The St. Francis wrestling team has been competing with confidence all season.
Ranked in the Class AAA poll with several individuals ranked as well, the Fighting Saints went 15-1 in duals and were undefeated against Mississippi 8 Conference opponents. But they had to seal the deal with a second dual against St. Michael-Albertville to earn the conference title.
After defeating the Knights 41-28 on Jan. 13, St. Francis wrestled them again on Feb. 2, winning 37-29 to stand at the top of the conference.
This is the first conference title for St. Francis in more than seven years.
“We’ve had this good group of kids coming through this program for a long time,” St. Francis head coach John Lorenzen said. “I guess it was our year. It was quite a satisfying victory because we weren’t at full strength. We had three varsity kids out of the lineup. It was pretty touch and go.”
Zach Bonte, Tanner Kunshier and Nick Pierce were held out of action, but others stepped up. The big win came at 220 pounds when Lucas Sherburne, who hasn’t wrestled a lot this season due to injuries, pinned his opponent to seal the win.
“We’ve got some really talented kids right in the middle,” Lorenzen said. “Once we got going, we really got going.
The Fighting Saints hope to take this momentum into the Section 7AAA Tournament. They are ranked No. 4 in the state in The Guillotine poll on Jan. 27. But they’ll have to go through No. 3 Anoka, who defeated them in the section tournament last year.
St. Francis has six individuals ranked in the top 10. Kunshier is ranked No. 4 at 113 pounds, Mitchell Wilson is No. 6 at 132 pounds, Mason Hall is No. 4 at 138 pounds, Teddy Pierce is No. 5 at 145 pounds, Tony Struntz is No. 1 at 160 pounds and Cole Kirpach is No. 5 at 170 pounds.
The biggest challenge for St. Francis, though, is it doesn’t have a 106-pounder, meaning they start every match down 6-0.
“We have confidence and the other thing is we’re in great shape and we have talented kids,” Lorenzen said. “We have a lot of ranked wrestlers, but we’re really solid as a team. We have a confidence that we have the talent and the tools to get the job done. We’ve been looking forward to this section tournament since we lost to Anoka last year. We were fairly young last year and now we’re a little more seasoned and more balanced.”