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.
St. Michael-Albertville qualified 12 wrestlers for state, two fewer than rival Apple Valley.
Coon Rapids heavyweight Michael Burckhardt captured the section title with three wins, two by fall (:41 seconds and 1:21) before recording a 7-5 decision in the final against St. Michael-Albertville senior (third ranked) Michael Kessler. Burckhardt is 32-1, looking to give the Cardinals their first back-to-back state champion. He won the 220-pound title last year.
Joining him at state will be 106-pound freshman Josh Bryant and 138-pound senior Nate Julkowski. Each dropped matches in the section finals to place second.
Julkowski lost the championship match to STMA senior Cole Sladek by a 13-2 major decision, while Bryant lost the championship final to STMA’s top-ranked freshman Mitchell McKee by pin 48 seconds into the bout.
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.
Ryan Jones (170) and Shad Olson (220) each placed fourth.
Senior Cooper Anderson (132) and Jonathon Chmilowsky (182) each had a fifth-place finish and Kianyu Baker (145) was sixth.
Perhaps the upset of the day came at 220 pounds when 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 and finished the season 30-4.
Saints first-year coach Michael Phillips said the last match at sections was a result of the effort Sandberg put in all season.
“He’s been a solid kid all year and is really the backbone of our line-up,” Phillips said about the workmanlike performance of the senior captain, who enters state with a 35-7 record.
“I never wanted something so bad in my life,” Sandberg said of the 5-3 win against Butler in the true-second place match at 220 pounds. “I felt the pressure all week. They pushed me past my limits and got me mentally tough. It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life.”
That’s been Sandberg’s goal since early on and he never got off track, according to Phillips. “We wanted him to weather the storm in the first period and let his hard work and conditioning pay off, and in the end it did,” Phillips said.
Sandberg had a raucous crowd cheering him on against Butler.
Sandberg recovered from a semifinal loss to STMA’s top-ranked Mitchell Eull 6-1 by winning consecutive matches to reach state – 8-4 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. Butler, highly-ranked all season came into sections with a 28-2 record.
He scored an early take down over Eull and neither wrestler was overly aggressive until late. Butler felt some pressure to take a shot and Eull countered to take a 4-3 lead.
According to Coach Josh Prokosch, Butler took a poor shot and it hurt him in the end.
“He wrestles his match every time and there is no secret to what he does,” Prokosch said.
Blaine had seven place winners including Glenn Meyers (182), Jack Duffy (152) and Joe Carlson (113) each finishing fourth. Carter Newman (106) and Jake Keller (126) each placed sixth.
Freshman Malik Stewart was third at 120 pounds, losing a true second-place match to Cambridge’s Travis Swanson with an injury default with 54 seconds left in the match after taking a shot to the groin. Stewart finished his season 34-10. He earned an 18-3 technical fall against Andover’s Connor Schlotfeldt to reach the third-place match and a pin in 5:36 to move one step away from state.
For the first time in nearly a decade Anoka wrestlers had a chance to compete on their home floor for a shot at state.
“It was huge,” Anoka co-coach Todd Springer said of the impact wrestling at home had on the results. “We went seven-for-seven to place each of our kids in that last round.”
Anoka junior Brandon Krone echoed his coaches’ thoughts. “I was surprised, we had a lot of kids push really hard and we had a lot of fans coming in to support us,” he said.
Krone, who is ranked fourth in Class AAA, won an impressive section championship 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 and he improved to 36-4 on the season.
“It was my time to win,” Krone said and the difference, he said was in his aggressiveness from the start. “I wrestled him when I was younger and I was nervous but me and [coach] Lucas [Murray] were just battling it today before in the practice room and he just got me mentally prepared,” Krone said.
Krone scored pins at 1:11 and 1:08 to secure his place in the championship match. “I’m so stoked,” Krone said about the idea of wrestling at Xcel Energy Center.
Springer, not in the typical mat-side seats reserved for the coaches, was in the front row leading the cheering as 182-pound sophomore Matt Njos earned his trip to state with an emotional 8-4 decision win, his 33rd of the season, against Cambridge’s Dakota Johnson.
Njos’ late points sent the Tornado supporters into a frenzy as he won two matches to force the decisive match to determine the second-place winner at 182 pounds.
Njos downed Blaine’s Meyers in the third-place match 2-1 and pinned Forest Lake’s Kyle Winberg in 2:30 to stay alive after losing to STMA’s Ricky Briggs in the championship semifinals 7-0.
Freshman Hunter DeLeon came into sections with 10 varsity matches under his belt and was one match from a spot in state at 145 pounds. He captured third place with a 12-8 win against St. Francis’ Alex Eastman, but was pinned by STMA’s Lincoln Mallinger at 2:47 of the true second-place match.
Sophomore Preston Flaherty also had a third-place finish at 132 pounds after losing to Elk River’s Evan Caldron 14-8 in the true second-place match. Flaherty picked up his 30th win of the season when he downed Blaine’s Glenn Meyers in the third-place match 9-2.
Kodi Krone finished fourth at 138 pounds and freshman Conner Larsen was third at 170 pounds after pinning Coon Rapids’ Ryan Jones 53 seconds into their third-place match.
Junior Sam Begin gave the Tornadoes another top-three finish when he captured third place at 160 pounds with a 7-2 win against Elk River’s Ryan Osberg. The win sent Begin into a true second-place match against Cambridge’s Cody Skog, but Skog, ranked all season, pinned Begin in 1:18.
Anoka senior Royce Myren finished with an 18-18 record and a fourth-place finish at 190 pounds following a 6-5 loss to Forest Lake’s Jeremy McLaughlin in the third-place match.
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.
According to Huskies coach Jeff Thompson, the championship loss would serve as fuel for an intense final week of practice before state.
“Obviously he’s a little disappointed but this is a good opportunity to work the bugs out of the system going into state,” Thompson said. “He felt good about the match but realizes what he needs to do for next week and his goal hasn’t changed to win state.”
Parsons was ready to get back onto the mat immediately. “I’ll get him next time,” he said. “I feel like I can out-condition him.”
“The difference was that he got that take down and held me down. He did what he had to do.
“I’ll push myself hard this week getting ready for state and hopefully meet him again in state.”
The Huskies had five place winners at sections.
“We’ve always been a young team but pretty soon that’s not going to be the case,” Thompson said. “We’re going to have a lot of seniors next year but that should provide some stability at the weights coming up.”
Drew Davis (106), Allen Jensen (145), John Reynolds (152) and Jason Dilly (160) each had a fifth-place finish and Gibson Board (113) was sixth.
The Fighting Saints showed why they’re in consideration for one of the top 12 team spots in the final state ranks as they had several individual place winners. Aaron Wilson (126) and Alex Eastman (145) both placed fourth and Alex Wilson (138) was fifth. Bo Blanske (195) and Adam Blue (285) each placed sixth.
Section 7AAA wrestling placewinners (top two qualify for state)
106 pounds: 2. Josh Bryant (Coon Rapids); 4. Calvin Germinaro (Anoka); 5. Drew Davis (Andover); 6. Carter Newman (Blaine).
113: 4. Joe Carlson (Blaine); 6. Gibson Board (Andover).
120: 3. Malik Stewart (Blaine).
126: 3. Joe Anderson (Coon Rapids); 4. Aaron Wilson (St. Francis); 6. Jake Keller (Blaine).
132: 3. Preston Flaherty (Anoka); 5. Cooper Anderson (Coon Rapids)
138: 2. Nate Julkowski (Coon Rapids); 4. Kodi Krone (Anoka); 5. Alex Wilson (St. Francis).
145: 3. Hunter DeLeon (Anoka); 4. Alex Eastman; 5. Allen Jensen (Andover); 6. Kiyanu Baker (Coon Rapids).
152: 1. Brandon Krone (Anoka); 4. Jack Duffy (Blaine); 5. John Reynolds (Andover).
160: 3. Sam Begin (Anoka); 5. Jason Dilly (Andover).
170: 2. Corey Parsons (Andover); 3. Conner Larsen (Anoka); 4. Ryan Jones (Coon Rapids).
182: 2. Matt Njos (Anoka); 4. Glenn Meyers (Blaine); 5. Jonathon Chmilowsky (Coon Rapids).
195: 4. Royce Myren (Anoka); 5. Jimmy Kittleson (Blaine); 6. Bo Blanske (St. Francis).
220: 2. Conan Sandberg (St. Francis); 3. Caleb Butler (Blaine); 4. Shad Olson (Coon Rapids).
285: 1. Michael Burckhardt (Coon Rapids); 4. Devon Krump (Blaine); 6. Adam Blue (St. Francis).
State wrestling meet
11 a.m. Class AAA individual first round
6 p.m. Class AAA championship quarterfinals
8 p.m. Wrestlebacks
10 a.m. Consolation quarterfinals
11:15 a.m. Championship semifinals
1:15 p.m. Consolation semifinals
5 p.m. Third- and fifth-place matches
7:30 p.m. Championship matches; awards following matches
Jason Olson is at firstname.lastname@example.org