Wrestling: A roller-coaster Saturday for Willmar
Cardinals stop Bemidji's chance at 8AAA three-peat; fall to Anoka in Class AAA quarterfinals
SAUK RAPIDS — Saturday was bittersweet for the Willmar wrestling team.
To start the day, the top-seeded Cardinals made a return back to the top of Section 8AAA. After being knocked off by Bemidji in the section finals two years in a row, Willmar knocked off the Lumberjacks for the 8AAA championship, 37-22.
But instead of relishing the win and having two weeks to prepare for the state tournament like normal, the Cardinals had a half-hour to get ready to face Section 7AAA champion Anoka in the Class AAA state quarterfinals right away. That was due to the Minnesota State High School League utilizing a regional state prelim format as a precaution against COVID-19.
“It’s definitely not easy to do,” senior Kaden Streed said of the section-to-state turnaround, “but it’s something we get used to. When we’re wrestling in tournaments, you can pull off a big win and then you have to get right back to it.”
Going 3-0 in matches decided by two points or less, including a pair of overtime decisions, the Tornadoes clipped the Cardinals to advance to the final four, 37-24.
“It’s tough ending with a loss,” said Willmar head coach Ed Oehlers. “The guys gave their all in that dual. Anoka has some really tough kids and we knew it would be a tough matchup between us. Some matches didn’t go as we planned or as we wanted to.
“We came off the high of taking it to Bemidji, which was a big goal for us to get that section title back. … I told the guys to sulk on it for a day, then we get back to work because we’ve got some individuals (who) can do some damage at the section and state tournament.”
During the regular season, Willmar split the season series with Bemidji. The Lumberjacks won on Jan. 22, 32-24. The Cardinals were a 47-21 victor on Feb. 9.
Since that loss, Willmar won 22 straight duals.
“We just knew we worked harder this year,” Willmar junior Jonas Anez said. “Our practices were hard every day, we had conditioning every day and once we beat (Bemidji) them, we knew we were going to wrestle them straight up and they’re not going to play any tricks because we beat them so bad.”
From the beginning, the Cardinals were in complete control, winning the first six matches for a 24-0 lead. In that stretch, Conlan Carlson won by fall at 113 pounds. Ivan Ciriaco-Mares (106), Sully Anez (120) and Caden Carlson (138) all picked up major decisions.
When Kaden Streed clinched an 8-2 decision over Nate Schwinghammer at 195, a mix of euphoria and relief washed over the Willmar bench. The Lumberjacks’ bid for a three-peat, all at the Cardinals’ expense, was over.
“It’s always nice to beat Bemidji,” Streed said. “As tensions grow and people start winning, you start to realize that this is our dual.”
Jonas added, “Once Kaden got those couple takedowns, we were all just, ‘OK, it’s set in stone.’ That was awesome.”
There wasn’t much time to savor the victory. Waiting in the wings was Anoka, which beat Forest Lake for the 7AAA championship on Saturday, 31-28.
Willmar took a 6-3 lead after Conlan pinned Garrett Wittek in 25 seconds to win at 113.
But like the Cardinals did to the Lumberjacks, the Tornadoes’ lightweights and middleweights set the tone. Anoka’s Elijah Paulson (126) won by fall and Brad Howes (145) scored a major decision to help build a 22-6 edge.
The Cardinals also took hard losses in overtime at 120 and 138.
At 120, Sully tied his match with Ashton Wollan at 5-5 thanks to a takedown and near-fall in the second period. Needing an extra period to decide a winner, Wollan got a takedown 24 seconds into overtime for the sudden victory.
Then at 138, Caden fought back from a 6-1 second-period deficit and nearly got a fall in the third before the match with Brendan Howes was tied at 8-8. The first overtime period went scoreless and both wrestlers scored escapes in the second overtime. In the ultimate tiebreaker, Brendan started in the down position and got a reversal on Caden to take the 11-9 decision and keep the energy on the Tornadoes’ side.
“We had a lot of momentum coming into the beginning of the day, and I think Anoka beating Forest Lake also had a lot of momentum,” Jonas said. “Winning those first matches against Bemidji snowballed and then having a rocky start at the beginning of this one, I don’t think we had the momentum again.”
Back-to-back decisions from Jonas (152) and Joe Kallevig (160) cut Anoka’s lead to 10 before the Tornadoes clinched the victory with a Zaden Fitzsimmonds fall at 170 and a Jacob Witaker decision at 182 made the score 31-12 with three matches to go.
Joining Anoka in the Class AAA semifinals are: Shakopee; Stillwater; and St. Michael-Albertville. The four teams will compete for the state championship on Thursday, March 25 at St. Michael-Albertville High School.
“They did a great job of slowing us down where we’re usually gaining extra points,” Oehlers said. “Some of our studs, whatever you want to call them, they matched up well against. We flip a couple of those matches and the dual looks a little bit different.”
Willmar’s wrestlers will now prepare for the Section 8AAA individual tournament, set to take place on Wednesday at Bemidji. The top four wrestlers at each weight then compete in a state prelim tournament against athletes from 7AAA at noon Saturday at Coon Rapids. The top two wrestlers from the state prelim will advance to St. Michael on March 25 to compete in an eight-man bracket to determine a state champion.
“I know our guys will be watching film and we’ll be resetting our goals knowing that that’s all we have to focus on now,” Oehlers said. “No matter what happens, we want to be wrestling come state tournament time, so we’ll keep practicing.”
Class AAA quarterfinals
106: Austin West, A, dec Ivan Ciriaco-Mares, 6-4
113: Conlan Carlson, W, pinned Garrett Wittek, 0:25
120: Ashton Wollan, A, dec Sully Anez, 7-5 (OT)
126: Elijah Paulson, A, pinned Jorge Zelaya-Velasquez, 1:48
132: Carter Ban, A, dec Steven Cruze, 7-3
138: Brendan Howes, A, dec Caden Carlson, 11-9 (UTB)
145: Brad Howes, A, maj dec Braeden Erickson, 12-0
152: Jonas Anez, W, dec Noah Torgerson, 3-0
160: Joe Kallevig, W, dec Caleb Brandenburg, 11-7
170: Zaden Fitzsimmonds, A, pinned Jacob Leiva, 2:22
182: Jacob Whitaker, A, dec Tyler Ludwig, 9-3
195: Kaden Streed, W, pinned Luke DeChene, 0:53
220: Mason Swanson, W, pinned Jaden Burandt, 4:27
285: Tyler Nebelung, A, pinned Lonnie Sanchez, 1:45
Section 8AAA championship
106: Ivan Ciriaco-Mares, W, maj dec Gavin Osborn, 13-2
113: Conlan Carlson, W, pinned Bordy Castonguay, 2:41
120: Sully Anez, W, maj dec Hunter Heim, 15-5
126: Jorge Zelaya-Velasquez, W, dec Seth Sisneros, 6-2
132: Steven Cruze, W, dec Coy Olsen, 5-3
138: Caden Carlson, W, maj dec Noah Leffelman, 14-6
145: Thade Osborn, B, maj dec Braeden Erickson, 9-0
152: Jonas Anez, W, maj dec Darren Roth, 18-5
160: Seth Newby, B, pinned Cameren Champagne, 1:05
170: Joe Kallevig, W, dec Hoyt Solum, 12-7
182: Barrick Nelson, B, pinned Tyler Ludwig, 3:16
195: Kaden Streed, W, dec Nate Schwinghammer, 8-2
220: Colton Hinrichs, B, pinned Ramero Trevino, 5:23
285: Mason Swanson, W, dec Caleb Bahr, 3-2