GROVE CITY — From the end of last year, expectations were just a little higher for Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City wrestling.
Sure, the team placed fourth in the Class A tournament in 2019. But with one senior graduating, 2020 was going to have to be even better.
“From the end of last year, expectations were higher,” said Falcons head coach Mike Amsden. “We knew we had everyone coming back a year older and a year better.”
“We got a lot of unfinished business to do, team and individual,” said 285-pounder Tanner Berghuis. “Last year didn’t end how we wanted it to. We’ll try to make that last push and get ‘er done this year.”
Ranked No. 2 in Class A throughout the season, ACGC earned the No. 2 seed in the state tournament and wrestles unseeded Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale/Parkers Prairie at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
“Just going throughout the year, everyone’s mentality has picked up throughout the year,” said Berghuis, who is ranked No. 2 in Class A. “We’ve had bigger matches as it’s gone on. (We’re) just getting it done day in and day out.”
Looking to reach the finals for the third time in school history (2007, 14), the Falcons put an extra emphasis on the team, going 30-1 in dual meets while also wrestling three individual tournaments throughout the season.
“We like to focus on one match at a time,” said senior 120-pounder Kelvin Andrade-Ponce. “We go tough as you see out there (in the practice room). We do everything we can to save our points and if we have to, if we need those bonus points, we’re going to do everything we can to get those.”
And that mark has come against some of the state’s best, including a pair of wins over fourth-ranked Minnewaska and a victory over third-ranked Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa.
“I know rankings don’t mean a lot but we’ve competed against number one, number three, number four, number five,” Amsden said. “We’ve wrestled 12 ranked or lean and mean teams, so we tested ourselves.”
Bertha-Hewitt/V/PP is ranked seventh and has three top-10 wrestlers in David Revering (10th, 106), Gideon Ervasti (10th, 182) and Craig Orlando (first, 285).
“They’ll give us a good look right away at state,” Andrade-Ponce said. “Two of the smaller guys are pretty good and their upper weights are decent. We have to know our jobs and get it done. Lower weights have to get the wins and bonus points. And middle weights and upper weights, keep it close and hopefully get it done.”
ACGC has had success against both potential semifinal opponents, beating both No. 3 seed Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove (33-24) and unseeded Royalton/Upsala (48-27).
And in the finals a potential rematch against the top-seeded, top-ranked and defending state champ in Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville. The Wolves knocked the Falcons out of championship contention last year in the semifinals (31-22) and have the only dual win over ACGC this winter (41-15).
“It’s one of those deals where if we wrestle to the best of our ability, no one can beat us,” Berghuis said. “We’re just trying to bring in that momentum we’ve had going and get it done in the first round, get it done in the second round and get it done in the championship.”
D-C/Litch ready for battle
When the Class AA team tournament gets underway at 11 a.m. Thursday, fourth-seeded Dassel-Cokato/Litchfield will find itself against a similar team in fifth-seeded Detroit Lakes.
D-C/Litchfield heads into state with five ranked wrestlers: Andrew Joedeman (10th, 106); Eddie Simes (seventh, 126); Jerry Simes (sixth, 132); Jude Link (third, 152); and Beau Nelson (10th, 195). Detroit Lakes also has five ranked wrestlers: Cade Okeson (eighth, 120); Blake Weber (eighth, 132); Brody Ullyott (fifth, 138); Blaine Henderson (10th, 170); and Jordan Skadsem (10th, 220).
D-C/Litchfield has five wrestlers with a win percentage of 75 percent or better. Detroit Lakes has seven wrestlers with a win percentage of 75 percent or better.
“Both teams are well balanced,” said D-C/Litchfield co-head coach Dan Buker. “They’re pretty strong at certain weights and we have to minimize their scoring at those weights. … They may be weak at one (weight), but the next one, they’ll be pretty strong.”
As if there weren’t enough similarities, both teams have been on a roll in dual meets. D-C/Litchfield has won 17 straight matches while the Lakers are winners of 16 straight.
Buker is hoping his squad is able to get just enough momentum to get by Detroit Lakes.
“We’ve always had that group mindset on focusing on small details here and there and making big improvements,” Buker said. “On the mat, they compete at a high pace and for each other. They battle for points. It’s not easy what they do for each other and what they demand of each other.”
By the numbers
53: The number of area wrestlers competing in the state individual tournament, which begins at 9 a.m. Friday with Class A and concludes at 7 p.m. Saturday with the state championship matches.
30: Of that group of 53, 30 area wrestlers were seeded in the tournament. Each bracket has the top eight seeds determined, with the remaining field put into matches by random draw.
11: Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City led the area with 11 state entrants, followed by nine from DC/Litchfield and seven from Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa.
43-1: The record of Minnewaska junior Tyson Meyer, who is the area’s lone returning state champion from 2019. The top seed in the 170A bracket, Meyer’s only loss came to Gage Roaldson of Bismarck, North Dakota.
220-28: The career record of BBE senior Canon Swanson, who is the top seed in the 145A bracket. Swanson is still looking for his first state championship after finishing as runner-up at 120A as a sophomore and 126A as a junior.
5: All five of Minnewaska’s state entrants were seeded for the Class A tournament. Meyer is a 1 seed, Dylan Jergenson (220A) is a 2 seed, Tyler VanLuik (195A) a 3 seed, Easton McCrory (126A) a 6 seed and Jakob Swalla (285A) a 7 seed.
2: At 138A, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg senior Will Magaard will try to win his second career state championship. Magaard was a state champion at 106A as a sophomore but missed the state tournament as a junior. He was seeded sixth in the bracket.
1996: With three state entrants, MAHACA (Morris Area/Hancock/Chokio-Alberta) hopes to bring home an individual state title for the first time since 1996 when Ryan Rettke won the 189A championship. Ethan Lebrija (120AA) is the No. 4 seed, Dalton Rose (182AA) is the No. 6 seed and Davin Rose (126AA) was unseeded.
Thursday at Xcel Energy Center
Quarterfinals, 9 a.m.
1-LPGE/Browerville vs. Badger/G-MR
5-GMLOS vs. 4-Blue Earth Area
3-TMB/WWG vs. Royalton/Upsala
2-ACGC vs. Bertha-Hewitt/V/PP
Consolation semifinals, 11 a.m.
Semifinals, 1 p.m.
Consolation finals, 5 p.m.
Consolation semifinals winners
Third-place match, 5 p.m.
Class A championship, 7 p.m.
Thursday at Xcel Energy Center
Quarterfinals, 11 a.m.
1-Simley vs. South St. Paul
5-Detroit Lakes vs. 4-D-C/Litchfield
3-Foley vs. Hutchinson
2-Fairmont/MCW vs. Orono