ST. MICHAEL — Willmar's six state quarterfinalists all had to battle back in the state prelims.
So, it only made sense to have four of them fight through the consolation bracket.
By the end of Thursday's Class AAA state individual championships at St. Michael-Albertville High School, the Cardinals had three wrestlers -- Conlan Carlson, Jonas Anez and Kaden Streed -- finish fifth after winning consolation championships.
"It was amazing," Willmar head wrestling coach Ed Oehlers said of the team's performance. "Our guys, with those tough first-round seeds and going against some of the toughest guys in the state came back to battle. ... Super proud of them."
After taking a 13-7 loss to Woodbury's Alex Braun in the 113-pound quarterfinals, Carlson responded with a second-period pin over Tartan's Brandon Lee. That set up a match with Waconia's Lincoln Vick in the consolation finals, which saw Carlson emerge victorious with a 5-3 decision.
"Conlan's had big matches all year and has been a staple of our lineup as an eighth-grader," Oehlers said. "He's definitely a student of the sport and he'll come back and improve on things in the offseason."
With a 3-1 loss by decision against No. 2 ranked Joey Novak of New Prague, Anez had a chance at payback in the 152 consolation semifinals. After losing an 8-4 decision to Coon Rapids' Demetrius Seals in the state prelims, Anez got the better of the matchup this time with an 8-0 major decision.
"He kept his tempo up and knew he had to finish his shots quicker," Oehlers said of Anez against Seals. "Last time, Seals slowed it down and (Anez) had some hesitation. This time, Jonas just set it up and finished well."
Using the momentum from the consolation semis, Anez clinched fifth place with another major decision Hastings' Aiden Erickson.
Facing No. 2 ranked Joey Johnson of Shakopee in the 195 quarterfinals, Streed was kept off the scoreboard. Streed's next two matches had a flurry of offense, starting with a 10-3 decision against Osseo's Aidan Wayne. In the consolation finals, Streed closed out his high school career with a 16-9 decision over Mounds View's Jacob Solheim.
"Even in his loss, Kaden stayed in the match. He looked to score and was wrestling well and confident," Oehlers said. "Not too many guys get to finish on a victory; it's nice to see him be able to do that."
Mason Swanson was the fourth Cardinal competing for fifth place after pinning Hastings' Austin Leflay in the second period of the consolation semis. Against New Prague's Evan Anderson, Swanson took the loss after a second-period fall.
Sully Anez (120) and Caden Carlson (138) were 0-2 on the day.
Between the six Willmar quarterfinalists and a return to the Class AAA state tournament, Oehlers praised the six-pack of wrestlers for keeping Willmar wrestling on the right path through a pretty chaotic season.
"It's a huge accomplishment for the team and individuals," Oehlers said. "It was a different feel being there, not in that big environment (at the Xcel Energy Center). But they're all optimistic for the future. ... The seniors especially, but all the leaders on the team set the tone to thrive in the coming years."
The state tournament continues Friday at St. Michael-Albertville. Class AA team competition starts at 9 a.m., followed by individual competition at 2 p.m. Dassel-Cokato/Litchfield wrestles Fairmont/Martin County West in the semifinals at 9 a.m. Class A takes place at the same times Saturday at St. Michael. Tickets are unavailable. Web-streaming is available for a fee at www.prepspotlight.com.