Wrestling: Steffen stands alone


ST. PAUL — Caden Steffen figured he'd get one good shot.

At the Minnesota state wrestling tournament, every opponent is quality. And prior to the start of the Class A 182-pound championship match, Steffen could hear coaches strategize with his opponent, Holt Truax of Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale/Parkers Prairie.

"I heard him and his coach talking about how he had to keep his left foot back. That's the leg I shoot," Caden said. "They did their study and did everything right."

With the match tied 1-1 in the third period, Truax's left foot was just a little too close. Caden finally had his shot and got a takedown in the final 25 seconds.

"The shot opened up one time and I took it," Caden said.

And it was all the Zumbrota-Mazeppa senior needed to become the school's first two-time state champion with a 3-1 decision.

"He took a step and it was just there. It ended up working out in my favor," Caden said. "I knew he was a Gumby scrambler, double-jointed type of guy. I knew I had to finish with caution because he has some good moves."

"They both were a little less aggressive and they were feeling each other out," said Cougars head coach Link Steffen, Caden's dad. "When something opened up, you could see spurts throughout the match. One guy would try something. It wasn't until the end when something opened up and one guy was able to score."

Earlier in the day, Caden advanced to the state finals with a pin over Kenyon-Wanamingo's Logan Quam in 5 minutes, 22 seconds.

With a scoreless first period, Truax put the pressure on Caden with a second-period escape. Caden won the coin toss for the third period and managed to get an escape of his own to even things up once again.

"When I lost the flip and he chose down right away, I did get a little nervous," Caden said. "One shot is going to win this match, one takedown is going to win this match."

Caden was prophetic in how the match was going to end. And now, Caden will work towards extending his wrestling career in college when he joins the University of Minnesota next fall.

"I got to thank everyone for helping me accomplish these goals," Caden said. "It's pretty special."

"I wash my hands," Link said with a laugh, talking about coaching his son for the last time.

Around the area

• For the second straight year, Z-M's Jacob Bennett found himself in the finals, reaching the Class A 195 championship. And this time, it was against Jackson County Central's Dalton Wagner, who had his own runner-up finish to avenge after losing the Class A 160 title last winter to Goodhue's Bailee O'Reilly.

Wagner jumped out to a 5-0 lead after two periods and let his defensive work do the rest for the final two minutes as he beat Bennett, 7-1.

It was a bittersweet moment for Link, having Caden win a title followed by Bennett's loss. But, Bennett still has another year in the wrestling room, so there's one more opportunity to get that elusive title.

"How many people wish they could make it to the state tournament and medal? He's gotten to the state tournament twice," Link said. "Coming in next year, it's going to be our goal to win him a state title. We're just going to push and keep doing the same things we're doing."

• The Cougars finished with four medalist as Michael Majerus (106) and Hayden Voxland (170) both finished in sixth place.

Majerus won his first wrestleback match on Saturday with a 5-4 decision against Crookston's Zach Brown before losing in overtime in the consolation semifinals versus Chatfield's Seth Goetzinger, 6-4. In the fifth-place match, Majerus took an 8-6 loss to Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville's Carter Meiners.

After losing his opening-round match on Friday, Voxland fought back and won the next two, including a pin of Sibley East's Tim Lewis in 55 seconds on Saturday. Colton Waldvogel clipped Voxland in the consolation semifinals, 3-2, setting up a Section 1 showdown with Goodhue's Kaleb O'Reilly in the fifth-place match. Ultimately, Kaleb was able to squeeze out the 4-2 decision.

• Along with Kaleb, twin brother Kelby O'Reilly also placed fifth at 160. Opening Saturday with a 7-5 loss to Westfield's Colton Krell in the championship semifinals, followed by a 5-4 loss versus Royalton/Upsala's Jackson Held in the consolation semifinals, Kelby rebounded with a 3-0 win for fifth place against Blackduck/Cass Lake-Bena's Ian Frenzel.

Before winning fifth over Voxland, Kaleb beat Royalton/Upsala's Lyle Zimmerman with an 8-0 major decision before taking a 2-1 loss against Wabasso/Red Rock Central's Nick Altermatt in the consolation semis.

Goodhue's highest placewinner was Mason Huemann at Class A 152. Losing to Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa's Adam Jaeger in the championship semifinals, Huemann won his first match in the consolation semis versus Sibley East's Tommy Wentzlaff, 8-5. Going into overtime with Minneota's Cole VanOverbeke in the third-place match, Huemann was taken down for a 4-2 loss.

• In the Class AA tournament, Cannon Falls' Hayden Strain won his first two matches Saturday with a 5-1 decision against Jon Huss of Scott West and a 13-4 major decision over Marshall's Wyatt Martin. That put Strain in the third-place match against a familiar foe in Section 1AA runner-up Ethan Shea of Kasson-Mantorville. This time, Shea was able to edge Strain with a 2-1 decision that needed a tiebreaker in overtime.

• The area's final medal came from Quam. After taking the semifinal loss to Caden in Class A 182, Quam dropped his final two matches, with an 11-9 loss to Dover-Eyota's Michael Nelson and a pin at 1:35 in the fifth-place match against Royalton/Upsala's Marshall Meehl.