Hastings Raiders wrestling team returns to state!

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The Hastings Raiders wrestling team returns to the Minnesota State High School League's team state wrestling tournament for the third straight year after winning the Section 3AAA championship. The Raiders beat Cretin-Derham Hall, East Ridge and Eagan on their way to the section championship. The dual against Eagan came down to the Raiders needing a pin by junior heavyweight Luke Chamberlain to advance and he came through. Hastings beat CDH 69-3, East Ridge 39-22 and Eagan 28-25.

Cretin-Derham Hall and East Ridge

Against Cretin Derham Hall, Hastings won 13 out of 14 matches. John and Paul Kendall, Matt Myers, Mac Wilson, Riley Zietlow, Corbin Leflay, Alex O'Connor, T.J. Pottinger, Trey Rogers and Chamberlain all won by fall. Drake Guck, Jesse Mimbach and Croix Mader won by decision.

Hastings faced a young but solid East Ridge squad in the semifinals. The Raptors feature ranked wrestlers at 113, 120, 132 and 220 pounds. The Raiders won nine matches and while they took some lumps in the lower weights, their upper weights once again helped them to come back from behind. John and Paul Kendall won by decisions at 106 and 126 respectively as East Ridge's lower weights helped them build a 10-6 lead. Three straight wins from Wilson, Leflay and O'Connor helped Hastings cut the Raptors lead to 19-18. Hastings then won the last four matches with pins from Pottinger, Rogers and Chamberlain, and a decision by Guck, to win 39-22.

Eagan

The match against the Wildcats was as close as they come. Kendall started the Raiders off right with a win by decision to give Hastings a 3-0 lead. A loss by Mader tied the match for Eagan, but then Paul Kendall won 9-3 to make it 6-3 Hastings. The Raiders then lost four straight matches to fall behind 20-6. Leflay won by decision to make it 20-9, but then O'Connor lost by decision to bring the lead back to 23-9. Once again, the Hastings upper-weights helped anchor the team and won four out of the last five matches.

Godswill Pepple won 10-9 at 170 and Pottinger and Rogers both won by tech fall at 182 and 195 pounds respectively. After those three wins, the Raiders trailed 23-22 with two matches left. Guck battled at 220 pounds and his match went into overtime, but he ended up falling 9-7 and the Wildcats led 26-22 with one match left.

Chamberlain needed a tech fall or pin to win, with a pin being more realistic. Throughout the season he had been in and out of the varsity lineup but had come on of late and really wrestled well during team sections. Chamberlain came up big with a pin in the third period to send Hastings to the state tournament.

Hastings travels to East Ridge Friday and Saturday, Feb. 23-24 for individual sections. Team state is Thursday, March 1, at the Xcel Energy Center. The Raiders, who went unseeded, will wrestle second-seeded Anoka in the first round. Individual sections are then the next two days, March 2-3.