You could see the anticipation building during the 182-pound wrestling match as Blue Earth Area was inching closer to clinching the Section 2A wrestling title over the Kenyon-Wanamingo Knights.
The coaches, wrestlers and most of the fans had done the math. With BEA up 33-13 heading into the contest at 182 pounds, any kind of win by the Bucs’ Nick Frank would mean the Knights would not be able to overtake the Bucs with only three other matches remaining.
So, as Frank, with a 7-0 lead, rode K-W’s Daniel Van Epps during the closing seconds, his teammates were on their feet encouraging him. And when the buzzer sounded and Frank’s hand was raised in victory, his fellow squad members were waiting to greet him with hugs and pats on the back as he came off of the mat.
It had been 18 years and numerous second-place finishes since BEA last won a Section title and a trip to the State Tournament.
Now, the wait is over.
“I did not sleep well last night, or any of the past nights,” BEA head coach Randy Wirtjes said. “I kept running through different scenarios and plotting different strategies.”
He should sleep better now.
The Bucs would end up defeating the Knights by a final score of 39-23 to claim the Section 2A title.
“I can not really talk about one wrestler without talking about all of them,” Wirtjes said. “From 106 pounds all the way to 285, the boys wrestled well.”
The Knights took their only lead of the match when Gavin Johnson, with a record of 23-9, scored an 11-2 win over Caleb Langager at 106 pounds. While it may have been a loss on paper for the Bucs, the fact that Langager did not surrender a pin was good for the Bucs and immediately took some momentum away from the Knights.
Ty Peterson of BEA pinned the 24-8 Trent Foss in 1:44 at 113 pounds to give the Maroon and Gold the lead for good.
Davis Sunken made it 12-4 in favor of the Bucs when he earned a third-period pin over Kiefer Olson in the match at 126 pounds.
Twin brothers Jacob and Caleb Beeler reeled off two consecutive major decision victories at 126 and 132 pounds respectively to boost the Bucs’ lead to 20-4.
Jacob beat Isaiah Thompson 12-0 and Caleb downed Dillon Bartel 10-1.
The 138-pound match saw BEA’s Jaxen Klinkner, who is ranked No. 6 at 145 pounds move down and earn a 10-5 decision over Alec Johnson, who had a record of 22-9. Klinkner’s win put the Bucs on top 23-4.
Parker Meyers stepped in to wrestle in the 145 pound spot for BEA and lost a 9-5 decision to Bray Olson, who had a record of 25-9 and is a past state qualifier.
At 152 pounds, Koby Nagel squared off against 24-9 Jaedin Johnson. It was an exciting match with some interesting twists and turns but in the end it was Nagel who came out on top with a 16-5 major decision. The Bucs had now opened up a 27-7 lead.
Tyler Craig, a 22-11 wrestler for the Knights, pinned Adam Schavey of the Bucs in the second period of the 160-pound match to make it 27-13 in favor of BEA.
“He (Craig) is one of those guys who can get to a pinning combination no matter where he is,” Wirtjes said. “Adam wrestled very well but he just got caught.”
Max Ehrich moved up from his normal 160 pounds to wrestle at 170 pounds. The junior needed only 20 seconds to put Gage Thompson’s shoulders on the mat and increase BEA’s lead to 33-13 and put Nick Frank in the position to seal the victory.
Frank did not surrender a point. He led 2-0 after the opening period, 5-0 after the second period and added two more points in the third for a 7-0 triumph over Daniel Van Epps making the score 36-13 and securing the Buccaneer win.
Luke Mertens tallied the last points of the dual for the Bucs with a 7-0 decision over Logan Meyers at 195 pounds.
BEA’s Nick Lawrence lost a 9-1 major decision to Carter Quam, who had a record of 30-4 and is ranked No. 3 in the state at 195 pounds, in the 220-pound match.
Ian Cornelio of the Bucs lost by a second period pin to Armani Tucker at 285 pounds.
K-W, the No. 3-seed, had advanced to the championship with a 42-33 victory over the No. 2-seeded Maple River Eagles.
BEA 47, Medford 19
Medford scored the first points of the meet with a decision in the 106-pound match but BEA stormed back with 18 unanswered points on their way to a 47-19 win, which advanced them to the Section 2A championship.
“Caleb Langager went out and faced a kid at 106 pounds with 22 wins and only lost by a decision,” head coach Randy Wirtjes said. “That was huge and set the tone for the meet.”
Ty Peterson earned a fall in the first period at 113 pounds, Carson Sturtz received a forfeit at 120 and Davis Sunken added another first period pin at 126 pounds to stake the Bucs to an 18-3 lead.
Jacob Beeler dropped a 5-0 decision at 132 pounds but Caleb Beeler recorded a fall at 138 pounds to put BEA on top 24-6.
In the 145-pound match, Jaxen Klinkner lost a 10-3 decision. Medford gained four more team points when their No.1-ranked 152-pound wrestler, Willie VonRuden scored an 18-6 victory over Koby Nagel. The Bucs lead was down to 11 points at 24-13.
Adam Schavey of the Bucs came through with a second period pin at 160 pounds to extend BEA’s lead to 30-13.
Max Ehrich moved up to 170 pounds and earned a 21-6 technical fall in 4:35 to give the Bucs some breathing room with a 35-13 lead.
Nick Frank’s pin in 1:42 over his Medford opponent made the score 41-13 and eliminated Medford’s chance of winning.
Luke Mertens added a 5-2 decision at 195 pounds and Nick Lawrence scored a 2-1 decision for the Bucs at 220 pounds in a match whick took three overtime periods to decide.
The Bucs’ Ian Cornelio lost by a first period fall to close out the match.
The Minnesota State Team Wrestling Tournament is Thursday, Feb. 27.
BEA is the No. 4-seeded team and will face the No. 5-seeded GMLOS (Grand Meadow-Leroy Ostrander-Southland) Bulldogs beginning at 9 a.m.
The semifinals will be at 1 p.m., the third-place match at 5 p.m. and the championship match at 7 p.m.
The Minnesota State Individual Tournament is held on Friday and Saturday, Feb 28-29, beginning at 9 a.m. each day.