Goergen, Thomas win titles

ST. PAUL — With their wrestler trailing 6-2 early in the second period of the Class AA heavyweight championship match, coaches from Caledonia/Houston were not worried.

Head coach Roger Knutson and assistant Mike Stemper could see that even though their standout sophomore, Austin Goergen, was behind, he was the better conditioned wrestler.

That thought proved prophetic. About one minute into the second period, North Branch’s John Morrison hit a wall. That was Goergen’s cue. He turned up the pressure, scoring two points at the end of the second to pull within two, and then two more points in the third to tie the match.

With less than a minute remaining, Goergen turned Morrison, securing two back points and his first state title with an 8-6 victory.

Not bad for a kid who entered the state tournament unranked and unknown outside of southeastern Minnesota.


Though Morrison clearly ran out of energy halfway through the second, Knutson said he noticed it even early.

"Mike Stemper and I looked at each other, and I’d say there was 1:08 on the clock in the first period," Knutson said. "We could already see he was starting to wear down. I knew that if we could keep it within striking distance, we were going to have a chance in the third period."

Goergen said his coaches had provided him with an accurate scouting report heading into the match. He knew he had the better gas tank, so he was just waiting for Morrison to slow down.

"Me and my dad and the coaches had a talk, and they said about halfway through the second, he’s going to be gassed. ... ‘So now you have to take it upon yourself to go harder and harder and harder,’" Goergen said. "That’s what helped me out. ... I just had to stay calm and wait, and when that time came, I had to score. That’s pretty much what I did."

Caledonia/Houston has what Knutson believes is a top-notch strength and conditioning program. Goergen is an athlete who’s embraced that program wholeheartedly. Saturday was the big payoff.

It was a dream come true for Goergen (34-4), who missed the end of last season due to a knee injury. It also was a dream come true for Knutson, who said the state title couldn’t have happened to a better kid.

Goergen, though just a 10th-grader, has provided outstanding leadership inside the Caledonia/Houston wrestling room. His outgoing personality has made it easy for him to influence wrestlers of all ages.

"He’s just an excellent role model," Knutson said. "He had some success last year and a lot of success this year, and for those younger guys, Austin is who they look to. With his outgoing personality, he helps kids of all ages, and it doesn’t matter who they are. Even though he’s just a sophomore, he seems to understand his responsibility. That’s a testament to his parents; they seem to have instilled those qualities in all of their children."


Thomas is No. 1

While Goergen was busy knocking off top-ranked wrestlers, Kasson-Mantorville freshman Nate Thomas was holding up his end of the bargain as the No. 1-ranked 103-pounder in Class AA.

In a year when rankings meant very little at the state tournament, that wasn’t an easy task.

But Thomas was up to the challenge in his very first state meet. He faced Simley’s Kyle Gliva in a rubber match for the state crown.

Gliva and Thomas split a pair of regular-season meetings, but Thomas delivered when it mattered most.

With the match tied at 1-all, Thomas secured the match’s only takedown using a go-behind with 23 seconds remaining to lock up a 3-2 win and his first state title.

Thomas wasn’t even on the KoMets’ individual section roster last season as he was beaten out by Tony Morrow in wrestleoffs. Morrow went on to become a state place-winner that year. Meanwhile, Thomas was putting in the work needed to become a champion.

"This feels great," Thomas said. "It’s the best feeling ever."


Thomas said it helped soften the blow of his loss Friday in the team competition. But it’s a loss he’ll never forget.

"I’ll always have that loss in the team (competition) in the back of my head, reminding me to work harder," Thomas said. "But this was a fun way to end the season."

Thomas said his goal in the title match was to remain aggressive against Gliva, who’s rarely out of position.

"I was looking to stay aggressive, set stuff up and get him tired," Thomas said. "He’s a good technician. We wrestled twice during the season, so I knew what he had."

Thomas ended his freshman season with a 44-3 record and a gold medal around his neck.

"This is pretty amazing," Thomas said.

Familiar foe for Garness

Things didn’t go as well for Thomas’ teammate, junior Garret Garness.


Garness also stepped into the circle with a state title on the line Saturday. And he also was up against a familiar foe from Simley.

Garness and fellow finalist Jake Short met four times during the regular season. Three of the four matches went to overtime, and Garness held a 3-1 edge on Short heading into Saturday’s 130-pound title match.

But Short scored the match’s only takedown in the third period and held on for a 3-2 win.

Garness was attempting to become a two-time state champion. He also won a state title his eighth-grade year. This was his second consecutive loss in the state finals.

Garness ended his season with a 41-6 record.

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