There was no celebration, no pumping fists, no backflips, no victory laps, no arms thrust toward the ceiling of Xcel Energy Center on Friday. Ben Morgan simply shook hands with Dakota Trom and walked off the mat.
Yes, it was the biggest match of the first day of individual competition at the state wrestling tournament. But it was only the first day. Morgan needs two more victories Saturday to take home a gold medal, and boy oh boy will it be a sweet moment for the Forest Lake senior if that happens.
You see, Morgan already owns one state title. That came when he was an eighth-grader, and for three years since then he has finished third at state. Friday’s 7-2 victory over Trom, an Apple Valley senior who won state championships in each of the last three years, certainly put Morgan on the right path. (They are pictured here.)
“I wasn’t going to let that happen again,” he said of coming up short of a state title. “I’ve worked too hard this year, I went through too much pain and stress to lose my last state tournament.”
Morgan is ranked No. 9 in the nation by Amateur Wrestling News and Trom is No. 11. Those spots would be reversed if not for a 5-3 victory by Morgan over Trom at the Minnesota Christmas tournament. And ever since that day in December, Trom has thought ahead to meeting Trom again at state.
“The mental focus? I can’t even tell you how much, man,” he said. “It’s every other 30 minutes. Ever since the Christmas tournament, I’ve spent at least nine hours a day thinking about this moment.”
Now Morgan (36-2 this season) will focus on his semifinal match against senior Phillip Horsager (15-7) of Spring Lake Park. On the other side of the bracket, the matchup is sophomore Justin Harold-Plakut (33-8) of Woodbury and sophomore Mark Voss (37-8) of St. Michael-Albertville.
When Morgan won his first state title so many years ago, his celebration was something to behold. Fists clenched and arms raised, Morgan leaned back and roared to the heavens. With blood dripping from his forehead, he sprinted around the mat and leaped into the arms of his father (and Forest Lake assistant coach), Gordy Morgan. He received a thunderous ovation from the fans.
That was in 2008. This is 2012. Forest Lake coach Billy Pierce reminded Morgan immediately after Friday’s big win that he still had work to do.
“I’ve already talked to him about that,” Pierce said. “I said, ‘This is not a final match. Save your celebration for later. Keep it respectful and eye on the prize.’ ”
--Simley has a tournament-best nine individuals in the Class 2A semifinals. Eight wrestlers from Apple Valley have reached the 3A semifinals. In Class 1A, Kimball, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City, Jackson County Central, Wabasso and Minneota all have four individuals in the semifinals.
--At 126 pounds, three-time 3A champ Mitch Bengston of St. Cloud Apollo extended his state-record winning streak to 178. The junior will face Rosemount senior Steve Levine in the semifinals.
--In the biggest quarterfinal match in Class 1A, Mitchel Lexvold of Kenyon-Wanamingo beat Isaac Novacek of Badger/Greenbush-Middle River 6-2 at 120 pounds. Lexvold won a state title last year and Novacek did so in 2010.
--One of the biggest matches of Saturday’s quarterfinals will come in 2A at 145 pounds. Jake Short of Simley and Gabe Fogarty of Scott West, will meet to decide who advances to the title match.
--Wrestlers who lost for the first time this season on Friday: Clay LaVasseur, Rogers (3A 195); David Johnson, Roseville (3A 220); Michael Jarnot, Holdingford (1A 138) and Garrett Hoffner, Mahnomen/Waubun (1A 145); Taylor Lewandowski, Foley (2A 160); Garret Miller, Plainview-Elgin-Millville (1A 170); and Jesse Hein, Perham (1A 285).
WHERE DO THE MATS COME FROM?
My wife posed that question to me, and I did not know the answer. But after interrogating a high-ranking official – tournament manager Byron Olson – I learned a few things.
The mats used at state are brand new. They are made by Dollamur Sport Surfaces, and some of them have already been sold to Minnesota high schools before the tournament begins. That way, the schools save money on shipping because Dollamur sends them to the Xcel Center and the schools are responsible for them after the tournament ends.
Mats used this year will soon be headed to Lakeville North, Byron, Yellow Medicine East and Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa.
AND IN HOCKEY NEWS...
These teams have qualified for next week's boys state hockey tournament…
Lakeville South (20-8)
Maple Grove (24-2-2)
Benilde-St. Margaret’s (22-6)
Duluth East (27-1)
2A seedings and brackets will be announced Saturday morning.
Rochester Lourdes (20-8)
New Ulm (17-11)
St. Thomas Academy (23-4)
Little Falls (19-9)
Thief River Falls (22-4-2)
Duluth Marshall (21-7) or Hibbing/Chisholm (16-11)
Duluth Marshall and Hibbing/Chisholm play at 2 p.m. Saturday. 1A state seedings and brackets will be announced Saturday evening.
GREAT NEWS FOR NICK MANZONI
On Sept. 1, I posted a story here about Nick Manzoni, a soccer player from Orono High School. The senior, who was named a Class A first-team all-state player as a junior, is considered one of the best players in the state. Last summer Nick was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma and he was unable to play soccer last fall.
His treatments included surgery and chemotherapy, and some great news was announced via Twitter on Friday:
“Nick has finished his chemo! Time to give thanks! Prayer service March 8, 7:30, St. Mary's Orthodox Cathedral. All are welcome.”
--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 10 for the tournament, 25 for the winter tournaments.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 381
*Miles John has driven: 6,523
--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn