by Jason Olson
Sixth-ranked Coon Rapids defended its inaugural Golden Shoes trophy win from 2011 with a 38-22 win at rival Anoka Jan. 13.
The Northwest Suburban Conference dual annually draws the largest crowd of the season and Cardinals coach Bob Adams introduced another tradition to the wrestling match last season.
“We wanted to do it to put a little more interest in our matches,” he said of what is really rare in wrestling.
Anoka football has two annual traveling trophy games, the Pumpkin Bowl and Battle for the Paddle. The Pumpkin Bowl game is the last regular season home game, while the Paddle, which signifies the Mississippi River which divides the two communities, goes to the winner of the Tornadoes/Champlin Park game.
The Golden Shoes trophy was built by spray painting Adams’ son Jason’s state title winning (at 135 pounds) shoes from 2006.
“A lot of people love that and it’s a good rivalry,” Tornadoes coach Todd Springer said. “We’ve got a lot of respect for what that program has done and knew we were the underdog coming in.
“I train my wrestlers to wrestle for six minutes and that’s what we did.”
Anoka has dealt with a lot of injuries to its lineup, including heavyweight BJ Seestrom, who was lost for the season after breaking his leg in his first match at the Rochester Christmas Tournament in Decemeber.
“He was having a good season, above .500 record and things were going well up to that point,” Springer said.
Replacing him in the line-up has been sophomore Dayne McCullough, who picked up his first win during a Saturday quadrangular at Anoka High School, the day after the loss to Coon Rapids.
“He’s a big strong kid we pulled off the football field,” Springer said about his new 285-pounder. “He had to cut weight but he’s learning.”
Anoka began the season with 17 seniors and is down to nine healthy wrestlers on the practice mats after knee and shoulder injuries plus the broken leg to Seestrom.
The Friday night wrestling match at the Anoka Fieldhouse started very well for the highly-ranked Cardinals, who built an 18-0 lead. Pins by Josh Bryant, Blaine Tschida and Jarred Julkowski set the tone early.
Bryant pinned Anoka seventh-grader Cole Eischens at 106 pounds, the Tornadoes lightweight returning to action after having the flu all week.
Julkowski’s victory came through a dramatic overtime pin after the match ended 1-1 in regulation.
“It was unexpected, but certainly nice,” Adams said.
The 143-pound bout turned out to be a close match in which two captains faced each other. Cardinals Darren Gagne topped Anoka’s Jeremy Beaman 12-3 after losing both meetings earlier in the season, including a 1-0 loss at the Rochester Christmas Tournament.
Beaman has quite an edge against Gagne, but those roles were reversed on Friday.
“It’s always difficult to continually beat a guy,” Springer said.
Anoka’s Ryan Norton started a come back attempt when he pinned ninth-grader Kiyanu Baker in the opening round of their 145-pound match.
Tornadoes sophomore Sam Begin wrestled up a weight class or two from his spot at 145 pounds and is another up-and-comer to challenge come section time.
Anoka’s Kyle Begin, ranked No. 1 at 170 pounds, recorded a pin to improve to 27-2 and looks on pace to repeat as state champion in March. Begin has been working out with 2007 graduate Lucas Murray in the practice room.
Anoka senior Clay Wherley downed Cardinals ninth-grader Tyler Berdahl, who is ranked No. 10 at 160 pounds, 18-13. Berdahl led 7-1 early, but Wherley used his experience to comeback for the win. “When he goes out on the mat he lets everything fly and forgets about defense,” Adams said about Berdahl.
Coon Rapids’ Robbie Lawson bumped up a weight class to wrestle at 182 pounds and scored a big 6-4 overtime win over Anoka’s Brook Lend.
“Those two overtime matches were key,” Adams said. “It was a 15-point swing the other way, had we lost them. Even though the score showed a 16-point win, it was much closer than that.”
Coon Rapids’ seventh-ranked Brandt Halseth picked up a second period tech fall (15-0) over Anoka’s Jake Olson for another win at 195 pounds.
Cardinals fifth-ranked (at 195 pounds) Michael Burkhardt wrestled at 220 pounds and earned a 13-4 win over Anoka’s Dan Davit.
Both teams forfeited at heavyweight to end the dual after Anoka initially withdrew. Cardinals top-ranked heavyweight Tanner Lowe was on pace to have two matches over the maximum 36, so the lack of a bout actually helps him stay under the limit.