ST. PAUL - At the beginning of the day on Thursday, the Sibley East wrestling team was looking to prove it even belonged among the field at the Class A state wrestling team tournament at the Xcel Energy Center.
By day's end, the Wolverines were in a position to feel disappointed that they only placed fourth.
After being billed as a serious underdog in its opening round match against No. 3 seeded Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City, unranked Sibley East earned a 30-24 upset of the Falcons to start the day and ended up losing a nail-biter against Chatfield by a 35-33 score in the third-place match.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Sibley East's Nathan Rose defeated Anthony Reurink of Frazee at 220 pounds during team semifinal action of the Class A State Tournament Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
The Wolverines' fourth-place finish was the best state tournament result in school history, with the team's previous best finish in two prior state tournament appearances being sixth place in 2007.
"If someone would have said at the very beginning of the year that we would take fourth in the state, I would have been happy as can be to be in that," Sibley East head coach Chad Johnson said. "Now you kind of feel like you just let one slip out of your hands, but no complaints. Our kids overall have gritted through a lot of things, and we had a great day. There's no complaints about it, it's just sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, today we took fourth. I'm just proud of my guys."
Sibley East faced No. 2 seeded Frazee in the semifinals, losing by a score of 40-16. The Wolverines took the mat against the Hornets mere minutes after their emotional victory against ACGC and weren't able to carry over the momentum they had built in the first round.
"The back-to-back thing really threw off a lot of our guys," Wolverines senior Miah DuFrane said. "We were all talking, and they were like, 'You've just gotten introduced, so you guys need to hurry up.' We figured we'd have some time, and there just wasn't any time."
DuFrane provided a key victory against the ACGC, breaking a 21-21 tie with a pin in 5:38 against Jordan Nelson at 195 pounds. Teammate Nathan Rose sealed the contest with a narrow 7-6 decision against No. 3 ranked Lucas Damm at 220.
"All I thought is I had to win," Rose said. "The match didn't go as good as I wanted, but I still won, so I kind of sealed the deal."
Sibley East's match-up with the Falcons followed three distinct chapters - it opened with the two teams trading narrow victories via decision, with each decision by three points or fewer, then evolved into the two teams trading blows before DuFrane and Rose finished it off.
Eighth-grader Tanner Pasvogel got the match-up started off on the right foot for the Wolverines, earning a late takedown to send his match into overtime. He manufactured another takedown 12 seconds into the overtime period to earn a 6-4 decision.
"I knew he was going to shoot, so I just had to get my legs back and just spin around him," Pasvogel said of his overtime takedown. "Just get it done."
ACGC followed with decisions of 7-4 and 6-4, respectively, before three straight decisions by the Wolverines gave them the upper hand.
Jason Meyer earned a 4-3 decision at 126 before Austin Brockhoff (132) and Hunter Retzlaff (138) followed with 1-0 decisions. Retzlaff's victory came against No. 2 ranked Logan Peterson.
No. 1 ranked Larry Bomstad earned a pin for the Falcons at 145 against Mitch Wentzlaff with just one second remaining in the first period, but Mitch's brother Jake made amends by pinning No. 9 ranked Lee Whitcomb in 3:21 at 152 pounds.
"I was really nervous going out into it," Jake Wentzlaff said. "Coach said to stay in good position and just wait 'til your time comes and take advantage of it, and that's what I did."
ACGC's Matthew Whitcomb followed with a pin against Austin Kube to tie the score at 18-18, but Sibley East senior Aaron Bates, ranked No. 2 at 170, defeated No. 3 ranked Maverick Whitcomb by a 7-1 decision to give the Wolverines the lead once again.
DuFrane was trailing almost throughout his match, coming agonizingly close to earning takedowns numerous times only to have Nelson drag him out of the circle. Trailing 7-5 late in the third period, DuFrane finally decided he had to make a do-or-die move, throwing Nelson to a mat with a firm hold that almost immediately earned him a pin.
"It was a huge relief, because at one point I was thinking, 'I can't let down my team like this,'" DuFrane said. "Just before that I told Austin Kube that even though he got pinned, he needs to get up and start cheering on the team, because we are a team, and anyone can come back, and we're going to win it for him to make sure that his efforts weren't in vain."
Despite having little time to let their accomplishment sink in, the Wolverines' win against ACGC left the rest of the field stunned at the result.
"No-one expected us to beat ACGC when we came down here first round," Sibley East senior Clay Mogard said. "When we knocked them off right away that was probably one of our biggest accomplishments as a team, so it was pretty exciting to do that."
Against Frazee, the Wolverines fell behind 24-0 before finally making a move. Retzlaff, Bates and Rose won their matches and Jake Wentzlaff received a forfeit, but it was clear from the early going that the match belonged to Frazee and its stacked line-up of 10 top-10 ranked wrestlers.
"Everybody was all jacked and ready to go for the ACGC match, and [against Frazee] we came out really flat, our first five, six guys wrestled poor and just dug us too big of a hole," Johnson said. "We didn't have the life we've had in sections or the first round of state, and that kind of gave us the result we got."
Entering the tournament, Sibley East was eager to get a chance to face No. 5 seeded Chatfield. Earlier in the season the Wolverines lost 35-31 to the Gophers and were eager to prove that they were a much improved team this time around.
The Wolverines lost four of their first five matches against Chatfield, but the team's lone win during that stretch gave it a much-needed injection of energy.
Wrestling at 113, Sibley East junior Mitch Heibel successfully put opponent Ty VanSickel in the cradle, where he produced a pin in just 51 seconds.
"I just figured I would go out there and hope for the best," Heibel said. "Tanner did a really good job [at 106] with [Jared] Goldsmith, and I went out there and gave 'er hell, I guess."
Sibley East's first four losses were all to ranked wrestlers.
Jake Wentzlaff capped off his standout day with a pin in 5:38 at 160, helping cut into a Chatfield lead that had been as wide as 25-11.
Though the Wolverines earned some big victories in the match-up, the team was unfortunate to come away with three wins via technical fall that all could have been pins.
Retzlaff earned four three-point near-falls in a 17-0 win at 138, Bates created four near falls of his own in a 15-0 win at 170 and Rose had to settle for a 20-3 win at 220, despite avoiding scoring any points in the second period to try and coax a pin against opponent Jacob Bleess.
Justin Viss earned a pin for the Gophers at heavyweight to clinch victory for his team.
"I'm proud of our effort, and no complaints losing to Chatfield by two," Johnson said. "They're a good team and we're just kind of glad to show that we actually belong there. Before we got here people didn't really put us in that caliber."
Jackson County Central won the Class A title by defeating Frazee in the final. It is the Huskies' fourth state title in a row, including a shared state title with Frazee in 2011.
ACGC defeated Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg in the fifth-place matchup.
Despite the letdown of losing their final match, the Wolverines still were excited to exceed their goals.
"Ever since we won sections, we came a long way from what we were at the beginning of the year," Bates said. "The biggest goal was just to make it to state, and we went beyond that. We definitely accomplished more than our goals."
For Bates and the six other Sibley East wrestlers competing in the individual state tournament, which begins today, having the opportunity to compete in the team tournament for the first time was an exciting experience. No-one currently on the roster was around the last time the Wolverines went to state as a team in 2007.
"It was awesome - I was looking forward to it the whole time," Bates said. "It's just fun having your team around you, it's just a fun environment."
Sibley East 30, ACGC 24
106 - Tanner Pasvogel (S) dec. Rylan Molinaro 6-4 (OT); 113 - Robert Rasmussen (A) dec. Mitch Heibel 7-4; 120 - Derek Dengerud (A) dec. Nathan Thomas 6-4; 126 - Jason Meyer (S) dec. Tyler Berghuis 4-3; 132 -Austin Brockhoff (S) dec. Jesse Rogers 1-0; 138 - Hunter Retzlaff (S) dec. Logan Peterson 1-0; 145 - Larry Bomstad (A) pinned Mitch Wentzlaff 1:59; 152 - Jake Wentzlaff (S) pinned Lee Whitcomb 3:21; 160 - Matthew Whitcomb (A) pinned Austin Kube 4:55; 170 - Aaron Bates (S) dec. Maverick Whitcomb 7-1; 182 - Jacob Peterson (A) dec. Brandon Ashton 3-1; 195 - Miah DuFrane (S) pinned Jordan Nelson 5:38; 220 - Nathan Rose (S) dec. Lucas Damm 7-6; 285 - Jordan Fester (A) dec. Clay Mogard 5-0.
Frazee 40, Sibley East 16
106 - Tanner Reetz (F) dec. Tanner Pasvogel 14-9; 113 - Byron Byer (F) dec. Mitch Heibel 6-0; 120 - Grant Jepson (F) dec. Nathan Thomas 4-1; 126 - Austin Skillings (F) pinned Jason Meyer 3:32 (Sibley East penalized one team point); 132 - Hunter Sorenson (F) dec. Austin Brockhoff 6-5; 138 - Bruce Lemon (F) pinned Steven Roth 2:50; 145 - Hunter Retzlaff (S) dec. Erik Moltzan 9-3; 152 - Evan Wendt (F) dec. Mitch Wentzlaff 3-1; 160 - Jake Wentzlaff (S) received forfeit; 170 - Aaron Bates (S) dec. Tyler Ziegler 10-4; 182 - Kody VanDenEykel (F) major dec. Brandon Ashton 13-4; 195 - Brett Gildersleeve (F) dec. Miah DuFrane 4-3 (OT); 220 - Nathan Rose (S) tech. fall Anthony Reurink 20-2; 285 - Garrett Malstrom (F) pinned Clay Mogard 1:24.
Chatfield 35, Sibley East 33
106 -Jared Goldsmith (C) dec. Tanner Pasvogel 8-1; 113 - Mitch Heibel (S) pinned Ty VanSickel 0:51; 120 - Hank Friederichs (C) major dec. Nathan Thomas 8-0; 126 - AJ Riley (C) dec. Jason Meyer 2-1; 132 - Harvey Friederichs (C) pinned Austin Brockhoff 1:58; 138 - Hunter Retzlaff (S) tech. fall Tye Bentz 17-0; 145 - Alex Haffner (C) pinned Steven Roth 3:54; 152 - Ryan Meeker (C) dec. Mitch Wentzlaff 3-2; 160 - Jake Wentzlaff (S) pinned Ethan Wright 5:38; 170 - Austin Kube (S) received forfeit; 182 - Aaron Bates (S) tech. fall Sam Fryer 15-0; 195 - Cody Bly (C) major dec. Miah DuFrane 10-0; 220 - Nathan Rose (S) tech. fall Jacob Bleess 20-3; 285 - Justin Viss (C) pinned Clay Mogard 1:21.