Area wrestlers ready for state
FAIRMONT – Five of the eight area wrestlers stepping onto the mats at the individual state meet on Friday will do so for the first time in their careers.
The remaining three grapplers will make their second appearances in their respective brackets as they try to reach the top of the medals podium.
“I think that any wrestler, the first time they get to a state meet and see all the fans and everything, it can definitely get the butterflies going,” said Madelia/Truman/Martin Luther head coach Darren Gifferson.
The Class A individual state preliminaries start at 9 a.m. Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, with the Class AA opening-round matches following at 11 a.m.
No. 6-ranked 195-pounder Jake Denn of MTML returns to the Class A 195-pound bracket, but this time around hopes to stay longer than a year ago.
“We’ve talked about it, and this year we are definitely shooting for the (medals) podium,” said Gifferson. “And I think that having last year’s experience will take care of a lot of those jitters. Hopefully that won’t be a problem.”
As a sophomore last year, Denn (24-21) lost his opening-round match to eventual second-place finisher Kysten Zierke of Blue Earth Area in an 8-6 decision.
Holdingford’s Mitch Mesmaan then ended Denn’s tournament stint in the consolation bracket with a 6-3 decision.
Denn, who has been ranked throughout most of the season, has earned a 34-6 record and faces Fillmore Central/Lanesboro/Mabel-Canton senior Monty Holm.
Holm, the No. 7-ranked 195-pounder, boasts the lone undefeated record (32-0) in the bracket.
“We like the draw that Jake got. We don’t know much about Holm, but can see that he is undefeated. Even though he wasn’t ranked until this week (No. 7), once you get to state, everyone is good,” said Gifferson. “Jake has been wrestling aggressive and with confidence all season though, so it’ll be great to see how he does.”
Section 4A champion and defending 195-pound state champion Nathan Rose (38-1) of Sibley East looks to defend his title in the bracket.
“We thought that sections went about like we planned. Rose is a great wrestler, ranked No. 3 in the country, but he is working hard and excited for this week,” said Gifferson.
Fairmont/Martin County West Red Bulls senior co-captains Joe Weber and Kory Brown each return to the Class AA state meet for their final chances at state titles.
The No. 8-ranked 152-pound Weber is hoping to improve on his 2-2 record from last year’s efforts in the 152-pound bracket.
In the opening round, Weber will face Mora’s Reed Brown-Gmahl, who has a 23-7 record going into the tournament.
Weber will have to battle through four returning medalists in his bracket, including Totino-Grace’s Walker Thiele and Albany’s Carter Holthaus, who finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 152-pound bracket last year.
Brown (24-6) also will be looking to improve upon a pair of losses during last year’s 195-pound action.
Brown will square off with Sauk Centre-Melrose Area’s Arturo Stefanoni in his opening match at 195.
Trying to keep Brown from reaching the podium will be defending 195-pound champion Lance Benick (41-0) of Totino-Grace, in addition to No. 3-ranked Triston Westerlund from Albert Lea.
Worthington’s Carson Hagen, a familiar foe of Brown’s, also will be wrestling in the bracket.
No. 9-ranked 170-pounder David Franta of Blue Earth Area will make his state individual debut in the Class A state meet.
Franta, who has been ranked in the top 10 for most of the season, has compiled a 36-4 record so far.
Despite successful seasons throughout his prep wrestling career, Franta has never gotten through the Section 2A Meet to reach state. This year that changed.
In his first state match, Franta will go against Trinity School at River Ridge’s Sam Swanson.
With a victory, Franta would face either No. 6-ranked Ryan Stottler of Minnewaska Area or No. 4-ranked Jordan Schroepfer from Wabasso/Red Rock Central.
Jackson County Central’s Keegan Moore (41-0), the 170-pound Section 2 champion, looks to improve upon his third-place finish – at 160 – last year. Moore is the lone undefeated 170-pounder in Class A.
No. 3-ranked 285-pounder Martin Granados of Blue Earth Area will make his first state appearance. Granados has lost just three matches all season.
In his first-round state match, Granados will be tested against No. 4-ranked 285-pounder Curtis Brisk from Pierz.
While Granados just missed making the state meet with a third-place finish in the Section 2A Meet in 2013, the junior is looking to make up for that with a top performance this week.
With a win over Brisk, Granados will face either No. 10-ranked Dalton Baker of Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale or No. 6-ranked Nick Meixell of Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial in the quarterfinals.
Wabasso/Red Rock Central’s Alex Schroepfer (37-0) is the lone Class A heavyweight with an undefeated record. Schroepfer also is one of two medalists returning, finishing fifth in 2013.
Blue Earth Area sophomore Adam Legred will open the state meet at 106 during his debut at the Xcel Energy Center.
Legred will have the tough task of taking on No. 2-ranked Skylar Hieronimus from Adrian.
In the 106-pound bracket, Minneota-Lincoln HI’s Brock Buysse is the lone medalist returning after finishing fifth a year ago.
Blue Earth Area’s Zach Buseman also will have a tough first match in the 113-pound bracket during his first state appearance.
The Buc eighth-grade (31-10) faces No. 1-ranked Austin Anderly of LeSueur-Henderson in his first match.
Anderly (30-3) looks to defend his 113-pound title from last year.
FHS/MCW sophomore 220-pounder Luis Figueroa rounds out the area state qualifiers on Friday.
The Red Bulls sophomore will face a familiar foe in Waseca’s Dylan Winegar during first-round action.
The two South Central Conference wrestlers battled just a couple weeks ago, with Figueroa capturing a one-point victory over the Bluejay for the 220-pound league title.
Figueroa comes into the meet with a 29-8 record, while Winegar is 26-10.
Both wrestlers will have their hands full with a bracket that includes defending 220-pound champion Clay Broze of Cannon Falls. Broze is the lone competitor in the bracket without a loss this season.