LE SUEUR - When it comes down to individual tournament time during the wrestling season, each wrestler has the potential to control their own destiny, no matter what their odds may be.
Sibley East junior Mitch Wentzlaff proved just that during the Class 4A individual tournament on Saturday, fighting through the 145-pound bracket as the No. 4 seed with a dramatic run and eventually surviving to place first, earning his first individual state tournament berth in the process.
"This win right here was awesome," Wentzlaff said. "That was the one for 30 [season wins], that was one of my goals for the year. To go to state, that was another goal. I completed every goal I wanted to this year. It was just really big."
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Sibley East’s Mitch Wentzlaff celebrates after defeating Dietrich Balsbaugh of Trinity for the 145-pound individual championship in Section 4A Saturday in Le Sueur.
Wentzlaff's victory was a standout moment in a very successful day for the Wolverines, who ended up with seven individuals punching a ticket to state in the tournament, a week after they won the Section 4A team title.
"It's just kind of kept our team on a roll here," Sibley East head coach Chad Johnson said. "Sibley East's record is sending six kids, and we're sending seven. It's just another thing that has kept our team rolling here."
In total, 19 area wrestlers qualified for the state tournament on Saturday. St. James and Lake Crystal Area had four wrestlers apiece qualify, Madelia/Truman/Martin Luther had three wrestlers qualify and River Valley ended up with one state tournament qualifier despite an overall gutsy performance.
Nine area wrestlers won their brackets, with five others qualifying without having to endure a dreaded true second match. Five further area wrestlers qualified by winning true second matches, which pit the runner up from the final against the third-place winner if the pair haven't yet wrestled in the tournament.
The first area wrestler to qualify for state was St. James senior Cody Hanson. Hanson lost 5-2 to Windom Area's Joe Fischenich at 113 pounds, but qualified as a second-place finisher without needing a true second match.
"It's still nice knowing that I'm going to go," Hanson said. "It's a little bit disappointing that you didn't win it, but you've got to go with the flow. Whatever happened, happened, and I'll just pick it up next week."
LCA's Louie Sanders won the hotly-contested 120-pound bracket with a 12-5 decision in the final against St. James senior Richy Soto. Soto wrestled a true second match against Trinity senior James Goman, but lost in a 10-2 decision to see his state tournament hopes squashed. Sanders is ranked No. 2 in the state at 120, Goman is ranked No. 3 and Soto is ranked No. 5 at 126.
"[Soto's] been wrestling at 120 and 126, and we had to make a decision, and decided to go all-in at 120," St. James head coach Gene Hildebrandt said. "You've got to beat two really good guys to go to state, and whoever comes out of there probably will place in the state tournament - Goman finished second last year and I think Sanders finished fifth. Not a good day for Soto, but he tried, and that's all you can ask."
Sibley East's Jason Meyer lost in the finals at 126, putting him into a true second match against River Valley's Sam Baier. The match between Meyer and Baier went through two overtimes before Meyer was named the victor via tiebreaker to give him a state tournament berth.
Meyer's teammate Austin Brockhoff didn't need a true second match at 132, taking care of business by defeating M/T/ML's Bryon Forstner in the final by a 5-2 decision.
"Just wrestling smart," Brockhoff said of his key to success. "I knew I was ahead, so I wrestled kind of defensively. When he shot in, I worked for stalemates, because I think a stalemate is a win, so that's what I look for."
Forstner ended up qualifying for state by winning a true second match by an 11-9 decision against Norwood-Young America's Davis Colley.
The 138-pound final witnessed a landmark result as LCA's Taner Trembley recorded his 200th career victory with a 3-2 decision against Sibley East's Hunter Retzlaff. Retzlaff placed second without needing a true second match.
Wentzlaff's match against Trinity's Dietrich Balsbaugh at 145 came down the the wire, with a third-period takedown giving him a 6-5 advantage late in the match. From that point on all he had to do was hold onto Balsbaugh for 38 seconds without letting go to ensure victory. When he did, relief came flooding in that he not only won his bracket, but had avoided a dreaded true second match.
"Knowing that I'm going [to state] right now, I'm just so excited," Wentzlaff said. "I'm relieved that I don't have to go and wrestle another one, because if you lose in your finals, you're on the bottom already, [the third-place winner] is coming off the top. It's just a big win."
One of the tournaments other most dramatic matches came in the true second match at 152. St. James' Zach Gleiter had lost his first-round match on Friday, but came all the way through wrestlebacks to force a true second match against Windom Area's Ben Matter.
Matter led the match late, but Gleiter earned a takedown late in the third period and gained a hold that allowed him to earn a pin in 5:36.
"I just looked up at my dad, and I told myself I've got to do it for him," Gleiter said. "Once I got [the hold] and I could turn him, I knew I could just keep him there. My main thought was just to keep him there, but the pin was extra."
Reigning 160-pound state champion Adam Cooling of M/T/ML routinely took care of business in the 160-pound final against Trinity's Noah Pehrson. Cooling piled on the points early, ending the match with a 20-5 technical fall in the second period.
"I figured it was probably going to go that way," Cooling said. "I was just going to go out there and work on my stuff and just try to win big, and I guess that's how it played out."
Sibley East senior Aaron Bates won the 170-pound final with a 6-4 decision against LCA's Davantay Corey, with Corey progressing to state without a true second match. St. James' Devin Wolle lost against Windom Area's Vince Johnson in the final at 182, but also advanced without a true second match.
"He was ready to wrestle, and I came and I just wasn't good enough today," Wolle said. "I might see him again at state, and who knows what will happen there."
Sibley East's Nathan Rose, the defending state champ at 195 pounds earned a comfortable victory with a pin in 3:32 against M/T/ML's Jake Denn in the final at 195. Denn later gave the Jayhawks their third state tournament qualifier by winning his true second match with a 12-4 decision.
"It feels pretty amazing," said Denn, who qualified for his first state tournament. "At the beginning of the year I had no idea that I'd have a chance of going to state, but it turned out pretty good."
LCA's Nick Meixell defeated Sibley East senior Miah DuFrane by a 4-2 decision in the final at 220, with DuFrane defeating St. James' Adrian Torres in the true second match thanks to a late rally that secured a 5-3 decision.
In the final match of the day, River Valley's Lance Briard and St. James' Victor Torres fought through a 0-0 first period, only to have Briard earn a pin 11 seconds into the second period.
"The last match of the day, everyone's tired, but he's still revved up to go," Victor Torres said of Briard. "I guess I was sort of surprised at how hard he was coming at me, because I figured at this point everyone would be a little fatigued. But not him, obviously not."
Torres clinched second place without a true second match, earning his first state tournament berth in his senior year.
The Class A individual state tournament will be contested on Friday and Saturday at the Xcel Center in St. Paul.