John's Journal
State Wrestling Tournament Update2/27/2016
The semifinal matches have been completed in all three classes at Xcel Energy Center, setting the stage for tonight’s championship round. Here’s a primer…

--St. Michael-Albertville leads the tournament with five individuals advancing to the state championship round in Class 3A. Apple Valley and Willmar both have three in the finals.

--In 2A, Delano, Mankato West, Foley, Kasson-Mantorville, New Prague and Simley all have two in the finals. In 1A, Dover-Eyota and Frazee advanced three to the final round, while Aitkin, Minneota and Pipestone all advanced two.

STATE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCHES

CLASS 1A
106/ Jeron Matson, Kenyon-Wanamingo vs. Dillon McGee, Walker-Hackensack
113/ Hunter Burnett, Pipestone vs. Jace Geving, Deer River
120/ Noah Bauer, Pine Island vs. Michael Suda, Pipestone
126/ Tanner Reetz, Frazee vs. Skylar Hieronimus, Adrian
132/ Thomas Stageberg, New London-Spicer vs. Ryan Killeen, Spectrum
138/ Ryan Keach, Dover-Eyota vs. Grant Jepson, Frazee
145/ Tom Tellers, United North Central vs. Bryce Bruner, Minneota
152/ Bailee O’Reilly, Goodhue vs. Jerod Novak, Aitkin
160/ Alex Erpelding, Staples-Motley vs. Noah Landrus, Aitkin
170/ Michael Otomo, Dover-Eyota vs. Derek Herman, United South Central
182/ Keegan Moore, Jackson County Central vs. Caden Steffen, Zumbrota-Mazeppa
195/ Jonah Lange, Frazee vs. Alex Goergen, Caledonia
220/ Manuel Garcia, BOLD vs. Karter VanHeuveln, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg
285/ Tanner Welsh, Dover-Eyota vs. Wyatt Fitterer, NRHEG

CLASS 2A
106/ Jake Svihel, Totino-Grace vs. Charlie Pickell, Mankato West
113/ Garrett Vos, Waconia vs. Hser Eh Pwae, Worthington
120/ Jake Gliva, Simley vs. Reed DeFrang, Plainview-Elgin-Millville
126/ Tucker Sjomeling, Delano vs. Jackson Stauffacher, Scott West
132/ Garrett Aldrich, Albert Lea vs. Morgan Fuenffinger, Hibbing
138/ Anthony Jackson, Simley, vs. Peter Nelson, St. Cloud Apollo
145/ Ryan Epps, Cannon Falls vs. Logan Axford, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton
152/ Griffin Parriott, New Prague vs. Devin Fitzpatrick, Mahtomedi
160/ Solomon Nielsen, Luverne vs. Sam Baier, Redwood/River Valley
170/ Ryan Duffy, South St. Paul vs. Greg Kerkvleit, Simley
182/ Spencer Elwell, Foley vs. Aaron Berge, Kasson-Mantorville
195/ Noah Ryan, Kasson-Mantorville vs. Saylor Schmit, Foley
220/ Kevin Kneisl, Delano vs. Zachary Jakes, Mankato West
285/ James Huwe, Detroit Lakes vs. Logan Swanson, Mankato East

CLASS 3A/
106/ Aaron Cashman, Mound-Westonka vs. Patrick McKee, St. Michael-Albertville
113/ Victor Gliva, Farmington, vs. Cael Carlson, Willmar
120/ Rylee Molitor, Sartell-St. Stephen vs. Peyton Robb, Owatonna
126/ Brent Jones, Shakopee vs. Tyler Eischens, Anoka
132/ Jakob Bergeland, Centennial vs. Adam Hedin, Rosemount
138/ Mitchell McKee, St. Michael-Albertville vs. Tyler Shilson, Centennial
145/ Alex Lloyd, Shakopee, vs. Wade Sullivan, Lakeville North
152/ Jake Allar, St. Michael-Albertville vs. Brock Morgan, Apple Valley
160/ Colten Carlson, Willmar vs. Justin Burg, Tartan
170/ Mark Hall, Apple Valley vs. Austin Eichmann, Hastings
182/ Lucas Jeske, St. Michael-Albertville vs Taylor Venz, Farmington
195/ Brandon Moen, Owatonna vs. Samuel Grove, Moorhead
220/ Gable Steveson, Apple Valley vs. Evan Foster, St. Michael-Albertville
285/ Andrew Piehl, Rogers vs. Brady Reigstad, Willmar

They Might As Well Rename The Arena: “Mark Hall” 2/27/2016
There were no surprises for Mark Hall this week. For the sixth year in a row, the Apple Valley wrestler joined his coaches and teammates for a brief winter stay in downtown St. Paul. Each day during the state tournament at Xcel Energy Center, Hall packed a lunch-bucket cooler with his usual nutritional supplies – sandwiches (ham and cheese is a favorite), Gatorade or water, fruit snacks – and went to work.

The routine has been the same since 2011, when a seventh-grade Hall recorded state championship No. 1 with a four-match sweep of the Class 3A 130-pound field. Hall is now a senior and title No. 6 came Saturday night when he beat Austin Eichmann of Hastings via technical fall to capture the crown at 170 pounds. He is the first Minnesota wrestler to win six titles.

After his match ended and the referee raised his arm, Hall (pictured) hugged his coaches and then jumped a barrier and joined his family in the stands. There were hugs all around. After he met with a media scrum in a back corridor, he came back into the arena and was immediately mobbed by fans wanting autographs and selfies. He was very gracious, accommodating as many people as possible.

Words like “historic” and “legendary” are certainly applicable to what Hall has accomplished. But for Hall, being part of a championship team is just as important as being a championship solo act. And along with his six individual titles, he leaves high school wrestling as part of six consecutive championship teams, too.

That team-first attitude even extends to the individual tournament. Hall spends more time looking at the competition his teammates will face than worrying about who he will meet.

“I look at my teammates’ brackets more and kind of help them in how they’re going to approach their matches and how they’re going to navigate their bracket,” he said. “Not so much mine. I’ll look at mine once or twice before the tournament. But after that it’s just kind of whoever steps out.”

Hall finished this season with a record of 45-0. His career record is 275-4, with three losses in seventh grade and one in ninth grade. That ninth-grade defeat was an overtime loss to Brian Murphy of Glenbard North (Illinois) at the Cheesehead Invitational in Kaukauna, Wisconsin. Murphy is now a junior on the wrestling team at the University of Michigan.

Hall’s first big statement at state came when he was a seventh-grader, meeting Forest Lake junior Ben Morgan in the semifinals at 130. Morgan (who finished his career as a two-time state champ and now wrestles at the University of Minnesota) held a 5-0 lead before the newcomer battled back and pulled out an 8-6, four-overtime, epic win.

“In seventh grade I was kind of the new guy,” Hall said. “People knew who I was but they didn’t quite know the potential. I think I knew my potential very well. In the semis I was down 5-0 and not a lot of people in the stands probably knew I could win. My parents, my coach and myself were probably the only people who truly believed.”

The latest display of Hall’s prowess in big matches came in Thursday’s team championship dual between Apple Valley and St. Michael-Albertville.
Hall is ranked No. 1 nationally among high school wrestlers at 170 pounds. Against St. Michael-Albertville he moved up to 182 and pinned the nation’s 10th-ranked wrestler at that weight, senior and defending state champion Lucas Jeske, in the first period. Apple Valley won the dual 31-26, and Hall scoring six points rather than three was big.

On Monday he will be back in school, where his current classes include Physics, Criminology, Psychology, American Literature and Composition, and Pre-Calculus. He will attend Penn State, wrestle for the Nittany Lions (coach Cael Sanderson was at Xcel Center on Saturday) and major in education, with the goal of becoming a math or physical education teacher, and a possible long-term goal of working as an athletic director.

His future wrestling goals include, oh, NCAA championships and Olympic gold medals.

Expect him to be successful.

CHAMPIONS AGAIN AND AGAIN

Several wrestlers returned to the top spot on the podium Saturday. Among them were …

--Senior Griffin Parriott of New Prague recorded his third state championship in resounding fashion, pinning Devin Fitzpatrick of Mahtomedi in 10 seconds in 2A at 152 pounds..

--Albert Lea junior Garrett Aldrich notched his third state title with a 10-7 decision over Morgan Fuenffinger of Hibbing in 2A 132. Aldrich could be a four-time gold medalist.

--Shakopee junior Brent Jones recorded his third title, winning at 126 in 3A with a 7-3 decision over Tyler Esischens of Anoka.

--Jackson County Central senior Keegan Moore became a three-time champ with a major decision over Caden Steffen of Zumbrota-Mazeppa in 1A at 182.

--St. Michael-Albertville senior Mitchell McKee wrapped up his high school career with a third championship, winning in 3A at 138 with a tech fall over Tyler Shilson of Centennial.

--Two state champions squared off in the 3A championship match at 120 pounds, where sophomore Peyton Robb of Owatonna outlasted junior Rylee Molitor of Sartell-St. Stephen with a 3-1 decision.

--Kasson-Mantorville junior Brady Berge (a three-time champion featured in a previous edition of John’s Journal) suffered a leg injury in the semifinals at 2A 160. He defaulted to Luverne junior Solomon Nielsen, who lost to Redwood/River Valley senior Sam Baier 5-2 in the title match.

Winning their second state championships were senior Manuel Garcia of BOLD at 1A 220 and sophomore Gable Stevenson of Apple Valley at 3A 220.

--Total attendance for the three-day tournament was 56, 381.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 530
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,532
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Kasson-Mantorville’s Berge Takes Short View In Drive For Five 2/26/2016
This is Mark Hall’s world and every other Minnesota wrestler is just living in it. Or so goes the attention – and who could argue with it? -- paid to the Apple Valley senior who is on track to become the first six-time state champion in history Saturday evening at Xcel Energy Center.

There are, however, others who are on the cusp of history as the 78th state wrestling tournament moves into Championship Saturday. Yes, by any measure Hall is worthy of mountains of newsprint and miles of video, but let’s not forget the other high-achieving individuals displaying their talents this week.

Among them is Kasson-Mantorville junior Brady Berge, who already owns three state championships, could win No. 4 Saturday and be on track to rack up No. 5 a year from now.

That’s rare air, because only six wrestlers have been five-time champs. Not that Berge is giving it much thought right now.

“My coach (Jamie Heidt) does a real good job,” said Berge (pictured), whose big brother Broc was a two-time state champion and now wrestles at the University of Minnesota. “Ever since I stepped into the room he’s preached that you have to take it one match at a time. I follow that. I look at every match like it’s a state championship match. I hear it quite a bit but I block it out, too. I’m not worried about that right now.”

If not for a quarterfinal loss and third-place finish at state as an eighth-grader, Berge would be joining Hall on the six-title track. His Class 2A championships came as a seventh-grader at 106 pounds, a freshman at 145 and a sophomore at 152.

He’s top-seeded at 160 this week and on Friday he won by a technical fall in the first round and a fall in the quarterfinals. He will meet fourth-seeded Luverne junior Solomon Nielsen in Saturday’s semifinals. In the other half of the bracket are second-seeded Connor Hoff, a senior from Litchfield, and third-seeded Sam Baier, a senior from Redwood/River Valley.

Berge’s loss in eighth grade took the steam out of the “six-time champion” talk, but that’s OK with him.

“I haven’t heard it as much as after I won it in seventh grade,” he said. “You hear it quite a bit, but every time I hear it all I think about is winning the next match. I’m not worried about my senior year yet, I’ve still got a match ahead of me right now.”

A MEMORABLE WEEKEND FOR MINNETONKA

In the buzz of Thursday’s team competition, it might have been easy to miss what Minnetonka accomplished this season. Of the 24 teams that qualified for state, the Skippers were the only one making the trip for the first time. (Minnetonka won a state title in 1974, but that was when only individuals went to state.)

Not only did Minnetonka get to state, they also recorded a victory. After losing to St. Michael-Albertville 55-15 in the quarterfinals, they beat Centennial 34-32 in the consolation bracket. Hastings beat the Skippers 44-33 in the fifth-place match.

”That showed all the guys on our team that we do belong here and we want to keep coming back,” said coach Josh Frie, who is in his fourth year as head coach after three as an assistant.

“What’s helped us out the most is our youth program,” he said. “We’ve got about 60 guys in that right now, it’s going strong, and it has for a few years now. We’re starting to see that with our young guys coming through.”

The Skippers won the Section 6 title with postseason victories over Edina, Mound/Westonka and Chaska/Chanhassen. They finished the season with an 18-6 record.

Four Minnetonka individuals qualified for state: freshman Jake Finken at 113, sophomore Boyd Mumbuwa at 120, senior Logan Foote at 182 and junior Aaron Moore at 285. Mumbuwa and Moore won twice Friday to advance to Saturday’s semifinals.

“Interest is high right now,” Frie said. “A lot of people came down to watch and the new guys on the team this year are telling their buddies, ‘You’ve got to get out here.’ ”

HALL MAKES A (FASHION) STATEMENT

Hall won twice by fall Friday and will meet Minneapolis South senior Sam Truen in Saturday’s Class 3A semifinals at 170 pounds. Hall also showed some love for his future college coach by wearing a warm-up t-shirt bearing the words “Cael Knows Wrestling.”

That’s head coach Cael Sanderson of Penn State, where Hall will wrestle collegiately.

--Albert Lea junior Garrett Aldrich (pictured) advanced to the semifinals in 2A at 132 and remained on track to win his third state title. With another season to go, he could become a four-time gold medalist

--The same is true for Shakopee junior Brent Jones, a two-time winner who needs to win twice Saturday in 3A at 126 to capture his third title and will be back for another year.

--Jackson County Central senior Keegan Moore, who owns two state titles, won with two pins Friday in 1A at 182, the first in 41 seconds and the second in 2:13.

--St. Michael-Albertville senior Mitchell McKee recorded two victories in 3A at 138 and remains on track for his third title.

--Apple Valley sophomore Gable Steveson, the defending champion in 3A at 220 pounds, is on track to become a four-time gold medalist.

--In the only division where two defending state champions could meet, top-seeded junior Rylee Molitor of Sartell-St. Stephen and third-seeded sophomore Peyton Robb of Owatonna advanced in 3A at 120. In the semifinals, Molitor will meet fourth-seeded sophomore Mumbuwa of Minnetonka and Robb will face second-seeded sophomore Zach Smith of Prior Lake.

--St. Michael-Albertville advanced six wrestlers to the 3A semifinals. Shakopee, Willmar and Hastings have four, while Anoka, Apple Valley, Owatonna and Prior Lake have three.

--In 2A, Kasson-Mantorville has five in the semifinals, followed by Totino-Grace, Scott West and South St. Paul with three.

--The Class 1A semifinals will be led by Kenyon-Wanamingo and Minneota with four wrestlers. Dover-Eyota, Caledonia, Pierz and Frazee all have three.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 530
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,490
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Four-Time State Champ Now Wears A Whistle 2/25/2016
As the officials were introduced, one at a time, before the first matches of the state wrestling tournament Thursday morning at Xcel Energy Center, knowledgeable fans surely recognized one name in particular: Gabriel Mooney.

Mooney was assigned to referee at the state tournament for the second year in a row. That means he’s halfway – sort of, kind of – to matching a historic streak from his own days as a high school wrestler. He is in rare company as one of only 22 wrestlers who won four state championships; six of those went on to win a fifth title and Apple Valley senior Mark Hall is on track to become the state’s first six-time champion this week.

Wrestling at Badger/Greenbush-Middle River, Mooney won titles in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 from 103 to 125 pounds. His high school record was 191-17, which included a 133-match winning streak. He wrestled at North Dakota State, where he earned a bachelors degree in dietetics and a masters degrees in health care administration. He lives in Baudette and works in health care.

He thought about going into coaching, but his job didn’t allow him much flexibility. So he turned to officiating. He became registered with the MSHSL during the 2010-11 season and is a member of the Northstar Wrestling Officials Association.

“I always thought that I wouldn’t want to be an official,” he said between rounds Thursday in St. Paul. “Then I was out of wrestling for about a year (after college).”

He talked with veteran official Brian Bakke from East Grand Forks, and that was his gateway to becoming an official.

“Brian was my mentor. I asked him about it and he got me into it. He reffed me when I was in high school, he reffed me when I was in college, and he made a difference in that sense. He gave me a good taste for reffing.”

Baudette is about as far north as you can go and still be in Minnesota. It’s isolated, which means Mooney puts in lots of mileage working high school and college wrestling duals and tournament. Last season he drove 10,000 miles while officiating. His longest road trip last year was for collegiate wrestling in Mankato, which is 370 miles (one way) from Baudette.

Mooney is staying in the Twin Cities this weekend, where he will officiate an NCAA Division III regional tournament Saturday at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.

“I do a lot of weekend tournaments,” he said. “Let’s face it, we don’t want to drive 200 miles one way for a dual meet.”

He said that when he first became a registered official, he was full of confidence … some of it misplaced.

“I’ll be straight out and candid: I walked out thinking, ‘Give me a few duals and I’ll have it figured out and be the best.’ I was standing in the wrong spot, I was not in good position, I didn’t know some of the rules. As a college wrestler, I thought I would come back and know all the rules.

“I still pick up little things. After about two years you realize where to stand, what to anticipate, the appropriate verbalization, how to be professional.”

Last year’s state tournament, Mooney’s first with a whistle around his neck, was a thrill for him.

“It was crazy,” he said. “I wrestled here for five years in high school. Coming out here (as an official) is a lot less stressful, to be honest. When I walk out as an official, I’m under pressure then, and I walk off and it’s done. You don’t worry about things before and you don’t worry about them after. You leave it on the mat in all aspects.”

The best part of his job, he said, is spending time with wrestlers; one wearing a red band around one ankle and the other wearing green.

“I enjoy being on the mat with the guys,” Mooney said. “You’re wrestling every match with the kids and you don’t care who wins and who loses. I see green and I see red.”

--Apple Valley won the Class 3A team title for the 11th year in a row. The top-seeded Eagles defeated second-seeded St. Michael-Albertville 31-26 in the championship match.

--Top-seeded Kasson-Mantorville defeated third-seeded Foley 37- 21 to win the Class 2A team crown.

--Top-seeded Kenyon-Wanamingo won the Class 1A championship with a narrow 26-24 decision over third-seeded Frazee.

TEAM RESULTS

CLASS 1A QUARTERFINALS
Minneota 41, West Central 15
Frazee 48, Sibley East 11
Kenyon-Wanamingo 39, Caledonia 26
Pierz 44, Kerhoven-Murdock-Sunburg 22

CLASS 2A QUARTERFINALS
Simley 53, Totino-Grace 15
Foley 33, Perham 18
Kasson-Mantorville 64, Mora 3
Scott West 35, Wabasso/Red Rock Central 25

CLASS 3A QUARTERFINALS
St. Michael-Albertville 55, Minnetonka 15
Anoka 44, Centennial 24
Apple Valley 46, Hastings 15
Willmar 37, Farmington 30

CLASS 1A SEMIFINALS
Frazee 32, Minneota 21
Kenyon-Wanamingo 34, Pierz 21

CLASS 2A SEMIFINALS
Foley 31, Simley 28
Kasson-Mantorville 36, Scott West 18

CLASS 3A SEMIFINALS
St. Michael-Albertville 35, Anoka 25
Apple Valley 46, Willmar 24

CHAMPIONSHIP MATCHES
1A/ Kenyon-Wanamingo vs. Frazee
2A/ Kasson-Mantorville 37, Foley 21
3A/ Apple Valley 31, St. Michael-Albertville 26

THIRD-PLACE MATCHES
1A/ Pierz 39, Minneota 16
2A/ Scott West 40, Sinley 20
3A/ Anoka 42, Willmar 23

FIFTH-PLACE MATCHES
1A/ Caledonia 36, 21 West Central/Ashby/Brandon-Evansville
2A/ Perham 38, Wabasso/Red Rock Central 24
3A/ Hastings 44, Minnetonka 33

--Championship matches were held Thursday night.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 530
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,449
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
A Proud Minnesota Tradition Returns: State Wrestling Tourney 2/22/2016
The 78th MSHSL state wrestling tournament will be held this week at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, and there is no shortage of stories to follow. Team competition in all three classes will be held Thursday, with individual competition beginning Friday morning and culminating with championship matches Saturday evening.

Wrestling is very much a family-oriented sport, with thousands of committed fans who make the state tournament part of their annual plans. The crowd is always loud and proud, and there will be plenty of reasons to cheer this year.

Two families from southeast Minnesota will be cheering for their favorite wrestlers, Byron’s Alex Bertram and Kasson-Mantorville’s Aaron Berge.

The two seniors will compete in Class 2A at 182 pounds. They both represent Section 1, and they have wrestled against each other for a long time. They are in different halves of the bracket, but if they should meet this week it will be the final match in a very long string of head-to-head meetings.

One of these photos shows Alex and Aaron wrestling when they were just first-graders, and the other was taken at last week’s Section 1 tournament. That puts two really nice bookends on a wrestling connection.

THE WRESTLER UNDER the brightest spotlight this week is Apple Valley senior Mark Hall. He is expected to win the Class 3A state title at 170 pounds, which would make him the first six-time state champion in Minnesota history.

Hall is one of six five-time champs. The others are Matt Nagel of Frazee (1997-2001), Eric Sanders of Wabasha-Kellogg (1999-2003), Zach Sanders of Wabasha-Kellogg (2003-2007), Destin McCauley of Apple Valley (2006-08, 2010-11) and Cameron Sykora of Border West (2011-15). There have been 16 four-time state champs and 60 wrestlers have won three times.

In 2A, Kasson-Mantorville junior Brady Berge could become a four-time champion and open the possibility of joining the five-title club a year from now. He is the top seed at 160 pounds.

Five two-time champions will go for a three-peat this week. They are:

CLASS 1A
182/ Keegan Moore, Jackson County Central

CLASS 2A
132/ Garrett Aldrich, Albert Lea
152/ Griffin Parriott, New Prague

CLASS 3A
126/ Brent Jones, Shakopee
138/ Mitchell McKee, St. Michael-Albertville

OTHER RETURNING CHAMPIONS

CLASS 1A
113/ Ethan Cota, Kenyon-Wanamingo
120/ Noah Bauer, Pine Island
126/ Tanner Reetz, Frazee
220/ Manuel Garcia, BOLD

CLASS 2A
126/ Keaten Schorr, Kasson-Mantorville

CLASS 3A
120/ Rylee Molitor, Sartell-St. Stephen
120/ Peyton Robb, Owatonna
132/ Adam Hedin, Rosemount
182/ Lucas Jeske, St. Michael-Albertville
220/ Gable Stevenson, Apple Valley

TEAM TOURNAMENT

3A/ Apple Valley is the team to beat, and that has been a theme at state for a decade now. The Eagles are the 10-time defending champions. They shared the title with St. Michael-Albertville in 2013 and the Knights are second-seeded behind Apple Valley this week. The last time Apple Valley didn’t come out on top was 2005, when Owatonna was the 3A champion. Apple Valley is at state for the 34th consecutive year and 35th time overall. The Eagles have had a state-best 89 individual champions, followed by Anoka (51) and Blue Earth and Robbinsdale (50 each).

2A/ Simley, which has won seven of the last eight championships, is seeded second behind Kasson-Mantorville. The KoMets broke up Simley’s reign by winning the title in 2013.

1A/ Kenyon-Wanamingo is the top seed and defending state champion Minnesota is seeded second. Kenyon-Wanamingo has never won a team state title.

Minnetonka (Class 3A) is the only team making its first appearance at state.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 506
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,409
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn