Wrestling: Raiders are Section 3AAA runners-up
Two weeks from now at the Class AAA team state wrestling tournament will be just the third time in the last eight years that the Hastings Raiders wrestling team will not be competing at state. After three-straight years going to team state, the Raiders fell to the East Ridge Raptors 38-25 in the Section 3AAA championship dual on Friday, Feb. 15, at Eagan High School. Since 2012, the only years the Raiders have not made it to state were 2013, 2015 and now this season. Their season will continue next weekend at Bloomington Kennedy High School for the Section 3AAA individual tournament where the top two places in each weight class will advance to the individual state tournament.
Hastings cruised by the Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders in the first round of the section duals last Friday after Cretin-Derham Hall beat St. Paul Central in a play-in dual. Hastings had no trouble with Cretin as they won the first eight matches for a 42-0 lead. Cretin-Derham Hall would take the 160-pound weight class before seniors Alex O'Connor and Cameron Olsen won at 170 and 182 respectively. Cretin-Derham Hall then forfeited the next three weight classes and Hastings won 72-4.
The Raiders faced Eagan in the semifinals and also were able to handle the Wildcats easily. Hastings won the first five matches to lead 27-0. After sophomore Nolan Myers lost at 138, senior Mac Wilson won at 145 by a 5-3 decision. Junior Garrett Beying fell at 152 but then the Raiders got wins from O'Connor and fellow senior Corbin Leflay. Junior Mukhtar Ali fell at 182, senior Godswill Pepple won at 195, senior Brandon Klym was victorious at 220 and junior Brady Schiller lost at 285. Hastings won 54-16.
The general consensus heading into team sections was that a Hastings-East Ridge section championship was the most likely result. Both teams dealt with their fair share of injuries, illness etc during the season but both entered Friday evening at close to, if not full strength. The Raiders got off to a rough start eighth-graders Josh Route and Aiden Erickson lost at 106 and 113 respectively and the Raptors led 8-0. From there, seniors Matt Myers and Lynden Wilson won at 120 and 126 and the Raiders trailed 8-7. Starting at 132, Hastings got into deep trouble is they lost five straight matches, including at 160 where they would have counted on senior Corbin Leflay to get back some much-needed points. However, he could not continue as much and had to injury default which very could have been a dual-swinging result. At that point, Hastings trailed 32-7 with five matches left. Down 25, the Raiders needed to win all the remaining matches by tech fall or fall, an extremely difficult feat. Fritz won by fall at 170 but then O'Connor lost by a 4-2 decision at 182 and the dual was over with three matches left. The final was 38-25 East Ridge.
Next up for the Raiders is individual sections at Bloomington Kennedy High School on Friday, Feb. 22, and Saturday, Feb. 23. The top two wrestlers in each weight class advance to the individual state tournament in the days following team state. Last year, Hastings sent eight wrestlers, six of whom returned this season and will try and get back—junior John Kendall and seniors Paul Kendall, Mac Wilson, Leflay, O'Connor and Luke Chamberlain—while Pepple and several others will also have decent chances of advancing.
The individual state tournament is Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2. All matches are at the Xcel Energy Center.