Wrestling: Return to mat sparks state trip for Z-M freshmanROCHESTER - Zumbrota-Mazeppa freshman Dillon Downes doesn’t regret his decision to return to the wrestling mat this season, not after securing a spot in the state individual tournament.
By: Nick Gerhardt, The Republican Eagle
ROCHESTER - Zumbrota-Mazeppa freshman Dillon Downes doesn’t regret his decision to return to the wrestling mat this season, not after securing a spot in the state individual tournament.
Downes, who wrestled one weight class above his normal, defeated Goodhue’s Justin Simmons 8-5 at 170 pounds in a true second match Saturday at the Section 1A individual tournament in Rochester to earn a trip to the Class A individual tournament.
Not bad for a kid who decided to return to the wrestling team after missing nearly a month. Downes has wrestled since kindergarten but at the start of the winter sports season chose to try basketball. It didn’t pan out and now he’s part of a three-time section champion team and a state entrant.
“I was just kind of tired of the sport,” Downes said.
Fortunately for the Cougars Downes wasn’t tired of the sport for very long.
Teammates Mitchell Watkins, Joey Majerus and Cody Heitman will join Downes in the individual tournament. Majerus, ranked fourth, won the 106 pound weight class with a fall against Chatfield’s third-ranked Hank Friederich with four seconds left in the match. Majerus finished third at state last season as an eighth-grader and had lost to Friderich 6-4 last Saturday in the team tournament.
“I knew if I kept the pressure on he would fold sooner or later,” Majerus said. “I’ve watched him wrestle and he got slower toward the third period. I just kept on and he folded in the end.”
Heitman overcame a first-round loss to win his next five matches to lock down a spot at 138 pounds for the state tournament. Heitman beat St. Charles’ Dane Mueller 7-6 in a true second match.
“Whoever puts on their shoes, they always have a shot to go,” Heitman said. “Anyone can go.”
Watkins emerged from a deep field in the 126 pound class to win a true second match and a trip to state. Watkins knocked off Goodhue’s Kyle Drehmel (36-5) 7-6 in the semifinals and gave Kenyon-Wanamingo’s defending state champion Oakley McLain a match in the finals before falling 3-2. In the true second match Watkins pulled away from Chatfield’s Harvey Friedrichs for an 8-3 victory.
“(126) was loaded and Mitchell wrestled a great finals match against Oakley McLain and almost nipped him at the end,” Cougars head coach Link Steffen said.
Lake City sends four to state
Lake City put together one of its more impressive performances at the Section 1A individual meet by sending seven wrestlers to the semifinals and four on to the state meet.
The performance came after the Tigers dealt with a staph infection during the Section 1A team tournament and lost to Zumbrota-Mazeppa. Lake City was seeded fourth in the team tournament.
“I don’t know if it makes up for it, but it’s a good way to end the individual portion of the season for a lot of these kids,” Tigers head coach Lonnie West said. “For the four going on to state hopefully they can continue some success at the state tournament. For the kids that didn’t like the way the team portion ended, it was a good way for them to end their individual season.”
Lake City placed nine individuals Saturday, which led to hypotheticals about the team portion.
“I figured we were in the mix in the team and I think this kind of justifies it. Some people might look and say, ‘Why the heck were they the four seed.’ Well, I think this justifies why we were.”
Fifth-ranked Rusty Grisim and fourth-ranked Will Balow earned return trips to the state tournament while Andrew Schmidt and Pedro Guevara earned their first trip. Guevara advanced after a 2-1 overtime victory against Wabasha-Kellogg’s Paul Kruger, Jr. at 285 pounds.
Schmidt fell 15-4 in the finals at 113 pounds to Dover-Eyota’s Dakota Welsh, but still made the state tournament.
Grisim pinned Pine Island’s Sam McPhail in 3 minutes, 17 seconds at 145 pounds. Balow beat Wabasha-Kellogg’s Porter Secrist 3-2 in the finals.
Gadient, Breuer clinch spots at state
Goodhue started the day with six wrestlers still alive in the tournament, but only two made the state meet.
Senior Weston Gadient held off Wabasha-Kellogg’s Zack Shepherd for a 1-0 win at 220 pounds to earn his first trip to state. Gadient’s previous highest finish at the section meet was fifth place.
After dedicating himself more to the sport in the offseason, Gadient reaped the rewards.
“It feels really weird,” Gadient said. “I’m not used to being at the top of the podium.”
It was a little better feeling than the previous two years for Gadient.
“The feeling I had last year was horrible and I was so sick of it,” he said. “Sick of losing, I’m really competitive and I hate losing.”
Goodhue junior Mitch Breuer also earned a state trip after a 4-1 loss to Triton’s Brock Frank in the finals to finish second at 152 pounds.
The state tournament begins March 1 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul with the team tournament. The individual tournament takes place March 2 and ends March 3.