All three Bucs medal
Buc trio has big showing at the modified tourney
Three Buccaneer wrestlers joined the list of Blue Earth/Blue Earth Area grapplers who have won a medal at the State Wrestling Tournament. Max Ehrich, Nick Frank and Luke Mertens exited the St. Michael-Albertville High School gymnasium on Saturday, March 27, having finished in the top six in their respective weight class to earn their hardware.
“It is hard just to get to State in a normal year, and this year, with the Super Section format, it was even harder,” BEA head coach Randy Wirtjes said. “So for all three of these guys to not only make it to State but to also come home with a medal – it is quite an accomplishment.”
Ehrich wrestled to a third-place finish at 160 pounds, Mertens took fourth in the 285-pound bracket and Nick Frank finished sixth at 182.
“I really think Ty Peterson would have been competing for a medal also if he had not gotten hurt at the Super Section Tournament,” Wirtjes said, referring to the senior 138-pounder who suffered a season-ending knee injury the week before the State Tournament.
Ehrich was ranked No. 2 at 170 pounds in the final state poll but wrestled at 160 pounds throughout the latter part of the season and into the tournaments.
He opened the tournament with a 4-3 win over No. 8-ranked Blake Lehnertz of Dover-Eyota. Ehrich scored a third period takedown to break a 2-2 tie and then allowed a late escape to hold on for the win.
Ehrich then faced undefeated and No. 3-ranked Zach Holtz in the semifinals. Ehrich scored the opening points on a takedown but Holtz won the match by a 15-5 major decision. Holtz would go on to take second place in the tournament.
The loss put Ehrich up against No. 5-ranked Gabe Gorecki of Royalton/Upsala in a battle for third place. Ehrich controlled the match from the beginning and claimed an 8-2 victory to claim the bronze medal.
“Max has had to battle injuries the last few years but this year he made it through football without getting injured and then he stayed healthy all wrestling season,” Wirtjes commented. “Even when he was injured he never made any excuses. He is a no-nonsense guy who leads by example. He finished his career with over 150 wins. We will miss his leadership.”
Mertens won his first match at 285 pounds with a pin over Joshua Golombowski of Mille Lacs. The senior, who weighed in at just under 240 pounds for the tournament, held a 6-4 lead at the end of the first period. He increased his lead to 9-5 after two periods before putting Golombowski’s shoulders to the mat with 1:34 remaining in the match.
Mertens faced the No. 1-ranked Jakob Swalla of Minnewaska in the semifinal match. Mertens had just completed a reversal in the third period to take a 4-3 lead and appeared to be putting Swalla on his back when an injury timeout was called on behalf of Swalla. Mertens did not receive any back points and Swalla rebounded to win a 6-4 decision which sent Mertens into the match for third place.
Tim Peppel of BOLD was able to pin Mertens in the third period giving the BEA senior fourth place. Shane Noyes of Camby, who Mertens had defeated the previous week in the Super Section finals, beat Swalla 6-4 to win the championship at 285 pounds.
“Luke is a team wrestler. He stayed below 220 for most of the season so we could move him where we needed him,” Wirtjes said. “It was really fun to see him develop into the wrestler he became. He made it to State last year but got stronger and wrestled with confidence this year. He is another leader who is really good with the younger wrestlers and is a good role model.”
Frank lost his opening match at 182 pounds to No. 4-ranked Grady Schott of Chatfield by a pin in 43 seconds. Schott eventually ended up winning the silver medal.
“It was a tough way to start and Nick was really upset with himself after that first loss but Schott was undefeated,” Wirtjes commented. “We gave Nick some space and let him get ready for his next match.”
Frank recovered and ground out a hard-fought 3-0 decision over Michael Fitzpatrick of Crosby-Ironton to advance to the fifth-place match against Tyler Archer of Westfield. Frank and Archer had met at the Section and Super Section Tournaments with each wrestler winning one of the matches.
Archer won their third meeting by an 8-3 decision.
“Last year Nick finished third in a really tough Section Tournament,” Wirtjes noted. “I was so happy he made it to State this year and he showed what he was made of, the way he came back to win a medal. He works hard in practice and leads by example.”
Wirtjes, who has announced this was his last year at the helm of the BEA wrestling program, said he could not ask for a better group of guys to coach in his final season.
“These boys wrestle hard to get the job done and they do the job in the classroom too,” Wirtjes remarked. “Our team received a gold academic award and had the second-highest GPA in Class A. They work just as hard in the classroom as they do on the mat. They are a good group of kids.”