Best friends go out on top
ST. PAUL — As seventh-graders, best friends Coltan Laganiere and Nate Thomas made a pact.
When they were seniors, they would cap their high school wrestling careers with state titles and then wait for each other in the tunnel at Xcel Energy Center.
Thomas and Laganiere kept that promise Saturday.
Thomas delivered on his half of the pact first. He was in Saturday night's Class AA state-title match at 126 pounds against a familiar foe in Simley's Juan Torres.
Torres had Thomas on the ropes during the Swalla Duals. He scored the first takedown in that match, but Thomas rallied in the third period and won 8-5. They met again at the state team tournament Thursday, with Thomas winning a 5-4 decision.
Saturday's title match again came down to the final seconds. The match was scoreless after the first period, and a Torres escape in the second gave him a 1-0 lead heading to the final period.
Thomas escaped early in the third and then at the midway point shot a perfectly timed single-leg takedown. After catching the leg, Thomas elevated, picking Torres up off the mat and then delivered him back to the ground with force.
The takedown was enough.
Torres escaped late, but Thomas held on for a 3-2 victory.
With Thomas waiting for him in the tunnel, Laganiere was up next.
He was in the 138-pound state-title match, also taking on a familiar foe in Stewartville's Brett Stolarzyk. Laganiere and Stolarzyk met in the Section 1AA finals, with Laganiere winning 2-0.
The match started out much like the first meeting. Laganiere hit and finished a double-leg takedown in the opening period in both matches.
But this time around, there was almost no riding. In the first meeting, Stolarzyk rode Laganier for the entire second period, and Laganiere rode out Stolarzyk in the third.
After the first-period takedown Saturday, Stolarzyk quickly was back to his feet, and the match went to the second at 2-1. Stolarzyk again escaped early in the second to tie the match at 2-all heading into the final frame.
Stolarzyk was unable to ride Laganiere. The escape point would be the final of the match, and Laganiere secured his state title with a 3-2 win. It was the same finishing score his best friend delivered only minutes earlier.
"Nate and I have always had that promise to each other, that we'd finish this thing with state titles," said Laganiere, who went 39-4 this season. "And just like he said, he was waiting for me in the tunnel. I can't imagine a better way to end our senior year."
Laganiere and Thomas had remarkably similar careers. Both finish as two-time state champions. Both won their final title by a score of 3-2. And both will continue their wrestling careers at Division I schools — Thomas at the University of Minnesota and Laganiere at South Dakota State.
Thomas, who finished with a 43-3 record, overcame a serious shoulder injury to continue his stellar career. He had surgery following his sophomore season, when he finished second to Stolarzyk, who also wrapped up a superb career this weekend with a state runner-up trophy and a 27-7 record, at 112. The injury kept Thomas off the mat for most of last season, too.
"Honestly, I think that's what made me better," Thomas said. "I improved so much when I couldn't be out there. It made me realize a lot of things."
The final month of his senior season, Thomas, who is on the academic all-state team, reached a whole new level of excellence.
"Nate progressed and got better every single day this season," K-M co-head coach Jamie Heidt said. "This year, he has always had his eyes on the ultimate prize. He never lost that focus. For both of them, it's so nice to see all the hard work pay off the way it should, with a state title."