Arndt delivers for ZM

ST. PAUL — On more than one occasion this season, the Zumbrota-Mazeppa wrestling team has left a dual in the hands of heavyweight Jordan Arndt.

And each time, Arndt has delivered.

Even with all of his end-of-dual experience, Arndt never has been placed in a pressure-packed situation like the one he was thrown into on Thursday during the Class A state quarterfinals against Paynesville.

With his team’s fate on the line and the dual tied at 27-all, Arndt stepped out on the mat. And he did what he’s done every other time he’s been placed into that situation this season.

Arndt came through with the dual on the line, winning an unbelievably tense 5-3 triple-overtime decision to give the Cougars a 30-27 win and a spot in today’s semifinals.


Arndt said he was calm as he took the mat, though that all changed once he looked up at the Xcel Energy Center crowd.

"That got me for a second, but I was able to focus and drown everything out," Arndt said.

There were plenty of nervous moments, though.

Leading 1-0 in the third period, Arndt gave up a reversal to Dominick Platow and trailed 2-1 with 1:20 remaining.

For 1:15, Platow rode out Arndt. But with just five seconds on the clock, Arndt escaped to force overtime.

Nobody scored in the first overtime, and Platow started in the down position to begin the second overtime. Later in the second extra frame, Arndt was able to turn Platow and earn three nearfall points. Platow couldn’t do the same in the second overtime, and Arndt held on for a 5-3 win.

"We knew it was going to be a very close dual," said Zumbrota-Mazeppa coach Link Steffen, who has been in many close duals himself as a three-time state entrant and a two-time state champion at Granite Falls-Clarkfield. "We have dang near identical teams. So we knew it was going to be a nail-biter, and sure enough it comes down to heavyweight."

Arndt said his conditioning probably was the difference in his triple-overtime thriller.


"That kid wrestled a tough match," Arndt said. "He got me with a nice roll earlier, but I guess I just had a little more left in the gas tank at the end."

The last time a dual was left in Arndt’s hands, he also came through. Twice during the regular season duals against Z-M’s biggest rival — Kenyon-Wanamingo — came down to Arndt. He won both times.

Still, senior Ben Dahl said he contemplated not even watching that final match.

"It always just seems to come down to Jordan," Dahl said. "He’s handled it well before. He always seems to pull something out at the last second. I almost didn’t even watch. I was just thinking I’ve worked 12 years to get here, and now it comes down to a kid who didn’t even go out for wrestling until sophomore year. But Jordan came through when we needed him."

Dahl also came through in a big spot. Against a state-ranked opponent — Michael Doom — and with his team trailing at the time, Dahl scored a pin in 1:03.

"I knew he was going to be a tough kid, but I just felt like this was my match," Dahl said.

Asked if the coaches informed him that he needed a pin, Dahl said they didn’t need to.

"I knew," he said. "I knew I had to go out there and get six for the team. It probably a pin or get pinned situation. I threw my best moves at him, and I was able to finish it off."


Steffen said there’s no denying the importance of Dahl’s pin. But it also didn’t surprise him.

"Ben Dahl has done it for us since the time he was in seventh or eighth grade. He goes out there and pins guys when we need (him to)."

The dual was back and forth, literally, until 145 pounds. Z-M and Paynesville traded wins in every other match until that point. Hunter Prodzinski (103), Nick Majerus (119), Keith Highet (130) and Grant Kyllo (140) grabbed wins for the Cougars before Paynesville won three straight from 145 to 160.

But a pin by Chad Matthees at 171 stopped the bleeding, and Dahl’s pin at 189 gave the Cougars a chance.

"I’ve never been involved in anything like that," Steffen said.

The Cougars will face Frazee at noon today in the state semifinals.

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