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Wrestling: Z-M topples top-ranked K-W, Pine Island

PINE ISLAND -- Thirteen ranked individuals, and two ranked teams, took over the Pine Island High School gymnasium on Thursday. The host Panthers welcomed No. 1 Kenyon-Wanamingo and No. 5 Zumbrota-Mazeppa for a Class 1A, Hiawatha Valley League triangular that would test all three teams early in the 2015-16 season.

Unfortunately for Pine Island, the Panthers have been ravaged by injuries, and were quickly dispatched by both the Knights, 66-12, and the Cougars, 64-12. In between, K-W may have lost its spot atop the polls after Z-M pulled out a 28-27 victory.

“Seeing a team like (K-W) shows you what you have to work on,” said Z-M head coach Link Steffen. “And I saw at least a half-dozen things that we need to work on. But, our mat-wrestling was good, and (K-W) rides really well and we got away from them more than we have in the past.”

Thanks to pins from Michael Majerus, ranked 10th at 106 pounds, and John Poulin, the Cougars led 12-0 after the first two matches. Jeron Matson, No. 1 at 120, got the Knights on the board with a major decision, but Michael Vath made it 15-4 Z-M with a decision over Tyler Craig at 126.

Fifth-ranked Bradley Kish picked up bonus points at 132 with a major decision, and Seth Brossard added three more for K-W to close the gap to 15-11.

No. 3 Maverick Jackson fought to a 4-2 decision over Jaeden Sokoloski at 145 to push the Cougars lead back to seven, but fourth-ranked Tyler Ryan picked up four team points for K-W with a major at 152.

Sam Nordquist and Matthew Houglum battled to a 4-2 final, with Nordquist upsetting No. 7 Houglum to give the Cougars a 21-15 lead. At 170, fourth-ranked Knight Dylan Craig beat Tyler Soltau, 8-5, but top-ranked Caden Steffen propped up Z-M with a major decision over Logan Quam.

That set the stage, with Z-M leading 25-18, for the final three bouts.

K-W would need an upset, and it would get it. But not until Z-M's Hayden Voxland, listed at 170, took down Peyton Hilke in the 195-pound match, 4-1. After K-W's Kaya Lindell stopped Jacob Bennett, 2-1, at 220, the Cougars led by seven. So Jesse Jackson's pin of Jarrett Haglund, No. 3 at 220, left the Knights one point short of a tie.

“The team score ended closer than it felt,” said K-W head coach Matt Ryan. “They have a good team, and we stole one at 220. We have to grow and mature. We gave up too many bonus points right out of the gate. I hate to lose, but we were not good enough to win tonight.”

The rankings will likely get a mix up next time out, but there is a lot of wrestling between now and the section tournaments that will determine if these teams meet again at state. That includes a trip to Rochester for The Clash National Duals Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, as well as many more duals and invitationals.

“It seemed streaky. It was like we had control, then they had control. But I enjoyed what I saw,” Steffen said. “And I think the crowd did, too. It was a knowledgeable crowd, they know their wrestling, and they applauded both (K-W) and us. That says a lot. That means a lot coming away from home.”

K-W will be back in action on Saturday with a home invitational, while Z-M will head to Rochester for the All-Force Christmas Tournament. Pine Island has a week to get healthy before an HVL dual at Byron on Thursday.  

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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