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A LOOK BACK at the last state tournament before COVID-19

This year’s tournament will be much different

Sibley East’s Drayden Morton wrestles during the 2020 State Individual Wrestling Tournament. He took home his second consecutive first-place medal at state in 2020.

ST. PAUL — Last season’s state individual wrestling tournament was one of the last state tournaments to be completed in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic led to shutdowns and cancelations nation-wide.

The 2020 girls’ state basketball tournament was just beginning when talk of ending the tournament early without a champion started. That tournament was canceled by the MSHSL with two days left on March 13, 2020, while the boys’ basketball section finals and state tournament the following week were also canceled.

State wrestlers were fortunate to see their season come to an end with the experience of a full tournament. Two wrestlers in the area that were certainly most fortunate were Derek Steele and Drayden Morton, two Sibley East wrestlers that took home first-place medals after the individual tournament concluded on February 29, 2020. Both wrestlers were also named last year’s All-Journal Co-Wrestlers of the Year.

Steele won his title at 113 pounds, while Morton won his at 120.

Steele ended his season with a 50-2 record. On Day 1 of the state individual tournament, he defeated Crookston’s Ethan Bowman by a 13-0 major decision and Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa’s Ryan Jensen by a 4-1 decision. On Day 2, Steele picked up a 5-4 decision win over Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg’s Coy Gunderson to move to a championship match with United North Central’s Ethan Hendrickson, a match that he won by a 4-2 decision to claim Class A’s first-place medal at 113.

New Ulm Area’s Colby Wenninger (right) wrestles during last year’s state wrestling individuals at Xcel Energy Center

Morton went 28-3 last season and ended his second with his second consecutive first-place medal at state. On Day 1 of the 2020 individuals, he first defeated Blue Earth Area’s Davis Sunken by a 5-2 decision and Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville’s Justin Crandall by a 10-1 major decision.

Morton then picked up a 2-1 decision over Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City’s Kelvin Andrade-Ponce in the semifinals before beating Caledonia-Houston’s Brandon Ross by a 3-0 decision for the first-place medal at 120.

Also for Sibley East, Lincoln Carpenter finished with a fourth-place medal at 138.

New Ulm Area saw two wrestlers reach the state individuals in Cole Ranweiler and Colby Wenninger. Ranweiler competed at 170 pounds and dropped a 12-8 decision to St. Peter’s Eli Hunt. Ranweiler was unfortunately denied a wrestleback match later on, finishing his season with a 38-8 record after Hunt lost his next match and was awarded the wrestleback match as a result.

Wenninger finished his senior year with a 32-15 record and fell to Fergus Falls’ Dustin Portales in the opening round by a fall in 58 seconds. In a wrestleback, he was pinned by Annand/M Lk Lightning’s Kessler Kenning in 45 seconds.

New Ulm Area’s Cole Ranweiler (left) competes with St. Peter’s Eli Hunt during the 2020 State Wrestling Individual Tournament at Xcel Energy Center.

Also competing at the tournament from the area last year were Springfield’s Owen Bertram (120), Kadin Johnson (170) and Mason Rummel (220).

Bertram finished his senior year with a 44-7 record and went 1-2 at the state individuals. After falling to Andrade-Ponce in the opening round, Bertram stayed alive by pinning BOLD’s Austin Kiecker in 2:38. He then was eliminated by LPGE/Browerville’s Justin Crandall by a 9-7 decision.

Johnson was unfortunately eliminated on Day 1 after being pinned by Wyatt Simon of Maple River (3:06) and Kolbe Booker of All Saints Home School (2:20).

Rummel had the best showing at the tournament for the Tigers, placing sixth. He first defeated BOLD’s Tim Peppel by fall in 4:59 before falling in a quarterfinal match to Dominik Vacura of Badger-Greenbush-Middle River by fall in 3:13.

Rummel then won back-to-back consolation matches, one in an ultimate tiebreaker over Medford’s Brennon Hoffman and one in a 3-1 decision over Howard Lake-Waverly-Winstead’s Danny Mosford. In the consolation semifinals, Rummel fell to Daniel Erlandson of Breckenridge by fall in 2:40. Rummel then lost a fifth-place match to Logan Sherwood of Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City by a narrow 7-6 decision.

Sibley East’s Derek Steele wrestles during a 2020 State Individual Wrestling Tournament match. Steele went on to win the first-place medal in Class A at 113 pounds.

Lance Wagner (182) and Derek Werner (195) represented Wabasso/Red Rock Central in the state individuals last year. Wagner dropped his lone match in the tournament to Bertha-Hewitt-Verndale-Parkers Prairie’s Gideon Ervasti by fall in 3:45. Wagner was eliminated from the tournament after Ervasti lost his next match and was granted a wrestleback.

Werner ended up finishing fifth in the individual tournament after kicking things off in a strong way with back-to-back wins. He first defeated Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa’s Michael Doubek by a 6-2 decision and then defeated Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s Ethan Kovars by a 5-2 decision.

The wins moved Werner on to a semifinals match with Frazee’s Luke Tweeton. Tweeton won by an 11-3 major decision, however, dropping Werner to a consolation semifinals match with Zane Swanson of Ottertail Central, a match that Swanson won by a 7-1 decision.

Werner then beat Elliot Mann of New York Mills by an 8-3 decision to claim the fifth-place title at 195 and finish his senior year 36-6.

2021 TOURNAMENT INFO

This year’s state individual wrestling tourney will look quite different from last year’s, which saw fans from all over Minnesota crowd into Xcel Energy Center.

On Saturday, March 20, the individual prelims will take place at multiple different schools. Class A will compete at Rochester Century, Windom, Long Prairie and Cass Lake-Bena; Class AA will compete at Cannon Falls, Redwood Valley, Mound Westonka and Foley; and Class AAA will compete at Farmington, Stillwater, Chanhassen and Coon Rapids.

The location for both the team and individual semifinals and finals this year will take place at St. Michael-Albertville High School from March 25-27. Each Class will receive its own day, with Class AAA opening the tournament on March 25, followed by Class AA on March 26 and Class A on March 27. The team portion of the tournaments will begin at 9 a.m. on each day, while individuals kick off at 2 p.m. on each day.

Individual and team brackets will be linked on the Wrestling Activity pages at www.mshsl.org. There will also be no tickets available to the general public this year. Tickets for teams and individuals are to be determined based on venue capacities, and information will be shared with participants’ families. Streaming options will be available.

All spectators will also be COVID-screened onsite at the venue, masks must be worn at all times in the venue and spectators must also socially distance themselves from others who do not live in their household.

Visit www.mshsl.org/sports-and-activities/wrestling for more information on brackets, schedules and streaming options.

Springfield’s Owen Bertram looks to stuff a takedown during the 2020 State Individual Wrestling Tournament at Xcel Energy Center.

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