By PATRICK SLACK
Holdingford may have been able to snap Pierz’ 21-match win streak in a regular season dual two weeks prior.
But with a third consecutive trip to state on the line in the Section 7A championship in Minneapolis, Friday, Pierz got the win it wanted most, topping the Huskers 39-18.
“I felt we did just an outstanding job,” Pierz head coach Simon Waltman said. “We got off to a great start. There were a few matches that didn’t go the way that we were hoping, but that happens when you wrestle a good team.”
“You’re not going to get every single one, but we got a majority of them and we turned a lot of them around and came up with more points than we did the first time,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier and I couldn’t be more proud of what our kids have done.”
Eighth-grader Brandon Ortman started the dual off strong for Pierz at 106 pounds, using three turns to churn out a 15-1 major decision.
Holdingford sophomore Andrew Zachman answered with a 4-3 decision at 113, leading into an early swing match.
Pierz junior Brandon Sullivan allowed the initial takedown, but after a scoreless second period kept him in a 2-1 hole entering the third, he secured a takedown to the back to record a momentum-seizing fall to extend the Pioneers’ advantage to 10-3.
“A lot of times in wrestling, the kid that gets that first takedown finishes it out and wins,” Waltman said. “Brandon’s a kid that’s in great shape and great conditioning. A lot of times he wins the third period.”
“He just came back throughout that match and overpowered him at the end and got a huge pin for us that just kind of sent us on our way,” he said.
Pierz junior Chris Ortman dominated his way to five more team points with a 16-0 technical fall at 126, setting up junior teammate Evan Woitalla at 132.
Just like Sullivan, Woitalla gave up the opening takedown.
But just like Sullivan, Woitalla came back with a quick reversal to the back with a roll, earning a fall in 40 seconds to put Pierz up 21-3.
“We were looking for a pin out of Evan tonight,” Waltman said. “He’s a pinner. He’s one of our kids toward the top of our leaderboard in pins and he came up big for us.”
Delivering another big win was eighth-grader Brett Kapsner at 138, protecting a 1-0 lead with a third-period rideout, opening up a 24-3 edge for the Pioneers.
Holdingford senior Trevor Scott and Pierz senior Brad Meyer traded decisions in the next two bouts, then Holdingford senior Kyle Kolstad erased a 5-2 deficit with a pin to keep the Huskers’ slim hopes alive.
Holdingford senior Jordan Gombos followed with a 6-3 decision at 170 to trim the team gap to 27-15, but Pierz freshman Ted Dehler dashed any remaining thoughts of a comeback at 182.
Trailing 4-1 after the first period, Dehler scored seven unanswered points the rest of the way to earn an 8-4 decision and give Pierz an almost insurmountable lead.
The ending was a bit anticlimactic, as Pierz clinched the dual on a forfeit given to senior Travis Johnson at 195.
But after the performance turned in by the Pioneers’ lower weights, combined with the two of the Huskers’ final four regular starters out of the lineup, there was little Holdingford could do except hoist the white flag.
Holdingford junior Mitch Messman picked up a 4-3 win at 220, then Pierz junior Curtis Brisk put the finishing touches on the dual with a 2-1 decision at 285.
“I told their head coach I felt bad the situation they were in tonight,” Waltman said. “You never want to see that happen to a team. I wouldn’t want to see that happen to us in a big match like this to qualify for the state tournament.
“But we’re not going to give the win back and we’re happy with the win,” he said. “Our kids showed up down below and did the job and I give a lot of credit to our kids.”
The state team tournament will be held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Thursday, Feb. 28. Pierz will wrestle second-seeded Frazee in the quarterfinals at 11 a.m.
Section 7A wrestling notes
From struggling to fill lineup to nearly reaching finals
Long before Royalton-Upsala was within a pin of advancing to the Section 7A championship, there was a point in the season when the Royals were struggling just to field a full lineup.
Forced to forfeit between two and four weights most duals, Royalton-Upsala dropped its first seven duals.
After that, with a full lineup on hand, the Royals went 8-6.
“Since then, we’ve started picking it up, slowly,” Royalton-Upsala head coach Kevin Presler said. “Right now we’re as good as we’ve been.”
“It’s a complete credit to those guys,” he said. “They saw what they needed to do. Some of them are wrestling up, some of them knocked down a weight. We’ve covered all the weights now.”
“On top of that, they’ve improved their technique and skills and conditioning as the season has gone along too,” he said. “We’ve been able to beat people that we wouldn’t be able to beat. Individually, we’re beating people now that we wouldn’t beat at the beginning of the year.”
In addition to filling out the upper and lower weights, the Royals finished the year with a deep middle of the lineup that allowed the team to spread out to cover weights as needed.
“We have a room full of kids,” Presler said. “We have as good of numbers as we’ve ever had. We have about 12 to 15 guys that are between 140 and 160, they’ve spread themselves out.”
“A few of them are wrestling up, Mitch and Kyle (Lange) included, a few of them have cut down a weight,” he said. “And now, we’re a pretty good team.”
A little revenge for Wensmann
Royalton-Upsala senior Cory Wensmann entered the section tournament ranked eighth in Class A at 220 pounds, with most of his defeats coming against ranked wrestlers.
So as he broke a 1-1 tie on an ankle-pick takedown shot with 10 remaining against Holdingford junior Mitch Messman, ranked fifth at 195, the win was a little extra sweet.
“Most of his losses are against kids ranked in the state, some of them coming up to get him, so he finally got a little revenge,” Presler said. “It was a big stage tonight and he got it done.”
Giving up two to get six
Most of the time in wrestling, when looking for a pin, a wrestler wants to be in the top position.
There is the occasional exception, though.
Like Pierz junior Evan Woitalla.
After giving up a quick takedown in the championship dual against Holdingford, Woitalla hit a granby to take his opponent to his back, quickly stacking him up for a fall in 40 seconds to give Pierz a crucial six team points.
“It is obviously (his go-to move) if you’ve watched him wrestle enough times,” Waltman said. “The same thing happened in his first match against Aitkin. He fell behind, but he came back late and pulled it out in overtime.”
A little help from his day job
Pierz head coach Simon Waltman works as a math teacher at the high school.
So as he watched the section finals unfold with the Pioneers comfortably ahead, he had an even better grasp of what the team needed to seal its third trip to state in a row.
“You started to see, you started to do some math,” Waltman said. “I started punching some numbers in my head to see how many we’d need.”
“Obviously (Holdingford’s Kyle) Kolstad came up big at 160, but we bounced back,” he said. “Nick (Lochner) held (Holdingford’s Jordan Gombos) down to a decision after a pin the previous time and then we came up with the win at 182. That was just a beautiful thing to see.”
Pierz 39, Holdingford 18
106: Brandon Ortman (P) 15-1. 113: Andrew Zachman (H) 4-3. 120: Brandon Sullivan (P) F 4:48. 126: Chris Ortman (P) 16-0. 132: Evan Woitalla (P) F 0:40. 138: Brett Kapsner (P) 1-0. 145: Trevor Scott (H) 8-2. 152: Brad Meyer (P) 5-2. 160: Kyle Kolstad (H) F 2:42. 170: Jordan Gombos (H) 6-3. 182: Ted Dehler (P) 8-4. 195: Travis Johnson (P) Forfeit. 220: Mitch Messman (H) 4-3. 285: Curtis Brisk (P) 2-1.
Pierz 51, Aitkin 21
106: Bare (A) F 1:29. 113: Andrew Tomala (P) F 1:39. 120: Brandon Sullivan (P) F 1:52. 126: Chris Ortman (P) F 2:53. 132: Evan Woitalla (P) 10-8 (OT). 138: Wold (A) 6-1. 145: Novak (A) 10-3. 152: Brad Meyer (P) F 1:07. 160: Josh Lanners (P) F 0:42. 170: Novak (A) 3-1. 182: Bast (A) F 4:28. 195: Travis Johnson (P) F 2:49. 220: Ryley Smude (P) F 1:05. 285: Curtis Brisk (P) F 1:01.
Holdingford 38, Royalton-Upsala 27
106: Michael Petron (RU) 12-4. 113: Joe Jensen (RU) 2-1. 120: Zach Scott (H) F 3:38. 126: Clem Gerads (H) F 1:14. 132: Brady Moulzolf (RU) 11-3. 138: Brad Kroll (RU) 7-5 (OT). 145: Trevor Scott (H) 17-2. 152: Kyle Gerads (H) Injury Default. 160: Kyle Kolstad (H) F 5:45. 170: Matt Messman (H) 9-8. 182: Mitch Lange (RU) 13-5. 195: Tony Gadacz (RU) F 0:38. 220: Cory Wensmann (RU) 3-1. 285: Bryan Scepaniak (H) F 4:45.