B.E. Area grapplers earn 7 state individual bids

ANKLE PICK — Blue Earth Area wrestler Max Ehrich (right) uses an ankle pick to send Medford opponent Josiah Hedensten tumbling to the canvas during the 160-pound championship match at Friday night’s Section 2A Individual Meet in Blue Earth. Ehrich went on to post a 12-5 victory. (Photo by Greg Abel)

BLUE EARTH — For the first time in the 31 combined seasons that Randy Wirtjes has coached wrestling in Blue Earth, all 14 Buc grapplers earned a spot on the Section 2A medals stand Friday night.

“I can’t remember us ever having every individual wrestler place during a sectional meet before,” said Wirtjes, who’s currently in his 19th year as Blue Earth Area’s head coach. “These guys did a great job of supporting one another before, during and after their respective matches. That speaks volumes about the quality of these kids.”

No. 7-ranked 138-pounder Jaxen Klinkner, 145-pounder Koby Nagel and No. 3-ranked 160-pounder Max Ehrich all earned sectional championships to highlight the Bucs’ seven qualifiers competing in next Friday’s 9 a.m. Class A individual state meet at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

No. 5-ranked Blue Earth Area opens the three-day state tournament by locking up with Grand Meadow/LeRoy-Ostrander/Southland in a 9 a.m. team quarterfinal dual meet Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center.

No. 7-ranked 120-pounder Davis Sunken and 195-pounder Luke Mertens will join Klinkner, Nagel and Ehrich in the individual portion of the state meet after meriting runner-up honors during Day 2 of the Section 2 Meet, while 113-pounder Ty Peterson and 132-pounder Caleb Beeler fended off true-second challenges to punch their tickets to St. Paul next Friday.

While Klinkner, Nagel and Sunken return to the Xcel Energy Center for a second straight season, Ehrich achieved redemption in producing his first-ever sectional gold medal.

“Finally,” Ehrich said with a grin. “I’ve lost three true-second matches at sections in the past, so it’s nice to finally go to state.”

Ironically, Ehrich’s mat burn on his left knee during his 160-pound championship clash with Medford’s Josiah Hedensten proved a slight hindrance as Bucs’ assistant coach Jake Lee had to tape up the wound three times.

“It just kept leaking, but Max managed to persevere and earn his first trip to state,” said Wirtjes.

Ehrich proved the master of the single-leg takedown, building a 7-1 first-period lead over Hedensten before producing a reversal and another single-leg takedown between knee tapings. Ehrich went on to defeat Hedensten by a 12-5 decision.

Klinkner and Nagel produced the Bucs’ first automatic individual state bids in back-to-back style at 138 and 145 pounds, respectively.

Klinkner generated the lone takedown of the opening 2-minute period against Kenyon-Wanamingo’s Alec Johnson and then reversed Johnson for the only points of the second frame.

Despite a third-period takedown by Johnson, Klinkner earned his second individual state bid by holding on for a 5-3 victory at 138 pounds.

Nagel merited his second trip in a row to St. Paul by combining a takedown and a three-point near-fall to fuel a 5-1 first-period lead over No. 10-ranked Tate Hermes of Medford.

After a scoreless middle frame, Nagel produced two reversals to Hermes’ one during the third period to strike gold at 145 with a 9-3 decision.

Despite holding a narrow 2-0 lead after two completed periods, the No. 7-ranked Sunken could not fend off the hard-charging No. 5-ranked Boden Simon of Maple River in the 120-pound finals. Simon netted a late reversal to knot the match before earning three near-fall points in the waning seconds for a 5-2 decision.

Sunken punched his second consecutive ticket to state when New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva’s Nikolas Petsinger pinned Kenyon-Wanamingo’s Kiefer Olson in 3:37 in the 120-pound third-place match. Sunken posted a 13-0 major decision over Petsinger during Thursday’s semifinals, therefore denying him a true-second challenge match.

Mertens followed a similar path to his clear-cut second-place showing at 195. No. 3-ranked Colton Krell of Westfield pinned Mertens in 4:13 during the championship match.

United South Central’s Jacob Billings built a double-figure lead over Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial Area’s Matt Thofson in the third-place match before Thofson lost after being hit with too many stalling points. Mertens had posted a 5-1 semifinal win over Billings on Thursday, therefore, denying the USC senior’s true-second challenge.

After losing a narrow 5-3 decision to No. 10-ranked Bryce Sonnek of USC in the 113-pound finals, Peterson rebounded to post a 7-2 victory over Medford’s Alex Helgeson in the true-second clash to earn his first-ever individual state bid.

No. 2-ranked 132-pounder Charley Elwood of Medford shut out Caleb Beeler in the 132-pound championship match, but Beeler maintained his composure to fend off a true-second challenge by NRHEG’s Clay Stenzel via a 10-1 major decision to march to St. Paul.

Jacob Beeler (126), Nick Frank (182) and Nick Lawrence each earned bronze medals for Blue Earth Area; Caleb Langager (106) and Adam Schavey (152) each placed fifth; while Kean Hicks (170) and heavyweight Ian Cornelio each took sixth place.

Jacob Beeler opened Friday’s wrestlebacks with a 10-0 major decision over USC’s Ethan Elvebak before coasting to a 7-0 shutout over Westfield’s Keegan Bronson in the third-place match.

No. 6-ranked Trevor Pearson of Maple River defeated LCWM Area’s Trayton Hewitt in the 126-pound finals. Since Hewitt pinned Beeler in Thursday’s semifinal, there was no true-second clash.

Frank kicked off Day 2 of the sectional meet with an 8-5 victory over NRHEG’s Conner Okland before edging Westfield’s Dylan Ehmke for third place, 5-3.

No. 2-ranked Nathan Trio of Maple River defeated LCWM Area’s Avery Northquest for the 182-pound gold medal, therefore preventing a true-second challenge. Northquest had pinned Frank during Thursday’s semifinals.

Lawrence, who received an injury default from Masyn Elvebak of USC in Friday’s wrestleback, netted a 4-2 win over WEM/JWP’s Brant Melchert in the 220-pound third-place match. Medford’s Brennon Hoffman, who got pinned by No. 8-ranked Carter Quam of K-W in the finals, edged Lawrence for the second state bid via a 3-2 win.

Langager recorded a fall in 2:35 to best Waterville-Elysian-Morristown/Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton’s Gavin Krause for fifth place at 106, while Buc teammate Adam Schavey pinned St. Clair/Mankato Loyola’s Chase Baker in 3:59 in the fifth-place clash at 152.