Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.
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ST. PAUL – Caden Steffen walked onto the Class 1A 182-pound championship match determined. It was his match. His mat. Nothing was going to stop the Zumbrota-Mazeppa junior. “To be 100 percent honest, my biggest fear was to finish second two years in a row. I didn't want that to happen,” said Caden, referring to his 25-12 major decision loss to Jackson County Central's Keegan Moore in 2016. “I worked all summer, all off-season to make sure that didn't happen. I just went out there and I wrestled my match. I controlled it and I just did everything the same, didn't change a thing.”
ST. PAUL – A consolation team champion. Six state entrants. A third-place finish and two state champions. A 7-0 day on Saturday. It was a good three-day stretch for Kenyon-Wanamingo wrestling. “It was awesome to have two (champions), and Seth (Brossard) brought home third,” said Knights head coach Matt Ryan. “Our team went 2-1 and we had a great today. I feel pretty good about it.”
MINNEAPOLIS – In conference, in sections and at state, William Meacham has an eye on Paul Sadergaski. Sadergaski, a senior at Faribault, has been the gold standard this year in the 100-yard butterfly in Class 1A as the 2015 champion. Meacham was never far behind this winter, and every competition against Sadergaski was a chance to get better. “Without someone next to me, it's hard to keep my pace,” Meacham said. “You got to have the shark behind you when you're swimming. That's what mine is: Trying to keep up with him.”
ST. PAUL – After Day 1 of individual wrestling at the Minnesota state wrestling tournament Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center, eight area athletes remain in the hunt for a state title.
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 the 1A's best.
ST. PAUL – Adversity was staring Spencer DeFrang in the face. Down 7-0 to Kenyon-Wanamingo's Jaeden Sokoloski after two periods, it looked like Zumbrota-Mazeppa would lose its third straight match in the Class 1A state quarterfinals. That didn't matter too much. The 138-pounder has faced adversity all season. And instead of backing up, DeFrang fired up. “He always wants to win. Whatever he does, he wants to win at it and that showed up today on the mat,” said Z-M head coach Link Steffen.
ROCHESTER – Red Wing never said die. Through the Section 1A playoffs, the Wingers managed to survive double overtime against Albert Lea and another overtime versus Rochester Lourdes. Looking to end a 15-year state drought against top-seeded Northfield, Red Wing's season extended even further with another double overtime game to decide the section champion. “Everyone knew it was coming. I told the guys this game was going to overtime,” said Wingers goaltender Zach Harding. “We knew it was coming. We knew we'd have to beat them in overtime to get to state.”
ROCHESTER – Eventually, pressure will get the best of anyone. After Kenyon-Wanamingo's offense struggled in the first half, trailing Pine Island 24-18 in Tuesday's Section 1AA quarterfinals, the fourth-seeded Knights wanted a spark. So, they amped up the pressure on defense. “The first half, we didn't play all that well,” said K-W head coach Brent Lurken “We couldn't score, so we figured we would have to start playing great defense in the second half if we don't start shooting the ball better.”
Life on the court has been swell for a guard called Bubba. McKayla Muelken, Red Wing’s senior point guard, has been a driving force for a Wingers team that has added nine wins from a season ago and sits as the No. 4 seed in the Section 1AAA tournament beginning Wednesday. But for as long as she can remember, McKayla hasn’t really gone by her legal name. McKayla has always been called Bubba.
ROCHESTER – With losses of 30 and 43 points during the regular season against Hayfield, Zumbrota-Mazeppa knew it would be an uphill battle to knock off the second-seeded Vikings in the Section 1AA tournament. But over the first eight minutes of Monday's section quarterfinal game, the 10th-seeded Cougars gave Hayfield some pause, forcing the Vikings to take a timeout with 7 minutes, 23 seconds to go before halftime. “That's something they haven't had to do before,” said Z-M head coach Scott Paukert.