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State Wrestling: Bombers' Broze ready to prove mettle with medal

The idea of being a state favorite is one that Cannon Falls/Randolph's Clay Broze isn't quite familiar with.

Coming into the Section 1AA tournament last week in Rochester, the 220-pound junior found himself the section favorite after finishing sixth last year.

"I was a little nervous on Friday, hoping I wouldn't screw up or do anything dumb," Broze said. "I had a lot of tough competition."

Broze shined in the role as the favorite, picking up three pinfalls and beating Waseca's Jacob Claybaugh in a 6-5 decision to become the section champion and secure his first state berth.

This season has seen a multitude of milestones for the Bombers junior: a 42-1 record, a No. 2 ranking at 220 pounds and a surprise victory over nationally ranked Kasson-Mantorville wrestler Broc Berge. As Broze worked on wrestling over the summer, all those achievements seemed like a distant pipe dream.

"I wrestled so much in the summer, I knew that I had gotten a lot better," he said. "The goal was to get to the state tournament, but I didn't expect all of this."

Cannon Falls/Randolph tied a school record with five state entrants. Joining Broze are Paul Fitterer (106 pounds, 40-2), Ryan Epps (113, 32-3), Connor Rohr (132, 31-8) and Justin Miest (195, 25-5).

Though he's projected as one of the favorites, the path to a state title will be a tough one for Broze. Included in the field are Totino-Grace's Joe Schiller and Dawson-Boyd/Lac qui Parle Valley's JD Struxness, who finished first and second, respectively, at last year's state meet.

"I just have to go one match at a time and wrestle smart," Broze said. "There are better kids up here, so keeping the matches close, that's the biggest thing. Keep it close in the third and things can change in an instant."

Drehmel breaks through

With a 143-54 career record, there was one accolade that had haunted Goodhue senior Kyle Drehmel: a Class 1A state tournament bid.

As a freshman, sophomore and junior, Drehmel had reached the semifinals. And every time, he fell in heartbreaking fashion. So in his final bid at 126 pounds, Drehmel refused to fall again.

"Coming into sections last week, I was really focused," he said. "My last time down there, it was my last chance to punch my ticket to state."

Facing Chatfield's AJ Riley in the semifinals, Drehmel got over the hump with a 3-1 overtime victory. From there, his confidence grew. And against Triton's Patrick Ramirez in the championship match, Drehmel broke through with a 5-3 decision.

"I was really embracing the role as the 'underdog,' and in the semis and finals, I had already lost to both of those guys," Drehmel said. "It was really awesome to get back at those guys and beat them to take first.

"I finally accomplished my goal that I was working towards all season. When the final buzzer rang, it was unbelievable."

Four other Wildcat wrestlers are headed to state: Joel Gadient (113 pounds, 30-11), Jacob Blattner (160, 29-8) and Ryan Tipcke (220, 33-8).

Entering the tournament with a 35-6 record, Drehmel opens against Cameron Henning of Jackson County Central.

Balow battles through injury

Over the summer, Lake City junior Will Balow prepared himself for a potential third straight trip to state by wrestling freestyle and Greco Roman in the Cadet National Duals in Oklahoma.

Everything seemed to be going smoothly for Balow. Then midway through the season, Balow was stuck on the sidelines, dealing with a nagging high-degree ankle sprain.

That gave Balow time to reflect.

"I got really motivated, especially after a loss at Christmas break," Balow said. "Every day, I'd go in the wrestling room with goals in mind."

The goal: a state title. And Balow, ranked 8th in Class 1A, secured his third straight trip to state, winning the Section 1A 182-pound title with a 2-1 decision over No. 4 Wabasha-Kellogg/Alma's Porter Secrist.

Balow will be one of two Tiger entrants at state, with sophomore Shane Siewert (145 pounds, 33-6) also headed to St. Paul for Lake City.

His ankle isn't at 100 percent, but Balow says that, "it's as close as it's going to be." And though he's in pain, his goals remain as high as ever.

"I've always wanted to win a title and I've never been satisfied with anything less than first place," Balow said. "It's always been in my mind during every workout in the summer."

With a 23-2 record, Balow opens the tournament against St. James Area's Devin Wolle.

Majerus unwilling to settle

Since eighth grade, Zumbrota-Mazeppa sophomore Joey Majerus has made a habit of getting to the state tournament. In the 113-pound bracket in the Section 1A tournament, Majerus breezed through the competition, scoring a 17-1 technical fall in the championship match over Goodhue's Joel Gadient.

But simply getting to state isn't good enough for Majerus, who is ranked 3rd in Class 1A with a 33-4 record.

"The goal this year is to win state," Majerus said. "That's all I want."

Fellow Cougar Mitchell Watkins (138 pounds, 32-4) also clinched a state berth.

This season, Majerus has focused on keeping a mental edge, something that has been essential as he wrestles with a torn labrum.

"I had the injury in the offseason, and I'll have to get that cleaned up later," he said.

But as the season has gone on, Majerus has gotten stronger.

"Last weekend (at sections), I thought it was the best performance of the year," Majerus said.

That momentum will have to carry on if Majerus hopes to make the finals. Opening the tournament against seventh-ranked Cody Hanson of St. James Area, four other ranked wrestlers await.

If Majerus makes it through, he could face Border West's Cameron Sykora in the finals. In last year's 106-pound semifinals, Sykora knocked Majerus out of title contention.

"In the bottom half, there is a kid that I wrestled earlier in the year at the Clash (Kimball's Blane Tschida) that beat me, so I'll be prepared for that," Majerus said. "I've been studying and working hard so hopefully, I can get to Sykora in the finals."