Wrestlers earn trip to state meet
On Saturday, the Hastings wrestling team won three dual meets to advance to the state tournament.
It wasn’t easy for Hastings, though. Hastings was supposed to wrestle its quarterfinal match here on Thursday of last week against the winner of the dual between Winona and Austin. The team from Austin, though, got caught in some bad weather and had to cancel its trip. That meant Hastings would have to wrestle its quarterfinal match early Saturday morning in Rochester, then wrestle against in the semifinals and then yet again in the finals.
“The kids didn’t let it bug them,” coach Josh McLay said. “They went there Saturday just on a mission. When I stepped on the bus, I could tell they were ready to rock.”
Hastings had no trouble dispatching Austin, winning the opening match 63-18.
Hastings then beat Rochester Mayo in another blowout, 70-12.
That set up the section title match against Owatonna, a match that figured to be a true test for the Raiders.
Last year, Owatonna beat Hastings in the section title match by just two points. This time around, Hastings won 33-24.
Hastings led just 21-18 after the 182-pound match, and that’s when McLay sat down with Cullin Brendeland and Tony Lodermeier, who were the next two Hastings wrestlers scheduled to take the mat.
McLay knew that Owatonna’s heavyweight was ranked No. 1 in the state, and he figured Hastings was going to have a tough time competing in that one. That made the matches by Brendeland at 195 pounds and by Lodermeier at 220 even more important.
“We couldn’t leave it up to heavyweight,” McLay said. “I talked to those guys, and told them the match was on their shoulders. ‘You have a chance to be a hero for your team. Your community. You’re going to make this happen. You’ve done everything right. Just go out there and perform and make it happen.’”
Brendeland must have heard every word. He earned a big pin at 3:13 to give Hastings a 27-18 lead.
“Cullin put that kid to his back and stuck him,” McLay said.
Then it was Lodermeier’s turn, and he followed suit, earning a pin at 2:59 to give Hastings a 33-18 lead.
“Tony’s been such a leader on this team, on and off the mat,” McLay said. “I felt at ease with the dual being on his shoulders. He went out there and got a pin and iced it.”
Wins were also recorded by Adam McSorley, Luke Rowh, Jake Anderson, Jake Johnson, Stuart Mattison and Dan Marquette.
There were several highlights at the team competition on Saturday.
First, the tournament marked the return of senior captain Luke Rowh, who missed the last month of the season with a broken ankle.
“We didn’t know if we’d have him back,” McLay said. “He got cleared to come back. He goes out there and tears it up. He battled non-stop. For him to go out there and wrestle like he did, it was a great motivation boost.”
Rowh went 3-0 on the day, including two pins.
Dan Marquette, another senior captain, had an amazing day, too. He had two pins and a technical fall.
“He is wrestling lights-out,” McLay said.
Also finishing the day undefeated for Hastings were: McSorley (3-0), Jake Anderson (3-0), Jake Johnson (2-0), Stuart Mattison (2-0), Brendeland (2-0) and Lodermeier.
State meet details
Hastings will wrestle at the Xcel Energy Center on Thursday, Feb. 27, in the team competition. Their first match will be at 9 a.m. against Willmar. Hastings is the No. 4 seed and Willmar is the No. 5.
Hastings enters the tournament with a 26-8 record, while Willmar is 19-3.
The team competition continues with a match at 1 p.m. Hastings will likely face No. 1 seeded Apple Valley in that match.
The No. 2 seeded team is St. Michael-Albertville and No. 3 is Prior Lake.
Hastings will wrestle in the individual section tournament this weekend in an attempt to qualify as many individuals as possible for the state meet.
McLay is hoping for as many as nine qualifiers, but concedes that a more realistic number will be about six or seven.
“I always estimate high,” he said. “I believe in our kids so much. I think we could have up to nine guys going. Our kids are wrestling so well. I hope they don’t’ get complacent – I want them to stay hungry. Sometimes, when your team makes it, they’re not as hungry to make it individually. I hope that doesn’t happen, and I don’t think it will.”