Section 1-2 Girls Wrestling: Chatfield's Berg and Mayo's Marshall win titles; GMLOS shows strength
In all, it was a banner day for girls wrestling in the area with a number of wrestlers punching their ticket to the state meet on March 2-4 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
HASTINGS, Minn. — Chloe Berg had a decision to make on Saturday.
The Chatfield junior grappler could either compete at the Section 1-2 Girls Wrestling Tournament or the lifelong competitive dancer could compete for the Chatfield Dance Team at the Section 1A meet in Lake City.
It was a difficult choice.
All season long she had been picking dance, going to the dance competitions but on Saturday she found herself in Hastings for the second MSHSL sanctioned section girls wrestling tournament.
It ended up being the correct decision.
Berg was terrific on Saturday, showing off great balance and strength all day, before winning the Section 1-2 126-pound title with a third period pin of GMLOS senior Mackenzie Armagost.
She is one of four from the area to win Section 1-2 titles on Saturday, joining Mayo's Jarriona Marshall and GMLOS standouts McKenna Hendrickson and Diann Smith in qualifying for the state tournament set for March 2-4 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Berg's title is also the second for the family.
She was in the stands at last year's Section 1A Tournament, watching her younger brother Javier win a title at 106. That is when she made the decision that she was ready to bring home a wrestling title of her own, especially with new girls coach Savannah Vold in the Chatfield wrestling room.
Still, Berg arrived to sections with not as many matches as some of competitors because she was still in her heart a dancer.
"I have been in dance my whole life," Berg said. "It's hard to just say I'm not going to dance anymore. But I'm a wrestler now."
Her dance background was on full display on Saturday though.
Berg showed tremendous balance on her feet — ones that seemed heavy as anchors but light as feathers at the same time. She followed that up with impressive upper-body strength. It led to two stellar pins in the quarters and then the semifinals — where she knocked off Northfield sophomore Lainey Houts to give herself her original goal of two wins for the day.
"I didn't think I was going to win," Berg said with a laugh. "I honestly wasn't very confident going into today."
One would never have guessed that on the mat where she appeared cool as a cucumber.
That showed again in the title match.
Berg controlled Armagost throughout with skill and physicality, leading 7-3 before securing a third period pin.
Now, she is heading to state.
"I'm just so excited," Berg said. "Can't wait."
Mayo's Marshall wins one for Mom
Last year, after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, Mayo's Jarriona Marshall decided to miss the section tournament to help care for her.
On Saturday, with her mother now doing much better, Marshall's only goal was to make her proud.
She was able to do that and then some.
Marshall made history, becoming the first female from Mayo to qualify for the state tournament by winning a Section 1-2 235-pound title on Saturday at Hastings High School.
Now, her Mom gets to see her at the Xcel Energy Center.
"I really wanted to make her proud," Marshall said. "And my family too, for everything that we have been going through. It really means so much to me and my family."
Marshall really blossomed onto the scene last weekend, winning a title at the record-breaking girls tournament in Pine Island. That gave her a much needed boost heading to Hastings.
"Before that I wasn't sure I could do this," Marshall said. "Being at that tournament really made me think I can actually make state."
Marshall — ranked No. 2 at 235 by The Guillotine — had a bye into the finals where she wrestled with confidence. She used her great strength and showed great toughness, eventually wearing down Apple Valley's Lily Wolke with a third period pin for the title.
The strength and toughness is no doubt a family trait, passed down from Mom.
"She's a tough woman that made tough children," Marshall said with a smile.
GMLOS Smith and Hendrickson win titles
By being the first-ever state runner-up at 138 last year, GMLOS junior Diann Smith already has an impressive resume.
Yet, she was not pleased with finishing second at last year's inaugural section tournament.
"I didn't like where I finished last year," Smith said. "I wanted to come back and prove myself."
Smith put on a clinic, seemingly barely breaking a sweat all tournament with three relatively easy pins. That included in the 138-pound finals against Owatonna's Aliah Fischer — a match that Smith needed just 48 seconds to record the win by fall.
"I just feel ecstatic," Smith said.
Better yet, Smith admitted was the fact that she will not be going to St. Paul alone.
She will be accompanied by senior McKenna Hendrickson, who was just as impressive on Saturday as Smith, to win the 132-pound title.
"I just told myself, 'It's not going to end here. These shoes will see the Xcel Center,'" Hendrickson said.
Those two will be joined by Armagost, who won the second place wrestleback match to punch her ticket at 126 to give the Bulldogs three state-qualifiers.
"We all work so hard," Hendrickson said. "We're so good at pushing each other. We really have great practice partners, knowing when to go hard and when to maybe slow down and help us learn a move. It shows on days like today."
Four more qualify for state
Four other area wrestlers qualified for the state tournament with second place finishes.
Pine Island freshman Lauren Elsmore will make her second consecutive trip to state after placing second on Saturday at 100-pounds, falling to No. 1 ranked Caley Graber of Northfield. That matchup will most likely be seen again in the state final.
Lake City had a good day with senior Emma Hofschulte and sophomore Ericka Hansen each placing second at 145 and 152, respectively. Both won their wrestleback matches after falling in the final.
Fillmore Central/Lanesboro/Mabel-Canton junior Katie Whealan will also be going to state after a second place finish at 185.
She, like Elsmore, did not have to do a wrestleback to place second after falling in the championship.