KoMets conquer Simley for section championship
Looking at the Kasson-Mantorville wrestling team’s schedule at the beginning of the season, it was clear that the KoMets would have another road to return to the state tournament. K-M had set itself up to be tested as they took part in grueling tournaments as well as navigating the HVL schedule which included duals with Zumbrota-Mazeppa, Kenyon-Wanamingo and Goodhue, but with the addition of state rival Simley, things were sure to be even tougher.
As the two teams that had combined to capture every Class AA state championship since 2008 met at in the Section 1AA final on February 17, the dual had a championship feel to it. However, as the KoMets often do, they rose up to the challenge and fought off a talented Simley team to earn their third straight section championship and eighth in the past nine seasons.
“We knew it was going to be a tough dual,” K-M head coach Jamie Heidt said. “We know that’s a great program over there and we knew we had to be ready. It takes a lot getting up for this and making sure you’re ready to go this time of year and fight for every point. It’s team wrestling right here and that’s what we’ve been preaching all week and what these kids did today.”
As has been the case for most of the season, the KoMets got off to a fast start thanks to a pin from Logan Vaughan over Corey Prime and a 3-0 decision from Jared Johnson over Zach Miller. Things almost got faster as Robby Horsman almost got a pin over Cael Berg in the first period, but would take home a 7-3 decision to give K-M an early 12-0 lead.
From there, it began a stretch where K-M followed its “fight for every point” philosophy. Matthew Harfmann began the yeoman’s work by earning a 2-0 decision over Gavin Nelson in a swing match before D-I commit Jake Gilva got Simley on the board with a 14-6 major decision over Tanner Paulson.
Bennett Berge would get a 9-0 major decision over Antonio Everett before Nic VanOort led for most of the way against Nolan Wanzek before falling late in a 4-3 decision. Although Quayin Short and Jacob Hageman would both pick up victories to pull Simley within 19-16, the middle weights had done their job as K-M entered the meat of its lineup.
“Those guys are out there fighting,” Heidt said. “We preached all week that we’re fighting for every team point and that was what it was all about. You put 14 guys on the mat with the same mentality and if everybody fights for points like they did, you’re going to look up at the end of the dual and there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to be on top.”
Patrick Kennedy would hit the mat to help stop the bleeding and in “money in the bank” fashion, he picked up a disqualification victory over Travis Dohmen to give K-M breathing room. After Ethan Shea earned a 5-0 decision over Bnnett Tabor, Jim Paulson needed a pin to punch the KoMets’ trip to state with Simley’s Daniel Kerkvilet and Luke Zaiser waiting down the stretch.
“My coaches told me to be cautious right away,” Paulson said of the strategy before the match. “I just went for that pin when I saw it and it just made it so much fun.”
Paulson would roll up Blake Holzem to earn the fall at 1:30 of the 195-pound match to send the KoMets back to state and as he walked through his teammates, he was greeted by Heidt who lifted the senior over his shoulder as part of the celebration.
“That’s every high school wrestlers dream to go out and win the section championship and punch your team’s ticket to the state tournament,” Heidt said. “We know it takes 14 guys to wrestle like that, but for a senior like Jim Paulson, who’s family is rooted here, to take all that pride, put that burden on his back and seal it for his team makes it pretty special.”
Kerkvilet and Zaiser would each pick up victories in the final two matches, but it was too late as K-M celebrated another section championship. As part of the state tournament, the KoMets will be the top seed and face a random draw opponent at 11 a.m. at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on March 1.
Before the KoMets can focus on that, they’ll turn their attention to the Section 1AA individual tournament, which will take place at the Mayo Civic Center this weekend.
“We’ve been in this situation as a program,” Heidt said. “It’s one step at a time to go through the team dual and then come back for the individual tournament. It’s very tough as a coach to be able to put that all together in a three weekend period, but our kids respond well. They know what it takes and we’ll keep moving forward.”