The top moments from the 2022-23 high school wrestling season: A banner year for southeastern Minnesota
Rochester-area grapplers delivered another special season few regions across the state could match.
ROCHESTER — Once again, southeastern Minnesota's home-grown talent shined during the high school wrestling season.
Few could match the area when it came to state champions — six — and state medalists — so many that this author who majored in English has lost count. Overall, they helped deliver many memorable moments this year.
Here are eight that stood out:
8. Kasson-Mantorville's Cole Glazier wins Santa Hat
Cole Glazier entered his senior season with a number of different goals. One of them? To capture an elusive Minnesota Christmas Tournament title — one that comes accompanied with the heavily-desired Santa Hat.
His brother Zach captured one back in his day, but Cole was still in search of one of his own.
With Zach in the house, Cole dominated that Saturday at the Mayo Civic Center, before riding out a 5-3 victory by decision over then three-time state medalist and eventual 2023 Class AAA state champ Jed Wester of St. Michael-Albertville, to win the 170-pound title.
It was the first of two losses all season for Wester.
When the clock struck zero Glazier gave an emphatic point up to his brother and the rest of the Kasson-Mantorville faithful who delivered a thunderous applause.
"I enjoy wrestling (for K-M) so much," Glazier said. "There is nowhere else I would rather be. This is the greatest program and one of the best in the country that I get to be a part of."
7. MSHSL expands girls section and state tournaments
Less than 10 months after hosting the first sanctioned girls wrestling state tournament, the MSHSL saw the number of girls competing in the sport double.
With the incredible growth, the League announced the expansion of both the section and state tournaments starting immediately. The decision came about a month out from the girls section tournament.
"The MSHSL is excited to see continued growth in girls wrestling," the League said in an email. "The number of girls in MSHSL wrestling has more than doubled since last year and the League recognizes the need to modify and expand postseason opportunities at both the section and state tournaments.
"After careful data analysis and consultation with tournament staff, we will be modifying the girls individual section and state tournaments."
The number of section tournaments went from two to four, essentially doubling the state tournament with twice as many grapplers qualifying.
6. MSHSL decides to drop a weight class for boys starting in '23
With the rise of girls wrestling, the League's Board decided to add a weight class for the girls — going from 12 to 13 — while the boys would go down a weight class from 14 to 13 starting next year.
The League based its decisions on surveys from member schools along with recommendations from the League's Wrestling Advisory Committee.
The reaction from area coaches was mixed.
For the most part, everyone was thrilled that the girls received an extra weight. Yet, many felt it came at a cost to the boys.
The programs with the higher numbers like Kasson-Mantorville, Mayo and Byron were disappointed a boys class was dropped. Yet, schools like Century, John Marshall as well as Zumbrota-Mazeppa were in support.
There is precedent for 13 weight classes, as it was nearly 20 years ago the decision was made to go from 13 to 14 divisions, in the 2002-03 season.
Either way starting next year, every coach admitted they will adjust to whatever rule is in place and make it work.
5. Pine Island girls tournament
Entering the day, there were rumors Pine Island was about to hold the largest girls only high school wrestling tournament in Minnesota. But in the end it blew away everyone's expectations.
More than 200 female wrestlers from 50-plus schools from all across the state made their way to Pine Island and the wrestling family came out to support them. The line for tickets was out the door 30 minutes before the scheduled event. Finding a seat inside was even tougher as the gymnasium became more of a sweat box with the number of people in there.
It was a day to remember.
4. Chatfield's Berg, Mayo's Marshall win section titles
Both Chloe Berg of Chatfield and Mayo's Jerriona Marshall didn't participate in the first MSHSL-sanctioned girls wrestling section tournament last year.
Berg had grown up around the sport, watching her brother Javier stack wins on the mat, but was always a dancer. Meanwhile, due to a family illness, Marshall cut her first season in the sport short. Yet, both found themselves with a shot at history at the Section 1-2 Tournament this year.
Both took full advantage of that opportunity, by becoming the first females from their respective programs to win a section title and reach the state wrestling tournament.
Both went on to place top three at state and both return next year.
3. Mayo wins first section title
Entering 2022-23, no other Mayo wrestling squad had ever won a section title. The Spartans knew it had all the pieces in places to make history this season and they want out and captured it.
First, they held off an upstart Owatonna squad — one that gave Mayo its only Big Nine Conference dual loss of the season — 34-27 in front of a raucous home crowd.
A couple of days later, the top-seeded Spartans were even more impressive, knocking off No. 2-seeded Faribault 37-20 in the Section 1AAA championship dual to punch the program's first ticket to the state tournament.
"I'm so happy for the kids," coach Art Trimble said. "I've known so many of them since they've been in kindergarten now, third grade, fourth grade. They've worked hard, they show up every day. They really deserve this. I am so excited for them. It's such an amazing opportunity. And we know how tough the wrestling is in Section One. You can't take these lightly. You can't."
The Spartans followed that by qualifying a program-best eight individuals for the Class AAA state tournament.
2. Caledonia/Houston places second in Class A
Section 1A all season long was a gauntlet, featuring some of the top teams in Class A. Yet, it was Caledonia/Houston that it felt was often being overlooked.
The Warriors leaned into the underdog role even though it began to become clear that they were the best Section 1A had to offer.
They proved that with a Section 1A title, the program's first since 2016.
C/H would advance all the way to the Class A state championship dual, where they fell to perennial power Jackson County Central. It was the program's second ever runner-up placement, tying the 1984 squad for the best finish in program history.
The Warriors would then witness a number of individuals medal at state, including state champion Tucker Ginther.
1. Six win state titles, four finish second
Once again, southeast Minnesota grapplers put on a show at the MSHSL state tournament.
Overall, six — Javier Berg, Tucker Ginther, Brodie Kellen, Gavin Gust, Cole Glazier, Kail Schott — won state titles. Four more — Joey Kennedy, Chloe Berg, Diann Smith and McKenna Hendrickson — were in the finals, before placing second.
Berg, Schott, Kennedy, Berg and Smith all return next season.