John's Journal
A Night For Champions At State Wrestling Tournament3/2/2013
Championship Saturday at the state wrestling tournament is always a night filled with drama and celebrations, and the 2013 version filled the bill perfectly. My favorite moment came when Grand Rapids 182-pound senior Jamison Evans completed an unbeaten season with a last-second decision over Christian DuLaney and then ran into his coach’s arms … and head.

Evans is a big young man, but he is no match for Thunderhawks coach Dan Jinks. Evans not only leaped into the coach’s arms, but went extra vertical and landed almost right on top of Jinks. It was a tremdendously happy scene, just one of many on one of the greatest nights of the year for high school sports in Minnesota.

The familiar names carved their names a little deeper into the record books. Simley senior Jake Short (Class 2A, 152 pounds) won his fourth state title, as did St. Cloud Apollo senior Mitch Bengston (3A, 138). Apple Valley ninth-grader Mark Hall (3A, 152) won for the second time, staying on track to become the state's first six-time state champ.

Overall, six wrestlers repeated as champions in Class 1A, six did so in 2A and six did the same in 3A. That’s what you call symmetry.

Apple Valley had seven individual 3A champions, going 7-1 in the final round.

Three of Saturday’s title matches pitted past state champions.

--In Class 2A at 138 pounds, Coltan Laganiere of Kasson-Mantorville defeated Brett Stolarzyk of Stewartville.

--In 2A at 195, Lance Benick of Totino-Grace beat Broc Berge of Kasso-Mantorville.

--And in 3A at 195, Tommy Petersen of Lakeville South beat Chase Morlock of Moorhead.

--To see a photo gallery from the tournament, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 10 for the tournament, 22 for the winter state tournaments
*Schools/teams John has visited: 488
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 7,289
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
Eden Prairie Historically Dominant In Winning 2A Swim Title3/2/2013
Eden Prairie cruised to the Class 2A boys state swimming and diving championship Saturday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, and St. Thomas Academy won the Class 1A crown. Read Luke Sleeper's story by clicking here.
Coach Is Gone, But Inspiration Remains For Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa3/1/2013
The state wrestling tournament is a hotbed of raw emotion, with a never-ending supply of screaming from the stands, high-wire encouragement from coaches and for the wrestlers, a very fine line between success and the end of the road as the season comes to a close.

But let’s go back to the first day of wrestling practice last November, when another kind of emotional scene played out in a very peaceful spot. The scene was a cemetery in Belgrade, Minnesota. That’s where the wrestling team from Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa went to visit their former coach as the season began.

Rich Vos was 38 years old and riding his bicycle in the early-morning darkness on Oct. 16 when he was struck by a semi-trailer and killed. Since that day, nothing has been the same for the B-B-E Jaguars.

Before beginning their first practice of the season, the wrestlers ran to St. Francis DeSales Catholic Cemetery, about a mile from the high school. Waiting for them there was Rich’s widow, Beth, a mother of two young children. She and the wrestlers gathered at the gravesite and she read them a letter. Beth tried to put into words what the coach would have said to the team if he could have done the writing.

“She wrote about what Rich would have wanted this year, what he thought we could accomplish,” Jaguars senior Tyler Tensen told me Friday at Xcel Energy Center. “How it would be awesome if we would dedicate this year to him. And of course we did.”

Rich has been listed as the team’s head coach all season. The mats inside the high school gym carry the words “Always in Your Corner.” The coaches have Rich’s name printed on the back of their shirts. The wrestlers have t-shirts that say “His Vision, Our Mission/ In Memory of Coach Vos.”

“It was definitely hard,” said Tyler, one of three Jaguars to qualify for the state tournament. “The whole season, not having him was hard. Losing him was definitely a big motivator through the year, that’s for sure. And it was certainly hard not having a good friend and a coach around.”

Assistant coach Brian Friedrichs, who took over as head coach, works as a National Guard Readiness NCO in Sauk Centre. He was on his way to Camp Ripley for a staff meeting when he learned that Vos had been killed.

“That evening I went to see the family and the next day we talked to wrestlers, to see how they were doing,” he said.

Right after Vos died, many of his wrestlers who also played football had to play the final regular-season game.

“They had to think about finishing the regular season that next day, on MEA Wednesday, and then the playoffs,” B-B-E athletic director Rick Gossen said. “Talk about an emotional roller coaster for 16-17-18-year-old kids.

“I think the students and staff supported each other very well. They had a chance to grieve and heal. It’s one of those things that never leaves you. You never stop feeling that loss, especially for the wrestlers that were closest to him.”

--Tensen (126 pounds) and fellow senior Patrick Rooney (182) each won two matches Friday to advance to Saturday’s semifinals. Sophomore Josey Tensen lost in the opening round at 106 pounds.

SETTING UP FOR THE SEMIFINALS

Every defending state champion won in the first round of the state tournament Friday, but the number was whittled a bit in the second round.

Friday’s marquee match came in Class 2A at 126 pounds. Simley senior Juan Torres, last year’s champion at that weight, won a 5-4 decision in the quarterfinals over Rockford junior Ty Griffin, who was the 2012 champ at 120 pounds.

--St. Cloud Apollo senior Mitch Bengston, a three-time champion, is on track for another 3A title. He will meet Blake Carlisle of Prior Lake in Saturday’s semifinals.

--In Saturday’s 3A semifinals, Apple Valley will have eight wrestlers and St. Michael-Albertville will have seven. Apple Valley had 14 individual qualify for state and the Knights had 12; they tied for the 3A team championship on Thursday night.

Semifinal matches will take place Saturday morning, with title matches scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

--To see a photo gallery from the tournament, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 7 for the tournament, 19 for the winter state tournaments
*Schools/teams John has visited: 488
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 7,239
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Team Title Matches Are Set At State Wrestling Tournament2/28/2013
After some great competition in the quarterfinals and semifinals, the state championship matches are set on the team side of the state wrestling tournament. All title matches are set for 7 o’clock tonight at Xcel Energy Center, and the top two seeds in each class will meet to decide who takes home gold medals.

In Class 1A, top-seeded and three-time defending champion Jackson County Central will meet Frazee in the finals. Jackson beat Barnesville 43-19 in the quarterfinals and Chatfield 39-25 in the semifinals; Frazee defeated Pierz 47-12 and Sibley East 40-16.

In Class 2A, No. 1 seed Kasson-Mantorville will face second-seeded Simley in the title match. Kasson-Mantorville advanced by beating Perham 56-15 and New Prague 37-18, while Simley (which owns the last five 2A crowns) beat Chisago Lakes 45-23 and Foley 35-23.

And in 3A, top seed St. Michael-Albertville will face No. 2 seed Apple Valley, which has won every 3A state title since 2006 and all but one since 1999 (Owatonna was the 2005 champ). St. Michael-Albertville advanced by defeating Willmar 53-9 and Owatonna 36-21. Apple Valley beat Moorhead 55-9 and Prior Lake 36-19

I’m posting frequent updates on the MSHSL Facebook page as well as on Twitter. Follow @MSHSLjohn.

--To see a photo gallery from the tournament, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Diet Coke Count: 2 for the day, 2 for the tournament, 14 for the winter state tournaments
*Schools/teams John has visited: 488
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 7,189
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
Stuck In An Elevator, Then Winning A State Championship2/28/2013
The wrestlers from Kasson-Mantorville have quite a story to tell, and their first state championship is only part of the story.

The KoMets defeated five-time defending champ Simley 30-27 in the Class 2A team title match Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center, but what happened before that -- a few blocks away -- is what they will laugh about for the rest of their lives.

Fourteen KoMets spent an hour and 15 minutes stuck in an elevator in the vicinity of the sixth floor of the DoubleTree Hotel in downtown St. Paul. They were rescued by junior 285-pound teammate Sam Stoll, who – the story goes -- pried the doors apart with his bare hands (“and his belly,” stated a smaller teammate who did not wish to be identified publicly).

“For the first five minutes, it was fun,” said wrestler Noah Ryan, “and then we got worried.”

Their title match against Simley was scheduled for 7 p.m. and they were sprung at around 6:35. Things were getting a little warm inside the elevator, too.

They would have phoned for help right away, had their coaches not taken away their cell phones the day before … to avoid distractions.

--In Class 1A, top-seeded and three-time defending champion Jackson County Central made it four titles in a row with a 38-22 victory over second-seeded Frazee.

Frazee had won four state titles, most recently in 2011 when it shared the title with Jackson County Central.

--And in 3A, top seed St. Michael-Albertville and No. 2 seed Apple Valley finished in a dead heat, a 28-28 tie. By rule, state championship wrestling matches are not decided by tiebreakers or criteria.

Apple Valley has won every 3A state title since 2006 and all but one since 1999 (Owatonna was the 2005 champ). St. Michael-Albertville owns six previous championships, most recently in Class 2A in 2007.

CONSOLATION BRACKET

Class 3A: Third-place match: Prior Lake beat Owatonna 34-21. Fifth-place match: Moorhead beat Willmar 36-22.

Class 2A: Third-place match: Foley beat New Prague 33-24. Fifth-place match: Chisago Lakes beat Perham 33-30.

Class 1A: Third-place match: Chatfield beat Sibley East 35-33. Fifth-place match: ACGC beat KMS 28-21.

INDIVIDUAL TOURNAMENT

With the team portion of the tournament finished, Friday and Saturday will be devoted to the individual competition.

--Thursday’s total attendance was 17,216.

--To see a photo gallery from the tournament, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 3 for the tournament, 15 for the winter state tournaments
*Schools/teams John has visited: 488
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 7,189
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn