Area’s best seek state titles
By Ben Pherson
The individual state wrestling tournament begins Thursday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
For several Section One wrestlers, it will be their first chance to see how they stack up against the state’s best. And others will be trying to build on past success.
Wabasha-Kellogg’s Zach Sanders and Stewartville’s Mike Schmitz are the area’s only returning state champions. Sanders is going for state title No. 5, which would tie the record for most titles in a career. And Schmitz is going for No. 2.
Schmitz is the top-ranked wrestler in Class AA at 171 pounds, while Sanders is No. 1 in the Class A at 119.
Schmitz (39-0), who will wrestle at Missouri next season, has a tough bracket, with two other undefeated wrestlers also vying for a state title. Philip Moenkedick of Perham is 35-0, and Joe Slaughter of Orono is 37-0. Slaughter and Moenkedick are in the half of the 171 bracket, meaning they could meet in the semifinals.
Other than Sanders (40-0), there are no undefeated wrestlers at 119 in Class A. But Sanders might have his toughest match in the opening round. He will meet third-ranked Zak Lambert (31-4) of Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale right away on Thursday.
Byron junior Eric Yngsdal (38-1) also received a tough draw in the first round at 135 in Class AA. He’ll meet Travis Lewellyn (30-3) of Sartell-Saint Stephen. Lewellyn is ranked No. 5; Yngsdal is No. 4.
"Eric has a tough first match, but I have a lot of confidence in him," Byron coach Ryan Radke said. "He’s beaten many great wrestlers this year, and I feel he’s one of the best in the state at his weight."
If Yngsdal wins, it gets even tougher in the quarterfinals. He’d meet top-ranked and undefeated Torey Stewart (38-0) of Jackson County Central. Stewart is a defending state champion.
"That first match is very important for Eric, but I have faith he can get by that first match and go after Stewart. I want to see how he does against one of the best in state," Radke said.
Plainview-Elgin-Millville knows about tough draws. Sophomore heavyweight Cam Miller (25-11) will get undefeated Will Lutmer of Adrian Area in the opening round. Lutmer is 33-0 and ranked No. 1.
A few area wrestlers will meet in the first round.
Kenyon-Wanamingo’s Drew Lexvold (34-4), ranked No. 3 in Class A at 103, will wrestle Southland’s Grant Hegge (35-5), ranked No. 8 in the first round. On a side note at 103, Chatfield’s Jordan Hanson (26-11) gets unbeaten Tony Vaske (30-0) of River Valley in the opening round. Vaske is ranked No. 4.
Also meeting in the first round are Jeremiah Johnson (25-2) of Blooming Prairie and Josh Finley (30-4) of Chatfield. Johnson is ranked No. 4; Finley is No. 8.
The final first-round matchup featuring area wrestlers is at 125 in Class A. Southland’s Jon Hegge (35-5) gets Kenyon-Wanamingo’s Ryan Weeks. Jon Hegge is ranked No. 3, while Weeks is No. 8 at 125.
"We've got a pretty tough draw at 103," Chatfield coach Joel Viss said. "It will depend on the level of competition that we've had during the year. Jordan has a 30-0 wrestler from River Valley. If it does not go well for him, though, his chances to wrestle back will be good, and he could do well."
At 112, Finley will have Jeremiah Johnson of Blooming Prairie. Looks like another good match.
"All are tough at this level, but in this tournament especially, I have seen some strange things happen," he said. "Currently we are fairly healthy with (Matt) Merrick suffering a shoulder injury two weeks ago that is improving. We are hoping to come back with some all-state wrestlers."
WEDNESDAY:First-round matchups for southeast