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State Wrestling: One tough out

GROVE CITY -- Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City prides itself on being a tough out. A year ago at the state tournament, the Falcons' team season ended unceremoniously with an opening-round loss to Frazee and a consolation defeat against Blackduck/Cass La...

The ACGC wrestling team practices for its trip to the state tournament Monday in Grove City. Joe Brown / Tribune
The ACGC wrestling team practices for its trip to the state tournament Monday in Grove City. Joe Brown / Tribune

GROVE CITY - Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City prides itself on being a tough out.

A year ago at the state tournament, the Falcons' team season ended unceremoniously with an opening-round loss to Frazee and a consolation defeat against Blackduck/Cass Lake-Bena.

That wasn't going to happen again. ACGC was going to make sure of it.

"This year, everyone was looking forward to at least placing at state instead of being beaten out right away," said 145-pounder Skye Powers, the lone senior on ACGC's squad this year. "Everyone came into the season ready to rock and roll."

The Falcons are back again at the state tournament as the fourth seed. And they plan on sticking around for a while, starting with Thursday's opening-round match against fifth-seeded Badger/Greenbush-Middle River.

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"It's a good test right away," said junior heavyweight Tanner Berghuis. "I like our draw and I think it'll be a challenge for us. Being there last year and coming up short, it really pushes a guy to get back and better again."

ACGC has plenty of individual talent with 12 state entrants and seven ranked wrestlers. But the Falcons have also proven in dual meets that every point will be hard to come by.

"Our claim to fame all year is eliminating bonus points," said ACGC head coach Mike Amsden. "We average 14.9 points allowed per dual and that's lowest in Class A. We know how to save points and stay off our backs. Get points when you can and save them every time."

In the first round, BGMR sports a roster with six state entrants and a trio of ranked wrestlers in Owen Novacek (third, 145), Dominik Vacura (first, 220) and Zach Evans (seventh, 285). Powers at 145 and Berghuis at 285 hope to neutralize the Gators' biggest hitters.

"I just want to try wrestling my own match and do what I do," Powers said of potentially facing Novacek.

Berghuis added about possibly facing Vacura or Evans, "It just makes me want to work on my technique a lot more and conditioning to push it in that final two minutes."

ACGC's two dual losses have come against the top two teams at state in top-seeded Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville (28-25) and second-seeded Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove (35-26). The Falcons faced both those teams in a quad meet in Sauk Centre on Dec. 20 and Amsden has been eager to meet both of them again.

"Once those matches were over ... I said, 'I want to do that again,'" Amsden said. "It helps a ton because we've seen 'em, we've felt 'em. We know what they have. TMB's lineup has changed a little bit since last time we wrestled, and Long Prairie has virtually stayed the same."

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There's plenty of experience back on the ACGC squad with 90 percent of the team returning from a year ago. A year older, a year wiser and a year stronger, the goal is to give the rest of the Class A field plenty of fits in hopes of reaching the finals for the first time since 2014.

"Everyone's focused and ready to wrestle. No one's afraid," Powers said. "We're all ready to go."

"We're ready. We're mentally in a good spot," Amsden added. "This team is so calm and so relaxed, I'm not sure anyone can really faze us. It's just a matter of going out there and getting it done. I don't think we're going to be scared or intimidated."

Class A wrestling

1. LPGE/Browerville Wolves

Record: 24-1

State qualifiers: 5

Ranked wrestlers: 6 (Cael Lorentz 4th, 106; Carter Meiners 7th, 113; Justin Crandall 7th, 120; Landon Gode 6th, 126; Mason Gode 1st, 132; Riley Thom 10th, 152)

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State trips: 2

State titles: None

Goodhue Wildcats

Record: 25-8

State qualifiers: 4

Ranked wrestlers: 4 (Baxter O'Reilly 7th, 152; Kelby O'Reilly 4th, 160; Kaleb O'Reilly 2nd, 170; Kodee O'Reilly 4th, 195)

State trips: 13

State titles: 2 (1980 co-champs; 2001)

4. ACGC Falcons

Record: 28-2

State qualifiers: 12

Ranked wrestlers: 7 (Cole Holien 7th, 160; Brady Holien 8th, 113; Kelvin Andrade-Ponce 8th, 120; Ramzee Molinaro 5th, 126; Taylor Fester 10th, 170; Logan Sherwood 10th, 182; Tanner Berghuis 2nd, 285)

State trips: 12

State titles: 1 (2007)

5. Badger/Greenbush-MR Gators

Record: 19-9

State qualifiers: 6

Ranked wrestlers: 3 (Owen Novacek 3rd, 145; Dominik Vacura 1st, 220; Zach Evans 7th, 285)

State trips: 6

State titles: None

2. TMB/WWG Panthers

Record: 29-4

State qualifiers: 6

Ranked wrestlers: 5 (Ayden Horner 3rd, 113; Dereck Ellingson 3rd, 132; Anthony Axford 4th, 145; Jace Paplow 5th, 170; Trevor Eisfeld 3rd, 182)

State trips: 2

State titles: None

Bertha-Hewitt/V/PP Raiders

Record: 24-1

State qualifiers: 5

Ranked wrestlers: 5 (Quinn Kern 4th, 120; Devin Dean 9th, 145; Gideon Ervasti 9th, 170; Zavier Grefe 7th, 182; Craig Orlando 1st, 285)

State trips: 6

State titles: None

3. Kenyon-Wanamingo Knights

Record: 23-9

State qualifiers: 9

Ranked wrestlers: 5 (Jeron Matson 1st, 120; Seth Brossard 2nd, 152; Tyler Ryan 1st, 160; Kaya Lindell 9th, 195; Jesse Jackson 3rd, 285)

State trips: 6

State titles: 1 (2016)

Aitkin Gobblers

Record: 15-12

State qualifiers: 6

Ranked wrestlers: 1 (Jack Gravelle 6th, 132)

State trips: 5

State titles: None

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