Dreams dashed by the Dragons

SLAYTON – Both the Quad County and Dawson-Boyd/Lac qui Parle Valley United wrestling teams entered Friday hoping to earn their first-ever birth in the state wrestling team tournament. Both teams, however, were ousted from the Section 3AA tournament by the Adrian Area Dragons, who will make their 12th overall appearance at the state meet.

The Dragons followed the same formula to pick up their wins over both Quad County and the United. Adrian jumped out to early leads behind pin falls in four of the first five bouts; and while Quad County was never really able to turn the tide in its 45-28 semifinal loss to the Dragons, the United were able to battle back, only to come up short late.

Back-to-back decisions at 182 and 195 pounds put the Adrian lead out of reach for the United, who defeated Worthington/Round Lake-Brewster 41-27 to reach the championship dual.

“We couldn’t keep up with (Adrian) down low and through the middle,” United head coach Ross Jurgenson said. “That was about it, you know. We had a couple matches in the middle we let slide away from us. We needed every one of them and couldn’t quite muster up another win. And then (182) was huge. That could have gone either way.”

Adrian’s Jesse Slater took a 4-2 decision over Joe Weeding at 182 to give the Dragons a 19-point advantage with just three bouts remaining. The Dragons built their lead in the final dual by winning six of the first eight bouts, including pins from Skyler Heronimus (106), Logan Nelson (113), Jaydan Bullerman (126) and Michael Preuss (132). Only Preuss’ fall came after the first period, pinning Christian Thoen in two minutes, 40 seconds.

Heronimus, Bullerman and Preuss also scored pins in the early going versus Quad County, while Tony Lynn pinned Alex Wolf at 132 to give the Dragons a quick 24-4 lead.

In the semifinal, Adrian was victorious in nine of the 14 bouts, as the semifinal dual got away from Quad County.

Quad County did pick up four pins in the dual, including three of the final four bouts, but it was just too little, too late to keep the team season going.

“Adrian’s real tough down low, they’re a very, very good team overall, very well coached, very solid,” Quad County head coach David Wingert said. “They don’t make any mistakes. You’ve got to create your own opportunities and they came out there and they were ready to go.

“And I thought our boys were too, but sometimes it goes a certain way and a ball gets rolling,” he added. “It got rolling in their favor and it was hard for us to break their momentum.”

The cooperative of MACCRAY, Renville County West and Yellow Medicine East enjoyed a successful season in its first year, operating under the motto of “3 schools, 1 goal.”

“I don’t have a grade yet, its not over yet, but it’s been a success,” Wingert said. “We came together, just the fact that the boys all came together and had a common goal. I think we set ourselves up for a good season this year and a good future. We’ve got some good things coming up.”

The United also got off to a slow start against Worthington, dropping four of the first six matches.

Worthington led 18-11 after Vince Riley’s 9-6 decision over Michael Stottler at 138, but the United rallied to win the next three matches and six of the final eight bouts to defeat the Trojans. JD Struxness’ pin of Peter Abraham after 1:54 in the 220-pound match proved to be the clinching victory for the United, whose head coach was not surprised by his team’s resiliency.

“We’d been doing that all year,” Jurgenson said. “We start out pretty good with the two Bothun boys and Action Herman down there. Our middle is just young and we’re a little susceptible there and it caught up with us.”

With individual sections starting on Friday, Jurgenson is also confident that his grapplers will shake off the disappointment from the end of their team season in time to put up a strong showing in Redwood Falls.

“We’ll regroup, they always do,” Jurgenson said. “Every year it seems like we load up, we gear up, for that individual tournament and we have pretty good individuals.”

The Dragons will also gear up for individual sections, but must also prepare for the team portion of the state tournament, which is Feb. 28 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul with AA schools taking the mat at 9 a.m.