ST. MICHAEL — Of its three state wrestling quarter-finalists, the youngest of the New London-Spicer Wildcat trio left the biggest mark. And the two outgoing seniors overcame some dramatics in their prep finales.

Wildcats freshman Luke Knudsen reached the Class AA 113-pound championship match, ultimately finishing in second place. At 120, senior Ty Bisek finished in third place. Fellow senior Nick McKenzie placed fifth Friday at St. Michael-Albertville High School.

“All of them went 2-1 and we won some nice, tight matches,” said NLS head wrestling coach Matt Bisek. “It’s a good way to end the season; it was a fun time.”

Ranked fourth at 113, Knudsen opened with a decision over ninth-ranked Cash Sixberry of Big Lake. In the semis, Knudsen shut out seventh-ranked Victor Franco of Dassel-Cokato/Litchfield, 7-0.

“I wanted to get to my different shots and score on my feet,” Knudsen said.

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High School Wrestling: MAHACA, NLS and Team United move plenty of wrestlers into state prelims

Top-ranked Tyler Wells, of Princeton, took on Knudsen in the finals, eventually winning by 17-0 tech fall.

Finishing the year 34-2, Knudsen’s hoping for plenty of other shots at a title in the future.

“It makes me excited for the future years,” he said.

Dassel-Cokato/Litchfield’s Jude Link wrestles Simley’s Cael Berg in a 160-pound championship match in the Class AA individual state wrestling championships on Friday, March 26, 2021, at St. Michael-Albertville High School in St. Michael. 

Traci Westcott / Rochester Post Bulletin
Dassel-Cokato/Litchfield’s Jude Link wrestles Simley’s Cael Berg in a 160-pound championship match in the Class AA individual state wrestling championships on Friday, March 26, 2021, at St. Michael-Albertville High School in St. Michael. Traci Westcott / Rochester Post Bulletin

Trying to make the finals for a second straight year, Ty Bisek started with a 17-0 tech fall in the quarterfinals before losing to Simley senior and Arkansas-Little Rock recruit Reid Nelson in the semis, 14-7. Facing another Division I challenge in the third-place match against Waseca’s Mason Gehloff (Minnesota), it went to overtime after Gehloff got a reversal late in the third period.

“I knew he was tired,” Ty said about heading into overtime. “I went into it knowing I had to set my offense up and I worked to score.”

A Concordia-Moorhead commit, Ty got a takedown at 47 seconds to get the sudden victory, 10-8.

“I wanted to have some fun,” Ty said. “Last match, can’t hold anything back.”

At 285, McKenzie rebounded after a loss in the quarterfinals with a second-period fall on New Ulm’s Jaden Drill to reach the consolation finals. Facing fourth-ranked Max Balow of Lake City, the match was tied 2-2 after three periods. Then after a scoreless sudden-death period, McKenzie got on the board in the second overtime with a reversal. The next period saw Balow escape, only for McKenzie to score a takedown and cement fifth place with a 6-3 decision.

“I just wanted to take as much clock off and I culd and ride him as much as I could,” said McKenzie, who’ll resume his wrestling career at Augsburg. “I didn’t want to let him get an easy throw or let him get my legs or anything like that.”

McKenzie, who entered the tournament ranked third, added, “It feels good to end my career on a win. … I’m happy to be done but sad to see it go.”

WCT Sports Show: State Wrestling Prelims

Link, Simes take 2nd

After taking second in the Class AA team tournament earlier in the day, four of Dassel-Cokato/Litchfield’s seven individual state entrants finished sixth or better.

“It was a great day for the kids,” said Charging Dragons co-head coach Dan Buker. “All the hard work paid off and it’s great for our guys to be rewarded for a shorter, grinding season.”

Junior Jude Link made the finals for the second straight season. Ranked No. 2 in the state, Link had decisive wins in the quarters and semis that put him in the championship against top-ranked Cael Berg of Simley. A late reversal put Link in striking distance, but Berg, who is committed to wrestle at Harvard, had an escape and prevented the D-C/Litch junior from getting another shot on offense. Berg won the match by 4-2 decision.

Another junior, Eddie Simes, made the finals for the first time. Wrestling at 152, Simes won a 3-2 decision over fourth-ranked Logan Thorsten of Foley to make the finals. For the second time in the day, Simes took on the top seed, Ryan Sokol of Simley. Sokol is ranked 10th nationally at 152 according to TrackWrestling and is committed to wrestle at Cornell. Like in the team championship, Sokol got the win for the individual title via 22-7 tech fall.

Elsewhere for the Charging Dragons, Victor Franco placed fourth at 113 while Jerry Simes (138) and Hayden Hoernemann (220) finished sixth.

Tigers twosome

Morris Area/Hancock/Chokio-Alberta’s two state entrants — Davin Rose and Ethan Lebrija — reached their respective championship matches.

The top seed at 132, Rose met Watertown-Mayer’s Austin Gabbert in the finals. Rose is ranked third and was undefeated going into the match while Gabbert is ranked No. 1. The match was tied 3-3 after two periods, but an escape from Gabbert seconds into the third made the difference as he won a 4-3 decision.

After knocking off No. 2 Cash Ramond of Simley in the semifinals, Lebrija faced top-ranked Jaxson Rohman of Fairmont/Martin County West in the finals. Rohman made life tough on Lebrija with six takedowns in the match, leading to a 15-6 major decision.

The state wrestling championships will conclude with Class A on Saturday, with teams wrestling at 9 a.m. and individuals beginning at 2 p.m.

Class AA championships

How D-C/Litchfield fared
113: Victor Franco: Quarterfinals: Franco maj dec Calvin Singewald, Cannon Falls, 14-5; Semifinals: Luke Knudsen, New London-Spicer, dec Franco, 7-0; Third place: Peyton Spychalla, Simley, dec Franco, 6-3 ... 138: Jerry Simes: Quarterfinals: Lucas Jagodzinske, Fairmont/MCW, dec Simes, 4-0; Consolation semifinals: Simes no contest over Rocco Visci, Big Lake; Fifth place: Griffin Lundeen, Thief River Falls, maj dec Jerry Simes, 9-0 … 152: Eddie Simes: Quarterfinals: Simes maj dec Joe Kozlowski, Lake City, 12-2; Semifinals: Simes dec Logan Thorsten, Foley, 3-2; Championship: Ryan Sokol, Simley, tech fall Simes, 22-7 … 160: Jude Link: Quarterfinals: Link maj dec Alex McPhee, Proctor/Hermantown, 15-6; Semifinals: Link maj dec Blake Jagodzinske, Fairmont/MCW, 19-7; Championship: Cael Berg, Simley, dec Link, 4-2 … 170: Tate Link: Quarterfinals: Adam Sylvester, Totino-Grace, pinned Link, 1:53; Consolation semifinals: Cale Luthens, Hutchinson, dec Link, 5-3 … 195: Beau Nelson: Quarterfinals: Gannon Rosenfeld, Mankato West, pinned Nelson, 1:13; Consolation semifinals: Hayden VanderVoort, Hutchinson, dec Nelson, 5-0 … 220: Hayden Hoernemann: Quarterfinals: Gavin Nelson, Simley, pinned Hoernemann, 0:38; Consolation semifinals: Hoernemann dec Bryce Kuschel, Becker, 9-2; Fifth place: Riley O’Malley, Tri-City United, pinned Hoernemann, 3:49.
How New London-Spicer fared
113: Luke Knudsen: Quarterfinals: Knudsen dec Cash Sixberry, Big Lake, 10-3; Semifinals: Knudsen dec Victor Franco, 7-0; Championship: Tyler Wells, Princeton, tech fall Knudsen, 18-3 … 120: Ty Bisek: Quarterfinals: Bisek tech fall Noah Vanderbeek, Princeton, 17-0 (5:44); Semifinals: Reid Nelson, Simley, dec Bisek, 14-7; Third place: Bisek decMason Gehloff, Waseca, 10-8 (OT) … 285: Nick McKenzie: Quarterfinals: Elijah Novak, Foley, dec McKenzie, 3-1; Consolation semifinals: McKenzie maj dec Jaden Drill, New Ulm, 15-6; Fifth place: McKenzie dec Max Balow, Lake City, 6-3 (OT).
How MAHACA fared
126: Ethan Lebrija: Quarterfinals: Lebrija maj dec Jacob Thompson, Byron, 13-4; Semifinals: Lebrija dec Cash Raymond, Simley, 6-4; Championship: Jaxson Rohman, Fairmont/MCW, maj dec Lebrija, 15-6 … 132: Davin Rose: Quarterfinals: Rose dec Nelson Anderson, Monticello, 8-2; Semifinals: Rose dec Kaiden Schrandt, Simley, 8-2; Championship: Austin Gabbert, Watertown-Mayer/ML, dec Rose, 4-3.
How United fared

152: Dain Mortenson: Quarterfinals: Logan Thorsten, Foley, dec Mortenson, 3-1; Consolation semifinals: Joe Kozlowski, Lake City, dec Mortenson, 5-3.