes. Hanson learned from their previous matchup — an 8-4 decision for Boese on Jan. 21 — to stay on the defensive.
“I knew that if he got to my leg, he was likely going to finish,” Hanson said. “I was getting my hands down to the mat, always being ready to block and be ready for his shots.”
Hanson finally got his opening to attack with nine seconds left in the third period. He went after Boese’s leg and was able to get the decisive takedown.
“I saw him step with that foot heavy and all his weight was on it,” Hanson said. “I swung my arm and got it because I knew he couldn’t move it with all his weight on it.”
It was the second dramatic win of the day for Hanson. Going into overtime with Medford’s Tate Hermes in the semifinals, Hanson got a takedown in overtime to clinch a 5-3 decision.
“When I actually finished off the match with that final takedown, it was just insane that I was going to the state finals,” said Hanson, who wrapped up the season with a 48-1 record.
“(It’s) a childhood dream, for sure.”
Kiecker reaches 152 finals
BOLD junior Austin Kiecker held firm as the top seed in the 152A bracket. He pinned Crosby-Ironton’s John Paul Fitzpatrick in the semifinals in 5:29 to reach his first ever state final.
Kiecker had to settle for second place after losing to top-rated Brodie Kellen of Dover-Eyota.
A 1-0 match through two periods, Kellen was able to break through in the third to snatch a 5-2 decision.
“Some people are tough to score on,” said Warriors head coach Matt Zupke, “and that Kellen was tough to score on.”
Kellen (47-3) successfully kept Kiecker from going for a double-leg takedown, his bread-and-butter, according to Zupke.
“We struggled to get inside,” Zupke said. “It was a hard-fought match.”
Making his fourth state appearance, Kiecker (34-2) has improved his standing each year. He placed sixth as a freshman and third as a sophomore.
With one more year to go, BOLD is hoping Kiecker’s senior season is the breakthrough.
“Very proud of him; He wrestled a tough weight class and he beat a lot of tough kids,” Zupke said. “We made the championship and we fell a takedown or two short. But we got next year, hopefully.”