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State Wrestling: Three Bombers reach the semifinals

Cannon Falls' Ryan Epps tries to keep Jackson Sweeney of Watertown-Mayer/Mayer Lutheran inside the circle during the first round of the state wrestling tournament Friday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Epps won the match, 6-2.1 / 2
Cannon Falls' Keston Lopez grabs at Pedro Fraire-Morales of Brooklyn Center/Concordia Academy during the first round Friday. Lopez won the match, 11-0. (Republican Eagle photos by Kyle Stevens)2 / 2

ST. PAUL – Cannon Falls head wrestling coach Dudley Flodeen is tough to surprise. After his team clinched six berths at the Class 2A state wrestling tournament last weekend – one more than team section champion Kasson-Mantorville – Flodeen said he was not shocked that the Bombers qualified more state wrestlers than the KoMets.

After Cannon Falls opened the individual state tournament with five victories, Flodeen was still calm. And after three Bombers – Paul Fitterer (113 pounds), Ryan Epps (120) and Clay Broze (220) – claimed a trio of semifinal spots, Flodeen maintained his even keel.

“Every match up here is tough,” Flodeen said. “You just have to keep winning as much as you can and see what happens when the smoke settles.”

The smoke may have come from Fitterer, who opened the tournament with a resounding 15-0 victory over Teddy Pierce of Chisago Lakes, and then punctuated that with a 30-second pin of Annandale’s Nate Carlson in the quarterfinals.

Epps started with a 6-2 victory over Jackson Sweeney of Watertown-Mayer/Mayer Lutheran, and followed with a pin of his own, taking down fifth-ranked Chase Curtis of Perham in 3 minutes, 36 seconds.

Oddly, it was the defending champion had the toughest time moving on to the semifinals. Broze, the No. 1-ranked wrestler at 220, opened with a pin of Litchfield’s Max Kepling in 1:58. But in the semifinals, Broze had a tougher time with third-ranked Justin Filk of Hutchinson.

Filk was able to shrug off several headlock attempts from Broze, even reversing a takedown the champion finally landed.

Flodeen, while giving loud instruction mat-side, was far from worried after Broze walked away with his title defense still intact.

“He was wrestling kind of on the safe side,” Flodeen said. “He didn’t force a lot of stuff. The headlock was there, but the guy was kind of short and stocky, and you have to make sure you land those right.”

After an impressive 11-0 victory in the first round, 126-pounder Keston Lopez was run off the mat in a 15-0 defeat at the hands of third-ranked Tyler Funk of Foley. Lopez fell into the consolation bracket, where he lost 11-0 to South St. Paul’s Curt Palodichuk.

Derek Johnson also won his initial match, beating ninth-ranked Jonah Lange of UCB, 10-2, before falling 5-0 to fifth-ranked Bobby Lee, who upset No. 1-ranked Joe Virga of Chisago Lakes. Virga would handle his business in the consolation round, ending Johnson’s season with a 10-0 victory.

Connor Rohr took a different path to the wrestlebacks, losing his first-round bout to second-ranked Ty Griffin of Rockford. Griffin won his way into the semifinals, giving Rohr second life against Sauk Centre’s Will Funk. Rohr handled Funk, 10-3, to set up a showdown with Zimmerman’s Hunter Smith in the consolation quarterfinals at approximately 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

The semifinals begin Saturday at 10:45 a.m. with Fitterer facing third-ranked Jake Allar of Benilde-St. Margaret’s. Epps will square off against No. 10 Tanner Vassar of Annandale, while Broze will face fourth-ranked Jack Ryan of Simley.

The third- and fifth-place matches will start at 4:30 p.m., with championship matches to come at 7 p.m.

Kyle Stevens
Kyle Stevens is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, Kyle worked at the Owatonna People’s Press, as well as KWLM and KLFN in Willmar. You can contact Kyle by phone at (651) 301-7879, via e-mail at, and follow him on Twitter @RE_KStevens.
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