CLASS A WRESTLING: Panthers take third at state

Photos by Sam Thiel Members of the TMB/WWG wrestling team raise the Class A third place trophy after defeating LPGE-Browerville in the Class A tournament on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center.

ST. PAUL — The Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut-Grove wrestling team has seen a lot of state tournament success with its individuals, but not as a unified combination of individuals. Not as a team.

In its first state trip since becoming a co-op program, TMB/WWG competed until the end and as a result, walked away inside the top three teams in Class A.

TMB/WWG coach Karl Campbell said it was surreal when the final whistle blew and they saw all of their hard work pay off.

“It’s kind of hard to take it all in right now, but this group has worked extremely hard to get to this point. We only had three losses; we avenged one to Minneota in the section finals and the other two are to the teams that are in the Class A finals,” Campbell said. “We haven’t made a final four for years, so to get here and go 2-1 was a big accomplishment so I’m really proud of these guys.”

After going 28-2 in the regular season and section tournament, TMB/WWG entered the state tournament as the No. 4 seed and opened its state tournament quest with a first-round matchup against No. 5 Kenyon-Wanamingo. TMB/WWG looked to get out to a fast start, and did just that, as the Panthers won four of their first five matches en route to a 63-7 victory over the Knights in the quarterfinal round.

Ayden Horner kicked things off in the 106-weight class, squaring off against the Knights’ Owen Scheffler. Horner got the Panther faithful on their feet with a quick pin victory (1:22) to give TMB/WWG a 6-0 lead. Caden Johnson would wrestle next at the 113-weight class, and despite a solid effort, Johnson fell to Kenyon-Wanamingo’s Isaiah Thompson to give the Knights their first points of the day with a decision victory (11-6).

The Panthers wouldn’t let K-W get any closer after that, however, as TMB/WWG won its next three matches to take a 21-3 advantage. Levi Ellingson defeated Bray Olson by pin (4:35) in the 120-weight class before Dereck Ellingson pinned Jaedin Johnson moments later just 34 seconds into his match. Luis Perez took home the next match with a hard-fought 7-5 decision victory over Alec Johnson before Tyler Vandendriessche of TMB/WWG fell to Tyler Craig by major decision (12-3) at 138 for the Knights’ second and final match win of the night.

TMB/WWG cruised the rest of the way, as Anthony Axford defeated K-W’s Logan Meyers by pin (1:13) before Sawyer Schwartz won by forfeit at the 152-weight class. Nash Mayer made quick work of his opponent with a pin (1:05) to make it 39-7 in favor of the Panthers at 160, while Trevor Eisfeld pinned Cole Johnson (2:43) at the 170-weight class.

The Pathers finished the meet strong, with Jace Paplow getting a come-from-behind decision victory against Logan Quam before Austin Buchholz won by forfeit. Tyler Timm would then pin Owen Hilke of K-W in the 220-weight class (2:31) before Sam Bauer won by decision (8-1) in the heavyweight class over Jesse Jackson to bring it to the 63-7 final.

Campbell said in the first match he thought his team came out with a lot of aggressiveness and things just started to click at one point.

“Everything was working. We were very aggressive and got in their face; coming in I didn’t think that would’ve been the final score, but our guys wrestled extremely well in all three positions,” Campbell said. “Once you get it going on the bottom end with your lightweights, everything rolls.”

The Panthers advanced to the semifinal round where they faced the No. 1 seed in the Class A bracket in Zumbrota-Mazeppa. The Cougars came off a 37-19 victory over Ottertail Central in the quarterfinal round, and with a trip to the state championship on the line, both teams knew it wasn’t going to come easy.

Unlike its first-round matchup, TMB/WWG couldn’t find a groove in the opening weight classes, as the Cougars took control of the pace right away before advancing to the Class A Championship match with a 35-18 victory. The Panthers were able to get on the board when Levi Ellingson won by decision (6-5) over John Poulin to cut the deficit to 6-3 after the 120-weight class, but that was the closest TMB/WWG would get, as ZM won the next three matches to take a 19-3 lead.

Anthony Axford would make bring the Panthers a little closer with a decision victory over Luke Tupper (6-4) in the 145-weight class, but the Cougars answered back with a pin and a decision victory in the next two matches to push their lead to 28-6.

TMB/WWG would get on a small roll thanks to a pair of hard-fought decision victories from Eisfeld (170-weight class; 1-0) and Paplow (182-weight class; 7-6) to cut the deficit to 28-12, but fell in two of the final three matches as the Cougars moved on to defend their Class A title.

Campbell said he was proud of his kids for stepping up to the challenge and competing hard against a talented Cougars team.

“We lost a lot of the close ones. They’ve got a really good team; Zumbrota is primarily a senior lineup and are very physical and are just a little bit better in some of those matches,” Campbell said. “I was proud of the way our kids battled. We beat some good kids in that lineup and even though they beat us in the dual, they’ve got a fantastic team and I was proud of our kids.”

The Panthers would then face off with Long Prairie-Grey Eagle-Browerville to decide who would earn third place.

The two teams would go back-and-forth over the first few matches, with each side picking up a pair of wins. Horner got the match started with a decision victory over the Wolves’ Carter Meiners and Dereck Ellingson won by major decision over Nye Becker (18-8) while Justin Crandall and Landon Gode each earned major decision victories of their own for LPGE-Browerville to give the Wolves a slim 8-7 lead after four weight classes.

LPGE-Browerville started to find its groove in the middle weights, with the Wolves posting three wins in four matches to take an 18-13 advantage just over midway through the dual. In search of a spark, the Panthers got the boost they were looking for when Mayer came up with a key pin to give the lead back to TMB/WWG with just five matches left.

After a pair of decision victories from Eisfeld and Paplow made it 25-18 after the 182-weight class, Buchholz got a hard-earned major decision victory over Levi Line to push TMB/WWG’s lead to 29-18 with just two matches remaining.

The Wolves needed a pair of pins to come from behind and take home the victory, but it would be TMB/WWG’s Timm who came up with the key six points to shift the momentum and the dual in the Panthers’ favor. Bauer then held on in the final match of the night with a 5-4 decision victory to earn a 38-18 victory and seal a spot on the podium for TMB/WWG.

Mayer said the chance to be a Top 3 team in the state is icing on the cake after all of the years of working to get to this moment.

“It was a long time coming; if you would have told me that I would be up here back in seventh or eighth grade, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Mayer said. “But we’ve worked very hard to get to this position and we deserve it.”

Mayer’s journey included some hardships. The senior suffered an ACL injury just five months ago when playing football for the Panthers and had to prove to a lot of people that he could not only come back from the injury, but also be successful on the mat.

“I’m guessing a lot of people didn’t think I would come back,” Mayer said. “I had a lot of coaches from other teams thinking on counting me out, but I worked through it and kept going and was able to get back onto this mat.”

The Panthers graduate three seniors this year, including Mayer, Buchholz and Kyle Leonard.

Buchholz said he’s going to miss the support from the fans, especially this season, as well as being around the team every day and working with them.

“It was crazy. I’ve never seen this many fans around. A couple of years ago, especially when we were winning 14 duals we didn’t see that many, now we’ve won 30 this year. It’s come a long way,” Buchholz said. “I’m also going to miss working with the team and hopefully they can go on and do better things next year.”

Mayer said he’s going to miss all of his teammates and is incredibly proud of the work they’ve put in to help reach their goals.

“I love all of our teammates, they’ve all worked so hard and I’m so proud of them,” Mayer said. “They just worked their butts off every day.”

Going into the next season, Campbell said the experience of being at the state tournament as a team will help, especially with nearly the entire roster returning.

“Just the experience of being here. I’ve coached up here for years in the individual tournament but to coach up here with the team there’s a lot of different little intricacies that can create a lot of distractions,” Campbell said. “Primarily we’ve got everyone back but the two starters in Nash and Austin next year, so our goals are going to be higher than this going into next year. The fact that they experienced this and got to compete up here, it’s going to be huge for us.”

Class A Quarterfinals

TMB/WWG 63, Kenyon-Wanamingo 7

106: Ayden Horner (TMB/WWG) over Owen Scheffler (K-W) (Fall 1:22).

113: Isaiah Thompson (K-W) over Caden Johnson (TMB/WWG) (Dec. 11-6).

120: Levi Ellingson (TMB/WWG) over Bray Olson (K-W) (Fall 4:35).

126: Dereck Ellingson (TMB/WWG) over Jaedin Johnson (K-W) (Fall 0:34).

132: Luis Perez (TMB/WWG) over Alec Johnson (K-W) (Dec. 7-5).

138: Tyler Craig (K-W) over Tyler Vandendriessche (TMB/WWG) (Dec. 7-5).

145: Anthony Axford (TMB/WWG) over Logan Meyers (K-W) (Fall 1:13).

152: Sawyer Schwartz (TMB/WWG) over (K-W) (For.).

160: Nash Mayer (TMB/WWG) over Carter Quam (K-W) (Fall 1:05).

170: Trevor Eisfeld (TMB/WWG) over Cole Johnson (K-W) (Fall 2:43).

182: Jace Paplow (TMB/WWG) over Logan Quam (K-W) (Dec. 8-7).

195: Austin Buchholz (TMB/WWG) over (K-W) (For.).

220: Tyler Timm (TMB/WWG) over Owen Hilke (K-W) (Fall 2:31).

285: Sam Bauer (TMB/WWG) over Jesse Jackson (K-W) (Dec. 8-1).

Class A Semifinals

Zumbrota-Mazeppa 35, TMB/WWG 18

106: Michael Majerus (Z-M) over Ayden Horner (TMB/WWG) (Dec. 5-2).

113: Beau Jurrens (Z-M) over Caden Johnson (TMB/WWG) (Dec. 10-3).

120: Levi Ellingson (TMB/WWG) over John Poulin (Z-M) (Dec. 6-5).

126: Mike Vath (Z-M) over Dereck Ellingson (TMB/WWG) (MD 14-6).

132: Conner Heitman (Z-M) over Luis Perez (TMB/WWG) (Dce. 7-4).

138: Spencer DeFrang (Z-M) over Tyler Vandendriessche (TMB/WWG) (Fall 3:06).

145: Anthony Axford (TMB/WWG) over Luke Tupper (Z-M) (Dec. 6-4).

152: Sam Nordquist (Z-M) over Sawyer Schwartz (TMB/WWG) (Fall 1:37).

160: Hayden Stensland (Z-M) over Nash Mayer (TMB/WWG) (Dec. 9-3).

170: Trevor Eisfeld (TMB/WWG) over Tyler Soltau (Z-M) (Dec. 1-0).

182: Jace Paplow (TMB/WWG) over Hayden Voxland (Z-M) (Dec. 7-6).

195: Caden Steffen (Z-M) over Austin Buchholz (TMB/WWG) (Dec. 8-1).

220: Jacob Bennett (Z-M) over Tyler Timm (TMB/WWG) (MD 14-3).

285: Sam Bauer (TMB/WWG) over Luke Dahlen (Z-M) (Fall 3:31).

Class A Third Place

TMB/WWG 38, LPGE-Browerville 18

106: Ayden Horner (TMB/WWG) over Carter Meiners (LPGE-Browerville) (Dec. 5-3).

113: Justin Crandall (LPGE-Browerville) over Caden Johnson (TMB/WWG) (MD 9-1).

120: Landon Gode (LPGE-Browerville) over Levi Ellingson (TMB/WWG) (MD 14-2).

126: Dereck Ellingson (TMB/WWG) over Nye Becker (LPGE-Browerville) (MD 18-8).

132: Mason Gode (LPGE-Browerville) over Luis Perez (TMB/WWG) (Dec. 6-5).

138: Ted Stacey (LPGE-Browerville) over Tyler Vandendriessche (TMB/WWG) (MD 13-0).

145: Anthony Axford (TMB/WWG) over Austin Carr (LPGE-Browerville) (Fall 3:37).

152: Thomas Pest (LPGE-Browerville) over Sawyer Schwartz (TMB/WWG) (Dec. 10-6).

160: Nash Mayer (TMB/WWG) over Caleb Pesta (LPGE-Browerville) (Fall 1:37).

170: Trevor Eisfeld (TMB/WWG) over Dalton Butler (LPGE-Browerville) (Dec. 12-5).

182: Jace Paplow (TMB/WWG) over Keegan Cavallero (LPGE-Browerville) (Dec. 3-0).

195: Austin Buchholz (TMB/WWG) over Levi Line (LPGE-Browerville) (MD 16-7).

220: Tyler Timm (TMB/WWG) over Hans Holmquist (LPGE-Browerville) (Fall 4:39).

285: Sam Bauer (TMB/WWG) over Devin Lange (LPGE-Browerville) (Dec. 5-4).