Wrestling: Z-M beats Goodhue by 20 in possible section final preview
MAZEPPA — Two of the top three teams in Class A squared off on Friday, a day later than scheduled thanks to ice and an overcoat of snow making travel inadvisable on Thursday. But nothing was going to thaw the tension between No. 1 Zumbrota-Mazeppa and No. 3 Goodhue.
Though neither team was likely to deploy any tactics, or expose any weakness, with just a month to go before the Section 1A tournament that is likely to end with the Cougars and Wildcats squaring off for a trip to state, both teams came in with certain expectations.
And after Z-M's Jarret Haglund closed the Hiawatha Valley League dual with a pin of Jacob Brinkman, cementing a 35-15 Cougar victory, both teams were able to walk off the mat feeling at least OK with how the night played out.
"We came out and we were clicking pretty good tonight," said Z-M head coach Link Steffen. "Goodhue's got a nice team. They have a lot of good wrestlers and they're balanced all the way through. Tonight was a big one."
Mason Edstrom and Beau Jurrens put the Cougars up 7-0 early with Jurrens picking up a major decision. Goodhue's first win came at 120 pounds with Maddox O'Reilly edging John Poulin, 2-0. But a big turning point came at 126 where Mike Vath had his hand raised for six points as the Wildcats forfeited.
"We had (Bjorn Otterness) out. He's pretty sick so we didn't want to push that," said Goodhue head coach Josh Grant. "But the whole night was a good, competitive match that we stayed in. We've got to stay healthy to compete with (Z-M). We probably brought our best lineup, for a regular season (dual), and we hope to do it again in a month, plus (Otterness).
Mariano Bigalk picked up a decision for Goodhue at 132, but the Cougars responded with three-straight wins from Spencer DeFrang, Luke Tupper and Richard Gehrke for a 22-6 lead.
The Wildcats pulled themselves right back in it with three decisions from 160-182, with third-ranked Mason Huemann scraping by No. 8 Sam Nordquist, 5-2, at 160, and No. 1 Kelby and No. 5 Kaleb O'Reilly each claiming 3-1 wins.
But the Cougars' best were left as top-ranked Caden Steffen won a major at 195, No. 1 Jacob Bennett beat No. 8 Ryan Schoenfelder at 220, and Haglund, No. 1 as well, got the early whistle to end it.
No one knows what the score between the two teams in February, but Grant is ready for the next four weeks.
"I still saw a lot, especially some guys who lost, where we can get better in a month," Grant said. "But we didn't give up bonus points. (Z-M) always seems to find ways to stick us. They have tough guys on our tough guys. They didn't pin us tonight. The one that did was our heavyweight, with two wins, that went to the second period with a state finalist. I told the guys, that's the kind of toughness I wanted to see. And I think they can do that in a month. I'm convinced we can close the gap more, and even flip the table."
The Wildcats still have some big tests coming up, including No. 11 Kenyon-Wanamingo and Kasson-Mantorville, the top team in Class AA. And the same goes for the Cougars. Z-M also has the Knights and KoMets on the schedule, but it also includes an early bus ride on Saturday, with the end of the road being the Wabasso/Red Rock Central Tournament. And that includes No. 7 Minneota.
"That's in about nine hours, maybe a little more than that. It's not going to get any easier," Steffen said. "But, for sure, a lot of our big tournaments are behind us and we can start focusing a little more on technique and putting more time in the room."
It's another chance for the defending state champions to pick up another big win. Goodhue will be at the Plainview-Elgin-Millville Tournament Saturday, where they will get back to the grind of finding a way to dethrone the champs.
"I told them that I wanted to pick up where we were in the section finals," Grant said. "They thumped us here last year, and we closed big time in February. I told them to start in February, to not go back to January and get thumped. Pick up where we left off and turn the corner."