Senior-dominated Gophers want gold

Since the state tournament last season, the Chatfield wrestling team has been talking about only one thing -- a state title.

The Gophers finished third at last season's Class A state meet. With almost their entire lineup back for this year's state run, the Gophers rightfully are aiming for gold Thursday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Chatfield (24-1) secured the No. 3 seed and opens the state tournament at 9 a.m. Thursday against unseeded Section Seven champion Pierz (25-1).

Chatfield coach Joel Viss admittedly knows very little about Pierz. The teams had just one common opponent all season -- Milaca/Faith Christian. The Gophers blasted Milaca/Faith Christian 52-15 on Jan. 4, while Pierz won 36-27 on Dec. 20.

"It's hard to tell much from that," Viss said. "I don't believe our two schools have ever wrestled. They're unseeded, but I know they're tough. If our guys wrestle as well as they can, and Pierz beats us, hats off to them."


The senior-dominated Gophers will have their hands full against a team that also features a lineup loaded with seniors. Pierz has a whopping nine entrants in the state individual tournament, including six seniors.

"It sounds like they're more on-the-mat type wrestlers," Viss said. "But you just don't know until you get there. Everyone up there is good."

If Chatfield is going to win and continue its state-title dream, it will have to start the dual well. Pierz is loaded at the heavier weights and could take control late in the dual.

Pierz has state entrants at 120 pounds (Brandon Sullivan, 34-7),126 (Christophers Ortman, 35-4),138 (Evan Woitalla, 26-8),145 Kolton Eischens, 32-7),160 (Brett Kapsner, 32-10),170 (Jordan Goebel, 33-5),195 Ryley Smude, 29-9),220 (Alan Bast, 19-2) and285 (Curtis Brisk, 24-7).

The Gophers have an incredible senior class, and Viss said their leadership has carried the team into state.

"If we show up with the same effort and level of enthusiasm we had (against Kenyon-Wanamingo in the section finals), we will be fine," Viss said. "Our seniors have been great leaders."

Three seniors -- A.J. Riley, Harvey Friederichs and Cody Bly -- are state individual tournament entrants. Riley is 33-3 at 145, while Friederichs is 38-1 at 152 and Bly is 25-2 at 170.

Chatfield has four other state entrants in Jared Goldsmith (113, 28-0), Ty VanSickle (120, 34-8), Ryan Meeker (132, 30-7) and Hank Friederichs (138, 38-2).


In addition to last year's third-place finish at state, Viss believes the football team's state-title run in the fall has helped his team. Several Chatfield wrestlers also played football.

"It's been good for us," Viss said. "Those guys are all real competitive people. I'm really thankful they have a chance to go to state again."

Viss said his team is heading to St. Paul confident, but not overconfident.

"This group works very hard, and I think every team in the state probably works hard, too," Viss said. "These guys amaze me on a daily basis, though. It's a fantastic group."

If Chatfield wins in the opening round, it will face the winner between No. 2 seed Frazee (18-1) and Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale in the semifinals at 1 p.m. Thursday. The finals are set for 7 p.m. The third-place and consolation championship duals are at 5 p.m.

"If there's a team out there that can beat us when we wrestle well, so be it; I'll take my hat off to them," Viss said. "We're wrestling well right now, and I know these kids want it, especially these seniors."

What To Read Next
Get Local