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
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