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SECTION 3A WRESTLING: Panthers hold off Lancers to clinch their third straight trip to state tournament

Photo courtesy of Per Peterson/Tracy Area Headlight Herald Members of the Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove wrestling team raise the trophy after defeating Canby 36-34 in the Section 3A championship match on Saturday to punch its ticket to state for the third straight year.

LAMBERTON — There was a familiar look to the championship dual of the Section 3A Team Tournament on Saturday. Though the location shifted 20 miles down U.S. Highway 14 from Tracy to Lamberton, it was still the same two teams competing at the end for a berth to the state tournament — No. 2 seed Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove and No. 4 seed Canby.

Just like a season ago, it was the Panthers that came away with the section championship, defeating the Lancers 36-34.

For the TMB/WWG co-op, this will be the third consecutive state tournament berth as a team.

The Panthers opened the dual in an early 6-0 hole after the Lancers earned decisions in the first two bouts. The score was quickly tied back up, as Ayden Horner showed why he is the No. 1-ranked 120-pounder in the state with a first-period pin on Easton Antony.

TMB/WWG would jump ahead after 126, as Levi Ellingson would earn six points against Jake Wagner due to injury default. The two wrestlers’ heads collided, and Wagner was not able to continue the bout.

Canby responded in the next two bouts with pins from Tanner Drietz and Parker Viessman to take an 18-12 lead, before TMB/WWG tied the match through 145 pounds with a pin from Blaine Petersen.

TMB/WWG began to take control, winning the next three bouts by major decision to give the Panthers a 30-18 lead with four bouts left. Josh Steffen helped Canby cut into the deficit at 182 pounds with a 12-3 major decision, bringing the team score to 30-22.

The No. 2-ranked wrestler in Class A at 182 pounds, Trevor Eisfeld took the mat at 195 pounds for the Panthers on Saturday. A pin or technical fall would effectively clinch the section title for the Panthers, and that’s what happened. Eisfeld pinned Parker Verhelst in the first minute of the bout to give TMB/WWG a 36-22 lead with two bouts left. Canby got pins from 220-pounder Shane Noyes and heavyweight Denver Noyes, but it wasn’t enough to complete the comeback as TMB/WWG earned the 36-34 win.

TMB/WWG will compete at the Class A Team Tournament on Feb. 27, while all Section 3A wrestlers will compete on Friday and Saturday in Canby for a spot in the Class A Individual Tournament held Feb. 28-29 in St. Paul.

Canby 34, JCC 30

Judging solely by seedings entering Saturday’s Final Four, Canby wasn’t expected to advance to the championship match. The Lancers were paired up with No. 1 seed Jackson County Central in the semifinal round, a team with just one loss entering the day and one that had defeated Canby 43-23 earlier this season.

It was a match of runs. After Canby earned a decision at 106 pounds for a 3-0 lead, the Huskies took the next three bouts by major decision to go up 12-3.

The Lancers responded with three consecutive pins of their own — including pins by Tanner Drietz and Coltyn Drietz — to take a 19-12 lead through 145 pounds.

JCC answered back to win the next four bouts, giving the Huskies a 30-19 lead through 182 pounds.

The Lancers saved their best run for last. A 6-0 decision by Josh Steffen over Sam Dunker cut the Huskies lead to eight points. At 220 pounds, Shane Noyes cut further into the deficit with a third-period pin of Lee Drahota, setting up a heavyweight bout to decide the match with JCC holding a thin 30-28 advantage.

The battle between heavyweights Denver Noyes and Keldon Bennett went into the second period. There, Noyes took down Bennett for a pin to seal the Canby berth into the title match.

TMB/WWG 30,

Minneota 29

TMB/WWG and Minneota met once in the regular season, with the Panthers winning the Jan. 16 match 39-34. In the rematch on Saturday in the Section 3A semifinal round, TMB/WWG once again had the upper hand.

The Panthers and Vikings split decisions in the first four bouts for a 6-6 tie through 126 pounds.

From there, Minneota went on a run to take a 23-6 lead through 152 pounds. Highlights of the run included a third-period pin by Kade Lozinski at 132 pounds and a technical fall by Jonah Gruenes in the 138-pound match.

Starting at 160 pounds, TMB/WWG took control of the match. Sawyer Schwartz and Jace Paplow earned back-to-back pins to cut the Minneota lead to 23-18.

Gabe Krick added a decision at 182 pounds before Eathan Martinez pinned Hudson Scholten late in the second period at 195.

Wrestling at 220 pounds, Eisfeld earned a 7-2 decision over Jackson Esping to give TMB/WWG a seven-point lead with one bout left, clinching the win.

In the inconsequential heavyweight bout, Minneota’s Jayden Gamrak pinned Nic Willhite to bring the final score to a 30-29 win for the Panthers.

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