Wrestling: WCA-A-B-E's Sykora, Alexandria's Nelson lead a pack of area athletes in medal contention at state

Alexandria's Blaze Nelson, Minnewaska's Miles Wildman, along with WCA-A-B-E's Anthony Sykora and Hunter Gruchow, went 2-0 on Thursday and are in the state semifinals of their bracket, while a few others are still in the hunt for all-state honors.

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Alexandria senior Blaze Nelson works for a pin over Simley's Derrick Dohmen in the first round of the MSHSL Class AA tournament on March 3, 2023. Nelson earned two pins on the day to get the semifinals at 145.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

ST. PAUL - Many area wrestlers shined on the first day of the MSHSL State Wrestling tournament and find themselves in a position to potentially finish as state finalists or better.

This includes Alexandria senior Blaze Nelson (145 - Class AA) along with West Central Area-Ashby-Brandon-Evansville senior Anthony Sykora (182 - Class A), junior Hunter Gruchow, and Minnewaska freshman Miles Wildman (106 - Class A), who have made the semifinals in their brackets after strong showings on Friday, March 3 at the Xcel Energy Center.

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West Central Area-Ashby-Brandon-Evansville pins Wabasso's Chase Irlbeck in the second period of their first round match at 182 pounds at the 2023 state tournament on March 3, 2023. Sykora, who won the state title at 170, is in the semifinals with two dominant wins.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

The semifinals and additional consolation matches begin on Friday after the start of the girls tournament (9 a.m.). The placement matches begin at 4 p.m., with the finals starting at 7 p.m.

All wrestlers in a wrestle-back match on Saturday need one win to finish with all-state honors. The semi-finalists have already earned all-state finishes.

Note: All rankings in this article are from The Guillotine


Alexandria (Class AA)

Nelson (37-7), ranked No. 9 at Class AA at 145, started off his tournament with a bang by pinning Simley Derrick Dohmen (1:35) in the first round. His strong day continued in the quarterfinals with a first period pin of Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s Laiken Copeman (1:22).

In the semifinals, Nelson wrestles an undefeated wrestler, Koy Buesgens of New Prague, who is 52-0 and is the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the state by The Guillotine.

Freshman Nolan Fettig (106) got off to a great start to the day with a 12-9 decision over Albert Lea’s Ryan Collins. Fettig lost by a pin (3:42) to Simley’s Austin Gryzwinski (ranked No. 2) in the semifinals but bounced back in a wrestle-back match and defeated Totino-Grace’s Logan Refsnider 4-2.

Fettig (44-3) will have another wrestle-back match on Saturday morning against Dawson-Boyd-Lac Qui Parle Valley-Montevideo United’s Ben Gunlogson (ranked No. 7 in the state).

Fettig is ranked No. 6 in the state.

Junior Mason McGrane (126), ranked No. 7 in the state, fell behind 7-2 after two periods of his match against Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s Jack Krier (ranked No. 2) in the first round. McGrane scored four points in the third period, but Krier went on to win 12-6.

In his wrestle-back match, McGrane fell to Rock Ridge’s Dutch Hedblom. McGrane finishes the season with a 32-6 record.

West Central Area-Ashby-Brandon-Evansville (Class A)

Sykora started his hunt for back-to-back state titles with a pin (3:19) over Chase Irlbeck (Wabasso). Sykora again dominated in the quarterfinals as he earned a 15-0 tech fall win over Eric Mauss of Caledonia-Houston. Sykora (47-1) wrestles Paynesville Area’s Peyton Hemmesch (34-6) in the semifinals.


Sykora is ranked No. 1 in the state at 182.

Hunter Gruchow began the day with a bang by pinning Alexander Schuh (Tracy-Milroy-Balaton-Westbrook-Walnut-Grove) in 34 seconds.

He then erased a 6-3 deficit in his quarterfinal match and won 15-8 over Crookston’s Ethan Bowman. Hunter is ranked No. 4 at 145 and wrestles Canby’s Lincoln Fink (36-12) in the semifinals.

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WCA-A-B-E's Hunter Gruchow tries to pin Crookston's Ethan Bowman during their quarterfinal match at the Class A state tournament on March 3, 2023. Gruchow won the match to advance to the semifinals.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

The Knights had a handful of clutch victories in the opening round. First 8th-grader Owen Gruchow (106) trailed 10-2 in his match against Ian Phrakonkham (Fosston-Bagley) but found a way to earn a pin (4:58) to advance to the quarterfinals.

Also, junior Will Rustan (220) ended the morning session with a 6-4 win in tiebreaker period one over Landen Halvorson (Ogilvie), while senior Beau Robinson (195) pulled out an 11-9 decision over Jojo Thompson (Deer River) and junior Solomon Wales (138) earned a 5-3 decision over Simon Boeckman (Holdingford).

Owen Gruchow lost by a pin (1:30) to Berg in the quarterfinals. Gruchow beat Parker Honl (Central Public Schools) with a pin (1:25). Owen Gruchow (36-8) wrestles Antony (29-18) of Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial Area.

Robinson lost a close 4-2 match to Jacob Schimek of St. Clair/Mankato Loyola (ranked No. 4 in the state) in the quarterfinals. Robinson battled LeSeur-Henderson’s George Doherty and earned a third period pin (4:54). Robinson (31-12) wrestles JCC’s Matthew Haley in a Saturday wrestle-back match.

Rustan got pinned by Jackson County Central’s Caleb Ventura (ranked No. 2) in 46 seconds in the quarterfinals. Kenyon-Waninmingo’s Will Van Epps (35-5) beat Rustan by a 12-0 major decision. Rustan finishes the season with a 29-16 record.


In the quarterfinals, Wales, ranked No. 6, lost by a 5-1 decision to Gavin Johnson (Kenyon-Waninmingo). Wales (37-12) earned an 8-2 decision over Fosston-Bagley’s Zach Thompson and is set to face Frazee’s Bailey Peichel (31-11) in the wrestle back round on Saturday.

Senior Justin Blascyk (285), ranked No. 8, came close to pulling out a clutch victory in the first round over Royalton-Upsala’s Brandon Mugg (No. 6) by a 3-2 decision.

Blascyk didn’t get the chance to have a wrestle-back match and finished his season with a 33-10 record.

Minnewaska (Class A)

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Minnewaska's Miles Wildman (green) tries to secure a takedown on LCMW's Ryder Antony in their opening round match at 106 at the Class A State Tournament on March 3, 2023. Wildman went 2-0 on the day to advance to the semifinals.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

Wildman, who is an 8th-grader that is ranked No. 5 in the state at 106 in Class A, continued his great season with a 5-3 decision over Antony in the first round.

Wildman (39-2) followed that up with a 7-2 decision over Ogilvie’s Beau Hudoba to get to the semifinals finals, where he’ll meet the top-ranked wrestler in the bracket, Javier Berg (42-2) of Chatfield.

Sophomore Chase Smith (120), ranked No. 8, drew a tough battle to begin his tournament as he faced the fifth-ranked Simon Kruse (Saint Clair-Mankato Loyola). Kruse managed to edge out a 4-2 win in the first round.

Smith showed out in his wrestle-back match against Braxton Lange (Caledonia-Houston) by an 8-0 major decision. Smith (35-4) wrestles David Schuh (36-12) of (Tracy-Milroy-Balaton-Westbrook-Walnut-Grove) to begin the Saturday morning sessions.

Osakis (Class A)

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Osakis' Gaven Cimbura wrestles a match at 160 at the Class A state tournament on March 3, 2023. Cimbura went 2-1 on the day to advance to day two of the tournament.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

Sophomore Reggie George (106), ranked No. 2, fell behind 2-0 in his match against Ryan LaCanne (Kenyon-Wanamingo) but outscored him 6-0 to seal a 6-2 win in the first round.


Pipestone’s Miklo Hernandez got his offense going in the quarterfinal match, earning an 11-3 major decision over George.

Frazee’s Cash Ostermann won the wrestle back over George by injury default. George finishes the season with a 40-3 record.

Joining him with a first round win was junior Jacob Taplin (132) as he beat Canby’s Sam Diretz by a 4-2 decision.

Taplin then had a tall task, wrestling the defending state champion, Royalton-Upsala’s Alex Diedrich. Taplin got some points in the match but lost by a 19-5 major decision.

Taplin (29-10) pinned Zach Palmer (20-18) of LCMWA (1:44). Taplin wrestles Ryan Jensen, ranked No. 2, of Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (41-4) in another wrestle-back match on Saturday.

Junior Gaven Cimbura (160) faced the third-ranked wrestler in the state, Holdingford’s Drew Lange. Lange controlled the match, winning by a 20-3 technical fall.

Cimbura trailed 6-1 with mere seconds left in his match against Eden Valley-Watkins’ Isaac Ortiz but got a takedown, and a three-point nearfall forced overtime. Cimbura managed to pull out the 7-6 win in a tiebreaker period and advance to Saturday.

He’ll meet Luverne’s DJ Rock (46-6) in a wrestle-back match on Saturday.


In the girls tournament, sophomore Joy Kral (6-4) wrestles in the 185-pound bracket and faces Gloriann Vigniavo (21-2) of Apple Valley in the first round. Kral is ranked No. 6 in the state, while Vigniavo is ranked No. 4.

Bertha-Hewitt-Verndale-Parkers Prairie (Class A)

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B-H-V-PP's Braden Shamp locks arms with United North Central's Marcus Peterson during their match at the MSHSL State Tournament on March 3, 2023. Shamp won the match 6-4.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

Sophomore Braden Shamp (285) pulled off a big upset as he defeated the second-ranked wrestler in the state, Marcus Peterson of United North Central, 6-4 in the first round.

Shamp lost by 8-0 major decision to WEM-JMP’s Keegan Kuball in the quarterfinals. Shamp pinned Caledonia-Houston’s Grant Ness (1:57) to move on to Saturday’s wrestle back. He’ll face Mugg (34-6).

In the first round, Freshman Justin Olson (120) fell by pin to Braxton Lange of Caledonia-Houston (3:53), while senior Deagan Captain (138) fell in the first period to Cory Scanlan of Caledonia-Houston and senior Justin Koehn (182) fell to Peyton Hemmesch (Paynesville Area) by fall (3:25).

Captain fell by 9-2 to Wyatt Engen (Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa) and finished the season with a 28-9 record.

Tate Twardowski pinned Koehn (2:19) in the wrestle-back match. Koehn finishes the season with a 23-21 record.

Olson didn’t have a wrestle back and finished the season with a 30-13 record.

Senior Bennet Arceneau (132), ranked No. 6, lost to Hudson Burnett (Pipestone Area), ranked No. 7, by a 16-6 major decision in the first round and didn’t get to have a wrestle back. He finishes the season with a 36-9 record.


Junior David Revering (145), ranked No. 8, fell to Tucker Ginther (Caledonia-Houston) by a 6-2 decision in the first round.

Revering earned a 5-0 decision over Royalton-Upsala’s Will Groceki to earn another wrestle back match on Saturday. Revering faces Holdingford’s William Pilarski (42-7) on Saturday morning.

In the girls tournament, junior Abby Ervasti (19-4) wrestles in the 138-pound bracket, first against Bloomington Kennedy’s Kelsey Cruz Rojas (20-12). Cruz Rojas is ranked No. 9, and Ervasti is ranked No. 4.

Sam Stuve covers a variety of sports in the Douglas County area. He also is assigned to do some news stories as well.
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