Bengals, Panthers wrestle for section pride

Spring Lake Park’s Danny Chlebeck did something very few freshman wrestlers do – qualify for the state wrestling tournament and something even more rare, winning the 113-pound Section 5AAA title.

Blaine junior Caleb Butler, back, wrestled STMA’s Mitchell Eull in the 220-pound final. Photo by Jason Olson
Blaine junior Caleb Butler, back, wrestled STMA’s Mitchell Eull in the 220-pound final. Photo by Jason Olson

The 10th-ranked wrestler at his weight enters state with a 33-4 record after posting a 1-0 win against Centennial senior Mike Mischke in the final. The decisive point came on a second-period escape with 20 seconds on the clock.

The rematch from a 2012 section semifinal was in the back of Chlebeck’s mind since it cost him a trip to state.

“So getting revenge was definitely on his mind going into this match,” Panthers coach Jacob Roberts said after Chlebeck scored a 5-0 win against Mischke during the season as well.

“It was great to be able to beat him twice in a year to really show his progress as a wrestler. I know he will be on our team for years to come as a leader.”

Chlebeck had a first-round bye before pinning Mounds View sophomore Karl Keeler in 1:39 to set up the final.

Panthers senior heavyweight Jeremiah Labelle closed out his prep career with a third-place finish.

He scored a first-round pin against Centennial’s Joe Nelson in 2:39, but lost in the semifinals to Osseo’s AJ Dahn by a fall in 2:55. Labelle recovered with a 4-0 win against Maple Grove’s Jesse Higgins 4-0 and won his third-place match against Mounds View’s Paul Sharkey in triple overtime 2-1.

“Jeremiah wrestled with a lot of heart all day,” Roberts said. “His last match of his career showed what a high character person he really is. Even after his goal of making state slipped away in the semifinals, Jeremiah wrestled to a 2-1 triple overtime win for third place.”

Freshman Riley Altenburg had a fourth-place finish at 106 pounds and junior Tyreese Jackson placed sixth at 160 pounds.


Perhaps the upset of the day in the Section 7AAA individual wrestling tournament came at 220 pounds when St. Francis senior Conan Sandberg upset No. 3-ranked Caleb Butler of Blaine in a true second-place match 5-3, Feb. 23. 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 he 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. “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.”

Sandberg recovered from a semifinal loss to STMA’s top-ranked Mitchell Eull 6-1 by winning consecutive matches to reach state.

He had 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.

“That’s his goal since early on and he never got off track,” Phillips said. “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.”

Sandberg had an raucous crowd cheer him on against Butler.

Butler, highly-ranked all season, came into sections with a 28-2 record, but dropped a 4-3 decision in the championship final to Eull. Butler scored an early take down 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. Coach Josh Prokosch said 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. Stewart earned a pin in 5:36 to move one step away from state.

Jason Olson is at [email protected]