The Hastings Raiders wrestling team continued its dominance of section 3AAA by sending eight wrestlers (out of 14 weight classes) to the individual state wrestling tournament later this week. All but one wrestler placed for Hastings, and the team had four section champions.
The section champions were seniors Trey Rogers at 195 pounds and T.J. Pottinger (182), junior Corbin Leflay (152) and sophomore John Kendall (106). Runners-up were juniors Paul Kendall (120), Mac Wilson (138), Alex O'Connor (160) and Luke Chamberlain (285).
"I just think it shows consistency and it's a tribute to the kids' hard work and the time that they put in," head coach Josh McLay said about sending eight wrestlers on to state. "There's no shortcuts to getting to state, you have to make sure you're putting the time in and these kids do that. A lot of it has to do with the summer training that they get, they come in every single day pretty much all summer and put in a couple hours a day in the weight room and wrestling room."
McLay said that coming out of section seeding meetings, if they have a wrestler seeded one or two they expect them to go to state.
"We had six guys seeded that way and that's a pretty good gauge of what number you should get," he said. "So after the seeding meeting on Wednesday we had six guys seeded top one or two, so I said 'if we get six or more that's awesome'. So getting eight was huge, but it's hard not to think about those other kids who lost a true second match or didn't get one and took third."
One of those who exceeded expectations based on seeding was Alex O'Connor.
"He was seeded fourth, so he beat two kids he wasn't supposed to to get there," McLay said. "That was a great one, he turned around one of his losses from earlier in the year. Super proud of him to turn be able to turn around those losses into wins when it counts and get him to peak at the right time. It was pretty cool to see that happen."
All four champions (Rogers, Pottinger, Leflay and John Kendall) went undefeated with at least two matches. Kendall and Leflay both went 3-0 over the course of two days, with all of Leflays wins coming by fall. Pottinger alson won three matches (two by fall and one by major decision), but without any byes, while Rogers only had two wrestle two matches, which he won by fall as well.
Among the runners-up, Paul Kendall went 3-1, Mac Wilson was 3-1 with a bye and O'Connor was 4-1 with a bye and won a true second match after taking third. Chamberlain was 2-1 with a bye.
The third-place finishers were sophomore Croix Mader (113), junior Lynden Wilson (126), junior Jesse Mimbach (132), junior Godswill Pepple (170) and senior Drake Guck (220). Mader was 3-2 and lost in a true second match to Ryder Rogotzke of of East Ridge. Lynden Wilson was also 3-2 with three straight wins in the consolation rounds and the third-place match, but also lost in a true second challenge.
Mimbach received an opening round bye, won in the quarterfinals but lost in the semifinals. Mimbach won his next two matches and also had a true second match where he lost to Ty Gage of Eagan. Pepple also had a first-round bye, won his next two matches and then lost in the championship match. However, he also fell in a true second match, which dropped him into third place. Guck went 3-2 on the day with a bye and his only loss came to Marco Cavallaro of East Ridge. He won his quarterfinal, consolation semifinal and third-place matches by decision, fall and major decision.
Senior Riley Zietlow won his first-round match by fall over Payton Thao of East Ridge but then lost his next two matches and was eliminated.
Hastings' wrestlers will have a very busy weekend as they participate in both the team and individual state tournaments. Thursday, March 2, is the team state tournament at the Xcel Energy Center. Hastings first wrestles second-seeded Anoka, who many believed had a good chance of upsetting Apple Valley heading into the season. With Apple Valley upset by Shakopee, things are a little murkier. The winner of Hastings and Anoka would go on to wrestle the winner of Stillwater and St. Michael-Albertville. The two days after that, Friday and Saturday, are the individual tournament.