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High School Wrestling Focus: Zumbrota-Mazeppa ends Kasson-Mantorville's 12-year HVL winning streak

Zumbrota-Mazeppa shocked the wrestling world when it knocked off Kasson-Mantorville on Saturday. There's a new No. 1 in the Power Rankings, and a Byron football star showed he can wrestle with the state's best. Plus a look-ahead at four big matches this week.

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Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s Ethan Kovars, top, wrestles Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City’s Jesus Cardenas in a Class A state individual wrestling 195-pound match Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Andrew Link / alink@postbulletin.com)

Zumbrota-Mazeppa legendary head wrestling coach Link Steffen thought his team was going through some growing pains early in the season. He was determined to coach them up as best he could and see what his Cougars could do once the postseason rolled around.

But he might have underestimated his own team just a little bit. The Cougars shocked the wrestling world when they knocked off Hiawatha Valley League and state power Kasson-Mantorville on Saturday 34-33.

It's the first time since 2008 that a Hiawatha Valley League rival has defeated the KoMets.

It also proves that wrestling in southeastern Minnesota is going to be a gauntlet every single night. K-M is still one of the favorites in Class AA to win a state title. Zumbrota-Mazeppa showed that it's a force in Class A, too.

Here is this week's High School Wrestling Focus.

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TOP 5 PERFORMANCES

1. Sam Nutt, Lake City

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Lake City's Sam Nutt wrestles Fillmore C-Lanesboro-M-C's Michael Barrett in a 195-pound match during Saturday's wrestling invitational on Jan. 11, 2020 at Plainview-Elgin-Millville High School. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

Lake City defeated both Goodhue and Plainview-Elgin-Millville last Friday, and Nutt delivered two big-time victories. The 182-pounder defeated P-E-M's Alex Rahman 3-0 and then pinned Goodhue's Carsyn O'Reilly in just 89 seconds.

2. Gavin Johnson, Kenyon-Wanamingo

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GMLOS’s Anthony Romero, top, wrestles Kenyon-Wanamingo’s Gavin Johnson in a Class A state individual wrestling 106-pound match Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Andrew Link / alink@postbulletin.com)

Johnson improved to a perfect 9-0 with a pair of strong performances last week. He pinned Maple River's Garrett Bollmann in 42 seconds on Feb. 8 in K-W's big win. Then Johnson came up huge in K-W's win over previously unbeaten Dover-Eyota when he beat Bolton Thesing in a 6-4 decision. Johnson is wrestling at a high level.

3. Ethan Kovars, Zumbrota-Mazeppa

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Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s Ethan Kovars, top, wrestles Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City’s Jesus Cardenas in a Class A state individual wrestling 195-pound match Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Andrew Link / alink@postbulletin.com)

Kovars notched a statement victory on Saturday when he knocked off Kasson-Mantorville's Jackson Kennedy 7-3. It proved to be the dual-deciding victory for Z-M. Kovars is dominating everyone in his path this season. The big win capped off a 2-0 day for Kovars as he also picked up a 12-2major decision over Cannon Falls' Riley Keenan earlier on Saturday. Kovars is for real. The Zumbrota-Mazeppa Cougars are for real, too.

4. Brodie Kellen, Dover-Eyota

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Dover-Eyota's Brodie Kellen, top, wrestles St. Charles' Chace Kobs in a 132-pound match during a wrestling dual Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, in Eyota. Dover-Eyota beat St. Charles 63-7. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

Kellen edged St. Charles' Chace Kobs 3-0 on Feb. 12. Kellen is 9-1 this year and an integral part of the Dover-Eyota lineup. The 132-pounder has four pins on the season.

5. Austin Freerksen, Byron

Freerksen is more than just a football player. The Post Bulletin Area Player of the Year also has made a big impact on the mat. He defeated GMLOS' Noah Sayles 15-8 on Feb. 11. Sayles is one of the top-ranked 182-pounders in Class A, but Freerksen took care of business.

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Power Rankings

(Editor's note: These rankings are considered "pound-for-pound" rankings, similar to many rankings systems in boxing and mixed martial arts. They represent the best teams in southeastern Minnesota, relative to the class they play in.)

1. GMLOS Bulldogs

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GMLOS’ Braxten Wiste wrestles Mankato West’s Brody Koberoski in a 132-pound match during a wrestling triangular on Thursday, January 28, 2021, at Century High School in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

Previous rank: (2)

GMLOS is the hottest team in the area. The Bulldogs have won 14 in a row. They decimated both La Crescent and Wabasha-Kellogg on Friday. Section 1A is a gauntlet, but GMLOS looks like the deepest team. Chatfield, Goodhue, Zumbrota-Mazeppa and Dover-Eyota might have something to say about that, though. GMLOS has earned the top spot in the Power Rankings.

2. Kasson-Mantorville KoMets

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Kasson-Mantorville head coach Jamie Heidt high-fives Bennett Berge after winning the 170-pound Class AA championship match against Simley's Gavin Nelson on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Andrew Link / alink@postbulletin.com)

Previous rank: (1)

Bennett Berge, Anthony Moe-Tucker, Jackson Kennedy, Cole Glazier, Logan Vaughan and Kail Wynia are all capable of making runs to the top of the podium at state. K-M has been such a dominant program, that when Z-M handed it its first conference loss well more than a decade, it came as a stunner. K-M lost that dual due to a tiebreaker, and it easily could've gone the other way down the stretch. GMLOS steals the No. 1 spot away from K-M right now, but the KoMets could be back at No. 1 sometime this season. Zumbrota-Mazeppa proved that K-M maybe isn't as invincible as it's been in recent history. Or, perhaps Z-M added fuel to K-M's fire for the stretch run to the postseason.

3. Rochester Mayo Spartans

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Mayo’s Dylan Peper, right, wrestles Scott West’s Jacob Strack in a 113-pound match during the Minnesota Christmas Wrestling Tournament on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017, at the Rochester Regional Sports Center.

Previous rank: (4)

Dylan Peper and Calder Sheehan had great performances for Mayo this week as the Spartans improved to 12-2 with two dominant wins over Century and Pine Island last Tuesday. Peper and Sheehan had pins in each match. Mayo is having one of its best seasons in years, but the top of Section 1AAA is really good. Farmington and Northfield are great, and Owatonna is its usual competitive self this year, too.

4. Dover-Eyota Eagles

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Dover-Eyota wrestlers run out onto the mat before a wrestling dual against St. Charles Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, in Eyota. Dover-Eyota beat St. Charles 63-7. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

Previous rank: (3)

Dover-Eyota's resume is almost spotless. The Eagles are 9-1 with a lone hiccup coming to Kenyon-Wanamingon last Thursday. They've knocked off Chatfield, Zumbrota-Mazeppa (twice) and a good Medford squad, too. Gavin Gust is a perfect 10-0. Brodie Kellen (9-1), Bolton Thesing (8-2), Blake Lehnertz (9-0) and Tyler Shea (8-2) are off to terrific starts as well.

5. Zumbrota-Mazeppa Cougars

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Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s Lucas Schiell, right, wrestles Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa’s Walker Bents in a Class A state individual wrestling 106-pound match Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Andrew Link / alink@postbulletin.com)

Previous rank: (7)

Kasson-Mantorville has faced deficits all year long, but the second half of its lineup just crushes people for come-from-behind victories. Saturday's Zumbrota-Mazeppa/Kasson-Mantorville tilt was heading in the same direction. Z-M had built a 24-3 lead, but Kasson-Mantorville had stormed back to within three at 30-27 with two weight classes left. Ethan Kovars was battling K-M stud Jackson Kennedy. Kovars rose to the challenge and knocked off Kennedy 7-3. It proved to be the match-deciding victory because K-M heavyweight Anthony Moe-Tucker pinned Macallister Bengston to tie the score at 33-33. Z-M earned the 34-33 victory because it had accumulated more pins (four) than Kasson-Mantorville (two) in the dual. It's the first time since 2008 that Kasson-Mantorville had lost an HVL contest.

When you beat the champs, you move up in the Power Rankings.

6. Chatfield Gophers

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Chatfield’s Seth Goetzinger, left, wrestles Holdingford’s James Welle in a Class A state individual wrestling 145-pound match Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Andrew Link / alink@postbulletin.com)

Previous rank: (5)

Chatfield crushed Lewiston-Altura/Rushford-Peterson (51-30) and Caledonia (68-8) on Friday. The Gophers are 12-1 and haven't lost in February. Tate Karver, Seth Goetzinger, Grady Schott and AJ Karver are all ranked in the top 10 in their respective weight classes.

7. Kenyon-Wanamingo Knights

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Kenyon-Wanamingo’s Carter Quam, top, wrestles Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City’s Logan Sherwood in a Class A state individual wrestling 220-pound match Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Andrew Link / alink@postbulletin.com)

Previous rank: (9)

The Knights were close to moving up the Power Rankings last week. But this week, they got a monster boost after rolling past Dover-Eyota (40-18) and Stewartville (79-0) last Thursday. They've now won nine in a row. Kenyon-Wanamingo is stockpiled with talent up and down its lineup. The Knights' big dogs (Logan Meyers, Carter Quam and heavyweight Armani Tucker) are capable of erasing any lead. As they continue to stockpile wins, they'll keep rising up the Power Rankings.

8. Lake City Tigers

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Lake City’s Jonathan Harvey, left, wrestles Detroit Lake’s Cade Okeson in a Class AA state individual wrestling 120-pound match Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Andrew Link / alink@postbulletin.com)

Previous rank: (8)

Outside of two hiccups against Dover-Eyota and Zumbrota-Mazeppa, the Tigers have been perfect this season. Lake City (12-2) has a number of impressive victories (P-E-M, Goodhue, Westfield) on its resume. Sam Nutt, Nate Evans, Jonathan Harvey and Max Balow have been unbelievably good this year for the Tigers.

9. Plainview-Elgin-Millville Bulldogs

Minnesota Christmas Tournament
Plainview-Elgin-Millville's Cael Marx wrestles Coon Rapids' Demetrius Seals at 160 pounds during the Minnesota Christmas Tournament on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, at the RCTC Field House in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

Previous rank: (10)

106-pounder Isaac Walch has really started to wrestle well for P-E-M. Walch picked up two big victories in matches against Lake City and Goodhue on Friday. P-E-M isn't the deepest team, but Walch's contributions are huge to complement the effort from Martin Prieto, Cael Marx, Kael Lamb, Dereck Boyum and Cooper Hofschulte.

10. Goodhue Wildcats

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Goodhue fans cheer during the Class A state fifth place match against Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale/Parkers Prairie on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Previous rank: (6)

Goodhue suffered two tough losses to Lake City and Plainview-Elgin-Millville on Friday, but Josh Grant's crew is still a very respectable 13-5 with wins over Cannon Falls, Byron, Lewiston-Altura/Rushford-Peterson and others. Grant loves the upside of his team long-term, but they might not be quite ready to knock off some of the upper-echelon teams just quite yet. Goodhue could be a really dangerous team come postseason and into next year.

Upcoming matches to watch

Thursday, February 18: Kasson-Mantorville will host Goodhue and Triton in an HVL triangular that should feature three intense battles. Goodhue hasn't been afraid to wrestle anyone this year, so it'll be ready to go against the highly-ranked KoMets.

Thursday, February 18: Lake City will host Chatfield and Cannon Falls for a triangular.

Saturday, February 20: GMLOS and St. Charles will head to Chatfield for a triangular. Chatfield and GMLOS are two of the best teams in southeastern Minnesota.

Saturday, February 20: John Marshall, Goodhue and Mayo will get after it on Saturday. John Marshall has struggled this year, but it could make a statement if it can compete against Goodhue and Mayo.

Email: itrotter@postbulletin.com
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