Wrestling: Knights erase a 19-point deficit to win Section 6A Team title
West Central Area-Ashby-Brandon-Evansville had a big deficit midway through its Section 6A Team Tournament title dual against the Bertha-Hewitt-Verndale-Parkers Prairie Raiders but got the momentum needed to earn its second straight Section 6A team title.
BARRETT - The West Central Area-Ashby-Brandon-Evansville wrestling team found itself in a hole midway through the Section 6A Team Tournament finals dual on its home floor on Friday down 28-9 against the Bertha-Hewitt-Verndale-Parkers Prairie Raiders.
But starting with a pin by Solomon Wales at 152 pounds over Blake Sumstad, the Knights won seven straight matches to win the section team title dual, 48-28 and punched their ticket to the MSHSL Class A State Team Tournament in March.
"It was really nice," Wales said about his pin. "I pinned him earlier in the year, and it was nice to get the team rolling a bit here."
"We were looking forward to that," WCA-A-B-E head coach Brandon Gruchow said. "Him coming out and getting after it just really set the tone. It was good for the rest of our guys to follow into."
After Wales's pin, Hunter Gruchow (160) picked up a 5-3 decision, while Ezekiel Sieckert earned a pin at 170 (2:00), as did Anthony Sykora (182 - 0:20), Beau Robinson (195 - 0:16), Will Rustan (220 - 5:23) and Justin Blascyk (285 - 3:41).
"The momentum was huge," Coach Gruchow said. "We talked about it in the first match. Even when we lost a couple there right away, you can just feel the excitement go down, guys going down. And we reversed that and put it the other way around. Obviously, it definitely makes things happen. Zeke coming up and watching those guys do it, then him coming up and doing it, was big. I don't think it happens without momentum."
The Knights have now won back-to-back section team titles, both of which they earned by beating the Raiders in the finals.
"It's pretty great to go back-to-back as a team," Sykora said. "We've been looking forward to this moment since the start of the season. It's a great goal to achieve. We took a couple of losses early in the season but we kept making little goals to get to the top."
WCA-A-B-E's wins before Wales' in the finals were a 4-3 decision by Owen Gruchow (113) and a pin (3:44) by Carter Lohse (126).
B-H-V-PP opened up a 19-point lead by getting pins from Justin Olson at 120 (1:36), Bennet Arceneau (132 - 3:56), Deagan Captain (138 - 1:51), and David Revering (3:04) and an 11-1 major decision by Hudson Truax at 106.
The Knights, who were the top seed in the section, got to the section championship by beating the No. 4 seed New York Mills (54-15) in the semifinals and the No. 8 seed Otter Tail Central (66-10) in the first round on Friday.
WCA-A-B-E had one win via forfeit against New York Mills, while it had pins from Owen Gruchow (0:32), Carter Lohse (0:26), Adam Lohse (1:06), Hunter Gruchow (0:16), Sykora (1:27) and Robinson (0:58), while Wales earned a 17-1 technical fall win and Rustan earned an 8-0 major decision.
Against OTC, WCA-A-B-E picked up three wins by forfeit while racking up pins by Evan Dingwall (106, 1:51), Owen Gruchow (0:09), Tucker McGee (120, 3:11), Wales (1:51), Kolby Peters (152, 2:26), Hunter Gruchow (1:21), and Sieckert (170, 1:15), and Adam Lohse earned a 7-0 decision.
This is the third time the WCA-A-B-E co-op has made the state team tournament (the West Central Area-Ashby-Evansville co-op made the state tournament in 2015 and 2016, and just West Central Area made it in 1996).
WCA-A-B-E finished third in last season's state tournament.
"It takes 14 guys all being on the same page," Coach Gruchow said about what it takes to be successful at the state team tournament. "You have to be willing to give everything you have for all six minutes or until that last whistle blows. You really all have to be on the same page, and you got to enjoy the moment and have fun with it."
The Class A State Tournament takes place in St. Paul at the Xcel Energy Center on March 2, 2023.
But before then, the Knights host the Section 6A Individual Tournament in Barrett.
Hunter Gruchow, Wales, Sykora, Robinson, and Rustan are all returning state qualifiers from last spring.
Sykora won a Class A state title at 170 last season and is looking to add another to round out his high school tenure.
"I'm just working on sticking to the basics, staying in a good position, and going what I do best," Sykora said.
"He wrestles a lot with us coaches, some teammates as well, but he's working on pushing through an entire match," Coach Gruchow said. "He doesn't get a lot of full-length matches, and he's actually kind of been just working on that and his technique throughout all three periods. He's working on just finishing solid moves, staying in a good position, and doing what he does best to get after it."
The Knights have five ranked wrestlers in The Guillotine's latest Class A rankings, Owen Gruchow (No. 4 at 106), Wales (No. 8 at 138), Hunter Gruchow (No. 4 at 145), Sykora (No. 1 at 182), and Justin Blascyk (No. 8 at 285).
Shamp comes up big in B-H-V-PP's semifinal win
To get to the Section 6A finals match against WCA-A-B-E, B-H-V-PP needed to hold off a comeback attempt by the No. 3 seed Border West in the section semifinals.
B-H-V-PP led 30-15 with four matches to go, but with a pin and decision, Border West cut its deficit to six points with two matches left.
Braden Shamp (220) shut the door on Border West with a second period pin (2:49) to seal what was a 36-30 win in the semifinals.
"It took a lot of weight off our heavyweight's shoulders, that's for sure," B-H-V-PP head coach Bill Wagner said. "He's been real solid for us in this last half of the season. He does good with just staying inside and good position, and he doesn't make too many mistakes."
Shamp's pin was one of five for the Raiders as Olson did so at 120 (0:20), as did Captain at 145 (0:34), Revering at 152 (1:58), and Cayden Kimber at 170 (0:17). Truax opened up the dual with a 6-0 decision at 106, while Preston Captain picked up at 7-6 decision at 126.
The Raiders faced the No. 6 seed Wadena-Deer Creek to open up the night and earned a 57-15 win. The Raiders picked up seven pins as Truax (0:52), Orran Hart (113, 1:29), Preston Captain (1:59), Arceaneau (0:20), Deagen Captain (0:18), Sumstad (160, 5:26), and Justin Koehn (182, 4:43). Kimber earned an 8-3 decision, while Tanner Schulke (145) earned a 16-9 decision, Olson earned an 18-1 tech fall and Revering earned an 8-0 major decision.
"I think as a team we've grown in getting in a better position; we've been in a lot better positions recently," Wagner said.
The Raiders have been atop the Section 6A standings in recent years as they have finished runner-up in back-to-back seasons and won three straight section titles from 2019-2021.
"We started off a little slow this season, and it took our guys a little bit this season to get down to weight and get in a good rhythm, but we've had a good run in the last month or so," Wagner said.
B-H-V-PP has four ranked wrestlers, Truax (No. 6 at 106), Hart (No. 7 at 113), Arceneau (No. 5 at 132), and Revering (No. 8 at 145).
Arceneau, Deagan Captain, and Revering are returning state qualifiers from last season.
Osakis falls to New York Mills in the opening round
The Osakis SIlverstreaks, the No. 5 seed in the section, pulled together a couple of pins against New York Mills on Friday but lost 43-26.
Osakis led 20-9 after six matches thanks to a 12-0 major decision by Simon Jacobson (120) and a 12-4 major decision by Jacob Taplin (132), while Reggie George (120) and Christian Nathe (138) earned pins (0:50 for George, 2:45 for Nathe).
Osakis did pick up another win with Kale Drevlow (152) earning a pin (2:22), but New York Mills won the last seven out of eight matches to seal its win.
George and Taplin are Osakis' two ranked wrestlers. George is ranked No. 2 at 106 in Class A, while Taplin is No. 9 at 126. Both were state qualifiers last season.