READY FOR STATE
One week ago, the Kasson-Mantorville wrestling team captured the Section 1AA Championship with a victory over Simley. That alone should have convinced observers that this team still ran the section even with the addition of the second-ranked Spartans at the beginning of the year.
However, if anyone still wasn’t convinced that the KoMets weren’t the best team in the section, they decided to put an exclamation point on their team championship by sending a school record 11 wresters to the state during a dominating performance at the Section 1AA Individual Tournament last weekend.
“It’s great for those guys because they put a lot of work in,” K-M head coach Jamie Heidt said of the accomplishment. “To punch your ticket to the individual tournament is a big deal. Section 1AA is a tough section to get through and you have to be ready. There’s a lot of things that could make or break those state berths and we had to fight to get every one of them.”
Of the 11 qualifiers, the KoMets wound up with five section champions. In each championship match, it featured a wrestler that is getting stronger as the season goes along. Jared Johnson took home the 113-pound title with an impressive 9-0 decision over Cooper Peterson (Cannon Falls) while Bennett Berge took home the 138-pound championship with a 6-4 decision over Simley’s Antonio Everett.
Dalton Andrist earned a 2-0 decision over Simley’s Jacob Hageman for the 160-pound title and Patrick Kennedy breezed past Dustin Dittrich of Plainview-Elgin-Millville for the 182-pound title. Rounding out the champions for K-M was the red-hot Jim Paulson, who scored a pin over Riley Wingert that sent the KoMet faithful into a frenzy during the 195-pound match.
But for all the championships that the KoMets took home on last Saturday, the other wrestlers that qualified were just as impressive. Heidt mentioned Tanner Paulson, who finished second in the 132-pound bracket as an example of how the hard work over the course of the year can pay off.
“It was great seeing Tanner make it,” Heidt said. “He put a full year of hard work in after not being on the team last year and being an alternate. You could just see that work and determination through the year pay off for him.”
In addition to Paulson, Logan Vaughan (106 pounds), Robby Horsman (120 pounds), Ethan Shea (170 pounds), Garsen Schorr (220 pounds) and Brett Paulson (285 pounds) all made the cut with many more deserving wrestlers falling just short including Nic VanOort (145 pounds) and Matthew Harfmann (126 pounds) each earning fifth place finishes.
“I think it’s great to see all of our seniors that competed make the state tournament together, but we had other guys that could have made it too,” Heidt said. “Will Jensen was one of those guys that’s not on the team, but I think he could have made it through if there was a spot for him.”
The success at the section tournament is a kickoff for what awaits the KoMets this week at the Xcel Energy Center. They’ll take part in the Class AA dual tournament for the eighth time in the past nine seasons when they take on Totino Grace in the quarterfinals at 11 a.m. Thursday with the semi-finals (3 p.m.) and finals (7 p.m.) taking place later in the evening.
“They’ve got some good individuals,” Heidt said of Totino-Grace. “A lot of these teams at the state tournament, you may not see them as much during the year except for maybe the Christmas Tournament. Historically, they’ve had a good team and they always produce a lot of individuals that are coming in ready to wrestle. They won their section, so they’ve had success and we just have to be ready to go for that first dual.”
After running through the Class AA bracket on Thursday, the 11 K-M wrestlers who qualified last weekend will hit the mat looking for an individual championship. Most of the KoMets find themselves seeded highly including Kennedy, who is the top seed at 182 pounds. However, the mantra will remain the same as the KoMets will take things slowly and one match at a time.
“It’s just the little things,” Heidt said. “We’ve been spending these three days [leading up to the tournament] just getting ready and relaxed. We want to take care of the things we can control and when we get there Thursday morning, we will focus on that first dual. You’re just focused on wrestling hard, scoring points and if we dot hat as a team, everything else will take care of itself.”