Area wrestlers advance
At the end of the day on Thursday, four area wrest-lers remained in the hunt for a medal at the State tournament held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
One still had his sights on striking gold.
Blue Earth Area’s heavyweight Jake Lee advanced to the semifinals on Friday with a 5-3 win over Logan Rinke of Dilworth-Glydon-Felton.
By making the semis, Lee is guaranteed a medal.
BEA’s 215-pounder Mat Willner won his first wrestleback match following his first defeat of the season the night before.
United South Central’s Preston Staloch (145) and A J Dryer (215) also kept their hopes alive for a medal by winning in the wrestlebacks.
In the opening round, Lee defeated No. 7-ranked Luke O’Reilly of Goodhue, 7-3.
In the quarterfinals, the Buc senior and Rinke wrestled to a scoreless first period.
Lee, ranked No. 3, needed just four seconds into the second period to take a 1-0 lead. With 30 seconds left in the period Lee built his lead to 3-0 with a takedown.
From the down position, Rinke escaped to cut Lee’s lead to 3-1 with 1:47 left in the match.
Lee appeared to have sealed a victory with a takedown with 45 seconds on the clock. But, Rinke was awarded a penalty point to make the score 5-2 and escaped for one point with 30 seconds in the match to close with two points.
With 20 seconds left, Rinke shot in deep for a takedown. However, Lee fought off Rinke and hung on for a 5-3 win.
“He was real quick and strong. I’ve only given up one takedown all season. I almost gave up a couple tonight,” says Lee. “My knees were shaking before the match. I’m always nervous before a match.”
Head coach Randy Wirtjes says Lee’s speed was neutralized by his opponent’s own quickness, but his wrestler did what he needed to do to pull out a victory.
“Jake did a good job in fighting off Rinke’s shots for takedowns. And, he scored when he needed to. Jake got takedowns at the edge of the mat and that’s something we teach the boys,” Wirtjes says.
In the second period there was a scary moment for Buc fans.
Lee needed a two-minute injury timeout and he heard a pop in his right knee.
“There was no way I was going to forfeit the match. I would have gone out there and wrestled him on one leg,” he says.
In the semis, Lee (41-1) was pitted against Brad Wollum of Canby (38-4), who finished second last year and currently ranked No. 1.
In his opening match of the tournament, Willner (40-1) suffered a heartbreaking 7-6 loss in three overtimes to Evan Stock of Yellow Medicine East.
The Buc senior entered the match 39-0 and ranked No. 4. His opponent (32-4) was ranked No. 2 and finished sixth last year at 189 pounds.
In the opening period Willner scored first with a takedown 44 seconds into the match and added another takedown to take a 4-2 lead into the second period.
Stock escaped from the down position with a minute left on the clock and was awarded a penalty point to tie the score at 4-4.
In the down position, Willner needed just three seconds to take a 5-4 lead.With seconds left in the match, Stock tied the score to send the contest into overtime.
No one scored in the first one-minute period.
Thirty seconds was put on the clock to start the second period and Willner got an escape with 18 seconds remaining.
The lead held up in the third 30-second period until Stock was given two stalling points with less than 12 seconds on the clock for a 7-6 decision.
Stock won his second match, again in overtime, to put the Bucs 215-pounder into the wrestlebacks.
Willner had little trouble with David Cowen of Minnewaska Area, earning a 7-0 decision.
Willner says his defeat the day before was a learning experience.
Appearing in his first State tournament, he says he was overwhelmed by the surroundings.
“I was more comfortable tonight,” he says. “I just had to learn to roll with the punches. Even the great ones lose and they are able to recover and bounce back.”
Willner’s opponent in the quarterfinal consolations was Cole Christianson (30-11) of Badger/Greenbush-Middle River.
Dryer (22-10) won his first match 3-0 before being pinned by No. 1-ranked Brad Kneisl (41-3) of Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg.
The Rebel junior defeated Brian Reece (20-20) of Long Prairie-Grey Eagle 10-5 in his first wrestleback match.
Dryer’s next opponent was Brody Davidson (34-10) of Crookston.
Staloch (26-8) rebounded from a 5-2 loss to No. 1-ranked Jordan Bendson (39-1) of Staples-Motley.
In his wrestleback match against No. 3-ranked Sam Lindgren of LeSueur-Henderson, Staloch needed an overtime period to eke out a 5-3 decision.
With five seconds left in regulation Bendson knotted the score at 3-3.
From a neutral position Staloch scored the winning takedown eight seconds into the first overtime period.
Staloch’s next match was against No 4-rated Aaron Zimmer (34-7) of Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg.