5 Vikings, 4 Bobcats win titles at 3A tournament

PIPESTONE – In one of the toughest sections in Class A wrestling, there are always good programs that are left on the outside looking in when it comes to qualifying for the state tournament as a team from Section 3A. Fortunately for the wrestlers on those teams that fall short, they get another chance to make it to the big stage. And for those that make it, they know they’ve earned it.

The Minneota and Wabasso/Red Rock Central wrestling teams were very good this year, as both were ranked among the Top 12 teams in Class A throughout the season. But they were both knocked off by Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg in the Section 3A team tournament Feb. 15. That ended the Vikings’ streak of three straight trips to state, and it put an end to what had been a perfect season for the Bobcats.

Saturday in the Section 3A individual tournament in Pipestone, the Vikings and Bobcats made sure their presence would still be felt at the state tournament in St. Paul. A young Minneota team with just three seniors on the roster had six wrestlers finish among the top two in their respective weight classes to qualify for state, while Wabasso/RRC sent five wrestlers through to state.

The Vikings had five individual champions in the section tournament. Sophomore Brock Buysse won the title at 106 pounds, junior Landyn VanOverbeke won at 120 pounds, freshman Bryce Bruner was the champion at 126 pounds, sophomore Alec Engler had a perfect day at 132 pounds, and senior Isaac Josephson capped off a strong day for the Vikings with a championship at 170 pounds. Sophomore Cole Hennen lost his title match at 138 pounds, but battled back to win the true second-place match over Canby’s Nick Stoks in a 4-1 decision to punch his ticket to state, as well.

“I’m so proud of all the little guys,” said Josephson, who is 35-2 on the season. “We’re so young and we still got six state entrants. There’s not much more you can ask for.

“It’s always frustrating watching another team go (to state),” he added, “but a few of us have been spoiled because we’ve had three years of great teams.”

Minneota head coach Joel Skillings said he was proud of the way his young wrestlers prepared for the section tournament, then proud of the poise that they showed once their big day arrived. Hennen showed some of his growth as the day progressed. He was visibly upset after dropping a tight 6-5 decision to Pipestone’s Alex Ossefoort in the championship match at 138 pounds, but regrouped and had a strong match against Stoks in the true second bout.

“I think that’s part of it, that’s sports,” Skillings said. “You have to overcome some adversity, and Cole did a great job of that.

“All in all, there are just a lot of good kids here. I have a lot of respect for all of them, and I’m really happy for our guys. They are young, but they’re mature. This is part of their process. I hope they have a great tournament and I hope our section does real well down there.”

Wabasso/RRC also had a day to be proud of, finishing with four individual champions and one runner-up. Spencer Jenniges (113), Tanner Rohlik (145), Jordan Schroepfer (182) and Alex Schroepfer (285) all went 3-0 Saturday to take gold. TJ Fulton went 2-1, finishing second to Engler at 132 pounds.

Wabasso/RRC co-head coach Gary Hindt became just the third coach in state history to surpass 700 career wins earlier this season and his Bobcats squad took the team’s fans on a fun ride through the season before being derailed by KMS in the section finals. He said preparing for the individual tournament allowed his team to get past the loss to the Fighting Saints and move on.

“That helped get their minds straight again,” he said. “We’re happy with our year. We didn’t think this would be that good of a year. We knew we’d be all right, but you never know how good you’re going to be until you get them out on the mat. But it’s been fun.”

Alex Schroepfer’s run through the tournament was a quick one, as he earned all three of his victories in first-period pins. After pinning Pipestone’s Blake Wolters in 22 seconds in the semifinals, Schroepfer fell behind Benson’s Tyler Jensen (ranked No. 8 in Class A at 285 pounds) in the early moments of the championship match, but he still earned a pin in a minute flat to improve to 35-3 on the season.

“I was confident up until I started wrestling Jensen from Bensen, but then when I put him on his back I knew it was over,” said Schroepfer, a junior who is ranked second in the state and is now 35-3 on the season.

Canby, the third Marshall-area squad at the tournament, will be sending a pair of wrestlers to St. Paul. John Deslauriers finished second at 170 pounds after getting pinned by Josephson in the title match, and Christian Full was the runner-up behind Wabasso/RRC’s Jordan Schroepfer at 182 pounds.

Lancer head coach Scott Snobl said he was hoping for three or four of his wrestlers to make state, but is still happy to be sending two.

“Those guys did what they had to do today to get there,” he said. “Overall, I thought we were a little flat as a team. I would have liked to have seen us perform a little better, but you know, like I said to the boys coming in here, when you get to the end of the season it’s about guts and desire and going after it. If you want it, it’s about you wanting it. That’s the way postseason goes, and you saw it all day long here.”

The individual state wrestling tournament takes place Friday and Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center.