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State Wrestling: Bombers prepare for Class AA individual tournament

With six state entrants, Cannon Falls was the class of the Section 1AA individual tournament last weekend. Three Bombers won section titles, and three others placed second, leaving Cannon Falls with a half-dozen athletes heading to St. Paul on Friday.

Kasson-Mantorville, the team champion in the section, will send five wrestlers to the individual portion of the state tournament. It’s an odd twist of events, and a nod to the difference between an individual tournament and a dual meet, that the Bombers have more state qualifiers than the KoMets, the team that ended Cannon Falls’ team season in the section semifinals two weeks ago.

“Not really a surprise to me. I felt that we had some good kids,” said Cannon Falls head coach Dudley Flodeen on if he was expecting to have more success than K-M. “Our team situation, we expected to do a little bit better. But in that match against Kasson, we gave up bonus points and we weren’t able to get bonus points back with some of these exact same guys that made it to state. We needed bonus points out of them, (but) Kasson did a good job, they kept those losses to a minimum, and they took advantage of some of our weaker spots and scored as many points as they could there.”

Bonus points don’t matter in an individual tournament. A pin in 30 seconds is the same as a 2-1 win that takes the entire six minutes. Win and move on, that’s the name of the game in an individual setting.

And winning is exactly what two Bombers have done all season. Junior Paul Fitterer (113 pounds) and senior Clay Broze (220) are both undefeated and Class A’s No. 1-ranked wrestlers at their respective weights.

While both have reached the state tournament as favorites, only one of them started the season as the measuring stick for the rest of the class.

With one loss over the past two years, and a state championship last year, all eyes have been on Broze.

“He’s got a target on his back, but he handles that very well,” said Flodeen. “But in the state tournament, everything is kind of equal, it’s who wrestles best on those days. That’s what we’re going to talk about here in practice. We’ve got kids that weren’t ranked, though I thought they should be. It all depends on how they wrestle. The best guy does not always win the state tournament. We’ve got to wrestle our best on Friday and Saturday.”

Fitterer started the season at the top of the rankings, just as Broze did. But the 113-pounder is coming off of a third-place showing at the 2013 state tournament. That one loss, in the quarterfinals, has Fitterer doing some targeting of his own.

“He’s just a solid kid,” Flodeen said. “He’s ranked No. 1, but there’s a lot of good kids up there. He usually finds a way to come out on top. He’s had some really tough matches this year, (Joey) Majerus from Zumbrota-Mazeppa was his first match of the year. He’s had good competition this year.”

The other section champion for Cannon Falls was senior Keston Lopez, who is not ranked, but ran through No. 8 McCoy Tekautz of Lewiston-Altura/Rushford-Peterson in the 126-pound finals.

“He’s the kind of guy, like I told him before sections, his destiny is in his hands. If he improves in just a little area, he’s going to have a lot of success,” said Flodeen. “He’s fun to watch.”

Derek Johnson, who is ranked sixth at 182, but wrestled at 170 in the tournament, could be a bit of a dark horse at state. At times this season, Johnson, a senior, has wrestled up two weight classes, a big jump when considering the gaps in the higher weight classes.

“He’s had a real good year,” said Flodeen. “We’ve had him wrestle 170, 182 and 195. It’s nice to have a guy like that that will go and wrestled wherever you need him. We’re going to miss him next year. That flexibility is something you can’t replace real easy.”

One of the better stories of the state tournament could be sophomore Ryan Epps, who is returning to the field for the second-straight year. But Epps will be looking for a much better experience in 2014 after losing in the first round in 2013, only to drop out of the wrestlebacks due to injury.

“This year we’re looking for a placement out of him,” said Flodeen. “He’s another year older and more confident. Being in that big building the first time, it’s different. No matter what people say, it’s different.”

The final qualifier for the Bombers is senior Connor Rohr, who also attended last year, but did not place. And of the six, Rohr’s tournament has the toughest beginning, as he will meet second-ranked Ty Griffin of Rockford.

“It’s like I was saying, it’s all on how you wrestle that day,” said Flodeen. “Yeah, you have a good kid. If you win, you move on. If you don’t win, he’s a good kid so he’s probably going to get you in the door (in wrestlebacks)… We’re looking to get him in the placings at this tournament. He’s no been ranked at all this year, which I thought was kind of strange. But I think that he should be (able to place).”

The Bombers will take the mat at 11 a.m. Friday with quarterfinal matches starting at approximately 5:30 p.m.

On Saturday, all consolation quarterfinals will begin at 9:30 a.m. with championship semifinals following at 10:45 a.m. The consolation semifinals will resume around 12:45 p.m. Third- and fifth-place matches will commence at 4:30 p.m., with championship bouts scheduled for 7 p.m.

Cannon Falls’ first-round opponents

113: (No. 1) Paul Fitterer (38-0) vs. Teddy Pierce of Chisago Lakes (27-10)

120: (4) Ryan Epps (34-5) vs. Jackson Sweeney of Watertown-Mayer/Mayer Lutheran (29-8)

126: Keston Lopez (33-6) vs. Pedro Fraire-Morales of Brooklyn Center (27-13)

132: Connor Rohr (30-8) vs. (2) Ty Griffin of Rockford (32-2)

170: (6-182) Derek Johnson (33-4) vs. (9) Jonah Lange of UCB (35-5)

220: (1) Clay Broze (30-0) vs. (8) Max Kaping of Litchfield (28-10)

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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