Wirtjes 6th, Dreyer 5th
In sports, the difference between winning and losing can be a very fine line.
That’s especially true in wrestling.
Blue Earth Area’s 119-pounder Jake Wirtjes and 215-pounder A.J. Dreyer of United South Central found that out at the individual portion of the State Meet held March 3-6 in St. Paul.
Both won their opening round matches, then lost to the eventual state champ in their respective weight class.
That put them into the wrestlebacks and a chance to earn a medal.
Wirtjes and Dreyer wrestled for a fifth-place medal, but each took a different road to their match.
For Wirtjes, it was 30 seconds that may have seemed like a long time.
It surely was for Bucs fans at the Xcel Energy Center or those listening to Wirtjes’ quarterfinal consolation match Friday night on KBEW radio.
With the Buc junior leading 10-4 in the match that would guarantee him a medal — former and legendary Blue Earth wrestling coach Dick Maher not only thought the unthinkable, but uttered words to the effect, “If he can stay off his back he will win a medal.”
You don’t need to guess what happened next.
“I’m thinking, holy smokes! He’s absolutely flat on his back. Right in the middle of the mat,” recalls Maher.
And, it wasn’t any easier for father and head coach Randy Wirtjes.
“I was shocked and couldn’t believe it. The kid had the head lock pretty tight. But, Jake gave it everything he had not to get pinned,” says Wirtjes.
“I kept looking up at the clock and back at Jake. It seemed like the clock never moved,” he adds.
With 15 seconds left in the match Maher begins a countdown every five seconds, hoping the Buc grappler can hang on for victory.
Ten seconds … five seconds, says Maher, Wirtjes wins, 10-9.
“I only remember focusing on fighting to get off my back. It would have been tough losing a match you were winning like that,” says Jake. “It was the longest 30 seconds in my life.”
Jake lost his next two matches, but still took home a sixth-place medal and ended the season with a 32-12 record.
For Dreyer, the state tournament would be the last for the Rebel senior.
Last year, he finished sixth at State and set a goal at the start of the season to win gold.
Once that dream ended in the quarterfinals, his focus was on third place and a bronze medal.
A year ago, Dreyer’s nemesis was the Bucs 189-pounder, Mat Willner.
This year, it was David Lindell of New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva, having lost to him twice this year by one point, including a 7-6 decision in the Section 2A finals.
To read more of this story, see this week’s Register.