Wrestling: Cougars become the top of the class
ST. PAUL – The foundation to a championship started two years ago.
Zumbrota-Mazeppa surprised even itself in 2015 by reaching the Class 1A state wrestling finals before falling 31-30 to Minneota in the finals.
It took two years to return to the state championship. And this time, the Cougars weren't just happy to be there. They were fully prepared to leave the Xcel Energy Center as 1A's best.
“Two years ago, we were so focused on getting through the section when Kenyon was in there. We did that and we didn't expect to be in the state finals, and I think that's why we ended up a point short,” said junior Caden Steffen. “This year, (a state championship) was our number one goal. We took it by tiers. Starting with sections, the first tier was against Grand Meadow. The second tier, Dover-Eyota. Third tier, Goodhue. Then, each state match.”
It started with a 31-23 win in the quarterfinals against fifth-seeded Kenyon-Wanamingo. Then, a 32-25 victory against top-seeded Frazee in the semifinals. And, after two years in the making, fourth-seeded Z-M secured its first state championship with a 35-16 win against second-seeded Pierz.
“They had a common goal and that was to get to state. And once we got here, win a state title,” said Cougars head coach Link Steffen. “We felt we were as good as any team up here and we just had to have a good day. And they did.”
Z-M's bread and butter is its heavyweights with Caden (first at 182), Jacob Bennett (second at 195) and Jarret Haglund (second at 220). While less touted than the final three, the Cougars' lightweights excelled against the Pioneers.
“We knew we needed to get big wins at the lower weights because they weren't as strong as the past teams at the lower weights,” said 120-pounder Conner Heitman. “They were more built at the center.”
Michael Majerus started the championship with a 12-4 major decision, then Heitman went into overtime with Pierz's Jake Andres. Ultimately a technical violation by Andres gave Heitman the surprise 3-2 decision at 120 pounds.
“It was mostly not giving up good position,” Heitman said about the win over Andres. “Just working through all the periods. It was a big momentum starter to get the win in overtime.”
Mike Vath secured an 8-2 decision at 126. Then after Pierz tied the match at 10-10, Spencer DeFrang scored a pin at 3 minutes, 15 seconds against 10th-ranked Reese Kapsner at 138, followed by a 3-0 decision for Maverick Jackson over ninth-ranked Andrew Tomala at 145.
“You could tell we had something going,” DeFrang said.
Link added, “The lighter weights wrestled with a lot of heart. The score was closer than people thought it might be and we realized, hey, we got a chance here. So, we got a hold of it and ran with it.”
Up 19-13, Sam Nordquist got an 11-3 major decision at 160 over Luke Girtz. Then at 182, a late take-down by Hayden Voxland sealed a 5-4 decision at 182 over third-ranked (170) Brett Kapsner.
“Hayden works so hard in the wrestling room. He never stops wrestling,” Link said. “He is so aggressive and in such good condition that if you don't wrestle him for six minutes you might lose, and that's what happened today. Hayden wrestled until the last second and it got him a win and got his team a win.”
With a 26-16 lead and three matches to go, Z-M got to its closers, and the big guys sealed the deal. Facing undefeated and third-ranked (182) Matt Kummet at 195 pounds, Caden, the top-ranked wrestler at 182, put the match out of reach for the Pioneers with a 3-1 decision.
“It was something I've never experienced before, looking up and everyone's on their feet,” Caden said. “It was something special and it's something I'll remember forever. I'll give that kid (Kummet) credit. He's tough, he's slick, he has good defense. He's seeded one in his (individual) bracket for a reason.”
With the title in hand, Bennett got a 5-0 decision at 220 over Carson Huls, and Haglund won a 5-3 decision over Troy Fischer to add to the team's fanfare.
The foundation started two years ago, and when the Cougars finally got to hoist the 1A trophy over their heads, they finally reached the pinnacle.
“This team amazed me and I know it amazed everyone else who was watching,” Caden said. “It's the 6 a.m. workouts every day. It was just the grit and the will in practice every day. These guys wanted it. They wanted it at the beginning of the season and never turned it off.”
K-W takes consolation title
Kenyon-Wanamingo's quest to repeat as state champions ended early against the eventual champions in the quarterfinals. The goals changed afterwards, but the Knights did something all to familiar to them: They won.
Going into the consolation bracket, K-W picked up a 37-12 win against Sibley East, followed by a 37-19 victory against Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg in the consolation finals to secure fifth place.
“Zumbrota, we knew they were one of the best teams up here. We had a crack to knock them out but it didn't work out,” said Knights head coach Matt Ryan. “We did the best we could after that. I was proud of the way our kids bounced back and found a way to beat a couple good teams.”
Jeron Matson got K-W's first win in the consolation finals over the Fighting Saints' Kyle Meyer with a 11-2 major decision. Then, Bradley Kish (126) and Seth Brossard (132) got back-to-back wins by decision.
KMS held a brief 13-10 lead after 145 pounds before Dylan Craig (152) and Tyler Ryan (160) won with back-to-back first-period pins. Craig stuck Brandon Kallstrom in 1:54, and Ryan was a victor over Rick Jones in 31 seconds.
With two straight decisions in the Fighting Saints' favor, KMS cut K-W's lead to 22-19 before the Knights' final three of Logan Quam, Kaya Lindell and Jesse Jackson shut things down.
Quam put K-W up by six following a 9-2 decision over Ryan Torkelson at 195. At 220, Lindell followed up with a pin over Michael Doubek in 1:20, then Jackson finished the match in a hurry at 285 with a 10-second fall over Brody Forsell.
“We wrestled some of their tough kids in the low and through the middle really tough,” Matt said. “We felt pretty good about where we were by the time we got to those three matches because of what the guys had done earlier in the dual.”
Class 1A finals
Zumbrota-Mazeppa 35, Pierz 16
106-Michael Majerus (ZM) maj. Brandon Funk, 12-4; 113-Sebastian Warzecha (P) maj. John Poulin, 10-2; 120-Conner Heitman (ZM) dec. Jake Andres, 3-2 (OT); 126-Mike Vath (ZM) dec. Lukas Popp, 8-2; 132-Brandon Ortman (P) pinned Jack Smothers, 3:30; 138-Spencer DeFrang (ZM) pinned Reese Kapsner, 3:15; 145-Maverick Jackson (ZM) dec. Andrew Tomala, 3-0; 152-Jalen Jansen (P) dec. Luke Tupper, 7-4; 160-Sam Nordquist (ZM) maj. Luke Girtz, 11-3; 170-Logan Lease (P) dec. Tyler Soltau, 9-7; 182-Hayden Voxland (ZM) dec. Brett Kapsner, 5-4; 195-Caden Steffen (ZM) dec. Matt Kummet, 3-1; 220-Jacob Bennett (ZM) dec. Carson Huls, 5-0; 285-Jarret Haglund (ZM) dec. Troy Fischer, 5-3.
Class 1A semifinals
Zumbrota-Mazeppa 32, Frazee 25
106-Michael Majerus (ZM) dec. Landon Byer, 6-4; 113-Michael Miller (F) maj. John Poulin, 9-1; 120-Tanner Schermerhorn (F) dec. Conner Heitman, 7-2; 126-Kaden Hiemenz (F) dec. Mike Vath, 3-2; 132-Tanner Reetz (F) pinned Jack Smothers, 2:32; 138-Spencer DeFrang (ZM) dec. Blaine Beaty, 10-4; 145-Tanner Eischens (F) dec. Luke Tupper, 5-2; 152-Maverick Jackson (ZM) maj. Hudson Heimenz, 11-2; 160-Sam Nordquist (ZM) dec. Charelton Wake, 6-1; 170-Tyler Soltau (ZM) dec. Brett Graham, 4-2 (OT); 182-Hayden Voxland (ZM) pinned Logan Wacker, 3:13; 195-Caden Steffen (ZM) pinned Luke Tweeton, 3:50; 220-Jacob Bennett (ZM) maj. Rory Drewes, 12-4; 285-Tony Malikowski (F) pinned Luke Dahlen, 1:12.
Class 1A quarterfinals
Zumbrota-Mazeppa 31, Kenyon-Wanamingo 23
106-Michael Majerus (ZM) dec. Bray Olson, 10-4; 113-Jeron Matson (KW) pinned John Poulin, 0:37; 120-Mike Vath (ZM) maj. Tyler Craig, 12-2; 126-Bradley Kish (KW) dec. Conner Heitman, 9-3; 132-Seth Brossard (KW) tech fall Jack Smothers, 17-2; 138-Spencer DeFrang (ZM) pinned Jaeden Sokoloski, 5:46; 145-Maverick Jackson (ZM) dec. Nathan Bauer, 6-3; 152-Dylan Craig (KW) dec. Luke Tupper, 7-1; 160-Tyler Ryan (KW) dec. Tyler Soltau, 6-3; 170-Hunter Burow (KW) dec. Sam Nordquist, 7-0; 182-Hayden Voxland (ZM) dec. Logan Quam, 4-3; 195-Caden Steffen (ZM) pinned Peyton Hilke, 3:53; 220-Jacob Bennett (ZM) dec. Kaya Lindell, 3-2 (OT); 285-Jarret Haglund (ZM) dec. Jesse Jackson, 8-4.
Class 1A consolation semifinals
Kenyon-Wanamingo 37, Sibley East 12
106-Bray Olson (KW) tech fall Derek Steele, 16-1; 113-Jeron Matson (KW) dec. Dayne Morton, 8-2; 120-Tyler Craig (KW) dec. Kevin Melgar, 9-3; 126-Bradley Kish (KW) dec. Lincoln Carpenter, 5-3; 132-Tanner Pasvogel (SE) dec. Seth Brossard, 13-6; 138-Tommy Wentzlaff (SE) dec. Daniel Kish, 4-3; 145-Mason Voight (SE) dec. Nathan Bauer, 4-0; 152-Tyler Ryan (KW) pinned Logan Tesch, 0:58; 160-Dylan Craig (KW) maj. Jose Felipe, 13-3; 170-Matthew Houglum (KW) maj. Tim Lewis, 10-1; 182-Logan Quam (KW) dec. Andrew Schauer, 10-4; 195-Cody Voight (SE) dec. Peyton Hilke, 6-0; 220-Kaya Lindell (KW) dec. Ramiro Rivera, 7-0; 285-Jesse Jackson (KW) dec. Tanner Kurtzweg, 6-4 (OT).
Class 1A consolation final
Kenyon-Wanamingo 37, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg 19
106-Will Magaard (KMS) maj. Bray Olson, 16-4; 113-Jeron Matson (KW) maj. Kyle Meyer, 11-2; 120-Jared Carlson (KMS) dec. Tyler Craig, 6-0; 126-Bradley Kish (KW) dec. Jacob Carlson, 9-7; 132-Seth Brossard (KW) dec. Jonathan Tostenson, 6-4; 138-Dylan Rudningen (KMS) dec. Daniel Kish, 15-8; 145-Caleb Collins (KMS) dec. Nathan Bauer, 5-3; 152-Dylan Craig (KW) pinned Brandon Kallstrom, 1:54; 160-Tyler Ryan (KW) pinned Rick Jones, 0:31; 170-Derek Krieger (KMS) dec. Hunter Burow, 4-0; 182-Brandin Dahl (KMS) dec. Peyton Hilke, 10-3; 195-Logan Quam (KW) dec. Ryan Torkelson, 9-2; 220-Kaya Lindell (KW) pinned Michael Doubek, 1:20; 285-Jesse Jackson (KW) pinned Brody Forsell, 0:10.