Speaking of Sports

By John Fragodt, Sports Reporter

The Minnewaska Area wrestlers had a banner day at the Section 8AA Wrestling Tournament at DGF High School, Saturday, qualifying five wrestlers to the state tourney.  Coach Chip Rankin, who has been at the helm of the Minnewaska wrestling program for seven years, says this is the most wrestlers his team has sent to the state tourney.  “It was a great day for the Lakers,” coach Rankin said.  “We had a good start to the tournament, Friday, and big wins by Isaiah Rosario and Myles Reichmann, Saturday, got the guys really fired up.  After that, it was going to take a lot of effort to beat us.”

Placing first at the section meet were ninth-grader Miles Wildman at 114 pounds and senior Myles Reichmann at 172.  Wildman (35-3 record), was the top seed and has been ranked in state all season long, currently ranked fourth in state Class AA, while Reichmann was seeded second, but pulled off a big upset over the top-seeded wrestler from DGF in the finals.

Minnewaska Area had been in Section 5A before this season, but moved to Section 8AA this year.  A lot of the Class AA teams weren’t familiar with the Lakers and possibly didn’t give them the credit they deserve.  “Some of the teams might not have known us before the tournament, but they do now,” coach Rankin said proudly.

At state, Wildman earned the third seed at 114 pounds and was set to open up state action against Aidan Carlson (35-10), a sophomore from Mahtomedi.  The top seed is Joel Friederichs (43-2), of Watertown-Mayer.

Reichmann (26-15) meanwhile, is unseeded at 172 pounds and will open up the state tournament against the fourth-seed from Rocori, senior Damian Tapio (41-6).  The top seed is also in his half of the bracket, undefeated junior Bryce Burkett of Watertown-Mayer (47-0).

The three second-place finishers had to work a little harder to earn their state trip, although ninth-grader Landon Schiffler, who placed second at 107 pounds, did not have to wrestle in a true-second match.  Schiffler (28-14) is unseeded and is set to wrestle second-seeded Kyle Stangl (34-6), a junior from Pierz, in the opening round.  The top seed is eighth-grader Logan Refsnider (45-3), of Totino-Grace.

Junior Chase Smith (30-12), who returns to state for the third-straight season, won a true-second match at 133 pounds to earn his state berth.  Smith, who was ranked in state to start the season, is unseeded at the state tourney and was set to meet ninth-grader Tate Olson (37-8) of Delano.  With a win, he would probably face the fourth seed who has a record of 44-5.  The top seeded Dylan Louwagie (48-0), of Marshall, is also in Smith’s side of the bracket.

Yes, it’s really tough at state!

Senior Jayce Kovarik (21-10) meanwhile, had to wrestle five matches at the section tourney, going 4-1, including a pin over the second-seed in the 160-pound true-second match.  Kovarik is unseeded and will also wrestle the second-seed in the opener, senior Luke Swanson (37-7), of Kasson-Mantorville.  The top seed is senior Griffin Lundeen (48-1), of Thief River Falls, whom Kovarik met in the section tourney.

Yes, the other teams in Section 8AA certainly know the Lakers by now.  In fact, DGF, which won the section team title with a 28-21 victory over Perham, was the only Section 8AA school to have more state entrants than the Lakers.

DGF had six state entrants, while Minnewaska Area and Perham both had five.  Sauk Centre-Melrose and Pequot Lakes, which beat the Lakers in the team quarterfinals, both had three state qualifiers, while Thief River Falls had two, and Alexandria and Roseau both had one.

Said Rankin, “One of the other coaches told me after the tournament, ‘Nice job!  We didn’t know who your team was before the tournament, but now we want to find out how to get rid of you.’

“I’m really happy for our team,” coach Rankin continued.  “The guys worked hard all season and to send five wrestlers to the state tourney is a really big accomplishment.  We know it will be tough competing at the Class AA State Tourney, but our guys are ready for the challenge.”