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Wrestling: Bombers tap out to top-ranked KoMets

Cannon Falls/Randolph's Clay Broze (left) tries to gain leverage over Kasson-Mantorville's Broc Berge during their 220-pound match in the finals of the Section 1AA team tournament Saturday at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. Berge won in a 7-3 decision.1 / 3
Cannon Falls/Randolph's Paul Fitterer (left) listens to the Bombers' bench while locked up with Kasson-Mantorville's Gabe Shea during their 106-pound match. Shea came away with the victory in a 6-4 decision.2 / 3
Cannon Falls/Randolph's Keston Lopez (bottom) tries to get out of the grasp of Kasson-Mantorville's Nate Thomas in their 126-pound match Saturday in the Section 1AA finals at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. Thomas won by pinfall in 2 minutes, 23 seconds.3 / 3

ROCHESTER - In a perfect match, Cannon Falls/Randolph head wrestling coach Dudley Flodeen thinks his team could win seven matches against Kasson-Mantorville in the Section 1AA finals.

But up against the top Class 2A team in Minnesota, and the 19th-ranked team nationally, things go far from perfect.

The Bombers only got three wins in a 50-12 loss in the section finals at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester on Saturday as the KoMets won the section title for the fourth straight year.

"Our goal was to get to the finals of the section tournament and we did," Flodeen said. "We wanted to put up a stronger showing against Kasson, but they're a tough bunch."

Earlier in the day in the 1AA semifinals, No. 2-seeded Cannon Falls/Randolph advanced with a 44-21 victory over Byron.

Opening the championship match at 106 pounds was the Bombers' Paul Fitterer and the KoMets' Gabe Shea, who rank second and third in the state, respectively. After a scoreless first period, Fitterer tallied two takedowns for a 4-1 lead with two minutes remaining. But in the final period, Shea got a reversal, then Fitterer was docked on a technical violation after the referee declared that he grabbed the inside of Shea's shoe, forcing the match into overtime at 4-4.

With 22 seconds left in the extra period, Shea scored a takedown, giving Fitterer his first loss of the season.

"Paul didn't even know that he got a technical violation. I talked to him after the match and he thought he was ahead, Flodeen said. "He wasn't really pushing it. Maybe if he knew he was behind, he would have gotten the escape; it's hard to say."

After the opening stunner, the Bombers bounced back thanks to freshman Ryan Epps, who pulled off a 3-2 decision over K-M's Jesse Johnson to tie the match at 3-3.

"I was just trying to push the pace and not give up the first score; that's usually my problem," said Epps, who ranks eighth in Class 2A. "I had to get going early. Once I had the lead, then I had momentum for the rest of the match."

The KoMets dominated the next six matches, storming out to a 32-3 lead thanks to three pins and three major decisions.

It wasn't until 160 pounds that Cannon Falls/Randolph returned to the win column when Derek Johnson won his 26th match of the year with an 8-4 decision over Aaron Berge.

"With Kasson, they're always coming at you, so you have to be quick on your feet when they take a shot at you," Johnson said.

Justin Miest got the Bombers their first bonus points of the dual when he pinned Hayden Sheeran in 3 minutes, 19 seconds.

Two matches later, at 220 pounds, Cannon Falls/Randolph's Clay Broze and K-M's Broc Berge both stepped onto the mat for a highly-anticipated rematch. Broze entered the match undefeated at 37-0, including a stunning 8-5 decision over Berge back in December. Berge, a future University of Iowa Hawkeye who is ranked sixth nationally at 195 pounds, was anxious for another shot at Broze, and the Bombers knew it was coming.

"We weren't going to move (Broze)," Flodeen said. "If that's what they wanted, we'll wrestle him."

Up 5-3 in the third period, Berge fought off a headlock takedown attempt by Broze. Berge would get his revenge with a 7-3 decision.

"Clay wrestled a tough match," Flodeen said. "Berge's a quality kid, one of the top in the nation."

Cannon Falls/Randolph's bid for a first-ever trip to state fell short, but with a 19-6 record heading into Saturday, the Bombers feel like they have put the rest of the section on notice that they are a section contender.

"I knew our team was good, I knew we could get this far," Johnson said. "A lot of people underestimated us this season, so I'm glad we made it this far. ... A lot of people are starting to realize how good we are, and hopefully we can carry that into next season."

Along with the KoMets, the Class 2A field includes: New Prague, Adrian, Simley, Totino-Grace, Foley, Chisago Lakes and Perham. The Class 2A team tournament gets underway on Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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