Bob Adams, Coon Rapids head coach put it best while standing on the mat inside the Anoka Fieldhouse after the Section 7AAA individual wrestling tournament Saturday afternoon when he illustrated how tough it is to qualify for the state tournament through this section.
“We’ve had state runner-ups one year lose the next year and that just shows you how competitive this section is,” he said.
With that being the case, several area wrestlers punched their trip to the state Class AAA Individual Tournament by finishing among the top two in each weight class.
Coon Rapids senior top-ranked heavyweight Michael Burckhardt posted two falls (41 seconds and 1:21) before recording a 7-5 decision in the final against St. Michael-Albertville senior (third ranked) Michael Kessler. Kessler won a true-second place match against Cambridge’s Derick Demars.
Cardinals senior 138-pound Nate Julkowski scored a true second place match win over Cambridge’s Reegan Lane on a second tie-breaker. Julkowski lost the championship match to STMA senior Cole Sladek by a 13-2 major decision.
The third Coon Rapids wrestler to earn a place at state came at 106 pounds as freshman Josh Bryant, ranked eighth, scored a true second place win against Brady Kuntz of Cambridge on a second tie-breaker. Bryant lost the championship final to STMA’s top-ranked freshman Mitchell McKee by pin 48 seconds into the bout.
Perhaps the upset of the day came at 220 pounds as St. Francis senior Conan Sandberg upset No. 3-ranked Caleb Butler of Blaine in a true second match 5-3. Butler was a state entrant last season.
Sandberg improved to 36-7 after going 4-1 in sections which included winning three straight matches after dropping a semifinal match to STMA’s top-ranked Mitchell Eull 6-1. Sandberg recovered from the loss with an 8-4 win against Aaron Calhoun of Forest Lake followed by a pin of Coon Rapids junior Shad Olson in 49 seconds to claim third place. Eull beat Butler 4-3 to force the true second place match.
Anoka junior Brandon Krone who is ranked fourth in Class AAA scored an impressive section championship title at 152 pounds by overcoming Cambridge’s No. 3-ranked Ty Torgerson in the finals 7-3. It was Krone’s first win over Torgerson in two previous meetings as he improved to 36-4 on the season. Krone scored pins at 1:11 and 1:08 to secure his place in the championship match.
Anoka sophomore Matt Njos won his 33rd match of the season by way of a thrilling 8-4 true second place match against Cambridge’s Dakota Johnson. Njos’ late points sent the Tornado supports into a frenzy as he won two matches to force the decisive match to determine the second place winner at 182 pounds. The win gives Anoka another chance for a state champion.
Andover will be represented at state by junior Corey Parsons who is the top-ranked 170-pounder in Class AAA. Parsons won a true-second place match after losing the championship match to STMA sophomore Jordan Joseph who was ranked third in the state. Joseph won the match 6-3. Parsons downed Anoka freshman Conner Larsen in the true second match on the second criteria rule.
Anoka junior Sam Begin nearly put a third Begin into the state meet over the last decade but a true second place match at 160 pounds put the brakes on that as No. 2 ranked Cody Skog, of Cambridge-Isanti scored a pin in 1:18 for the trip to state. Begin claimed third place with a 7-2 win against Elk River junior Ryan Osberg. Another Tornado narrowly missed a trip to state as freshman Hunter DeLeon improved to 11-4 on the season, falling in the true second place match at 145 pounds to STMA’s Lincoln Mallinger by fall at 2:47. DeLeon reached the match with a pin of Andover’s Allen Jensen in 30 seconds at the third-place semifinals before he downed St. Francis’ Alex Eastman 12-8 for the third place title.
Anoka 132-pound sophomore Preston Flaherty also reached the true second place match after pinning Coon Rapids’ Cooper Anderson in 1:38 to reach the third place match where he scored a 9-2 decision against Forest Lake’s Andrew Meyers. The win set up a match against fifth-ranked Evan Caldon of Elk River. Caldon won the match 14-8.
Coon Rapids 126-pound senior Joe Anderson improved to 36-10 and closed out his prep career with a true second place match loss to STMA’s Tanner Mills on a second tie-breaker. Anderson reached the match after a 12-9 win against St. Francis’ Aaron Wilson in the third-place match.
Blaine freshman Malik Stewart couldn’t continue after an injury at the 5:06 mark of his true second place match at 120 pounds. Stewart finished the season with a 33-10 record. He clinched third place with a fall against Elk River’s Cole Moening in 5:36.
Spring Lake Park/St. Anthony will be represented at state by freshman Danny Chlebeck who won the 113-pound Section 5AAA title at Champlin Park Feb. 23. Chlebeck, ranked 10th in Class AAA, enters state with a 33-4 record after downing Centennial’s Mark Mischke in the championship round with a 1-0 decision.
Panthers senior Jeremiah Labelle won his third-place match 2-1 but didn’t receive a true second place match.
Spring Lake Park freshman Riley Altenburg scored a fourth-place finish at 106 pounds and junior Tyreese Jackson placed sixth at 160 pounds.