ST. PAUL — Two Ponies at different points of their of their prep careers landed in the same spot on the medal stand Saturday as eighth-grader Christian Bahl and senior Austin Jordan each placed fourth in the Class AAA state wrestling tournament at the Xcel Center.
Stillwater qualified a school record eight wrestlers for state, but this marked just the second time in the past 10 years the team has produced two placewinners in the same season.
“They were our better wrestlers all year and going in they were the two we thought had the best chance to place,” Ponies coach Rich Keller said. “A lot of things need to fall into place for you to win it, but some good things happened for them. It was pretty typical, you’re going to get some good draws and some draws you have to be ready to wrestle and just hope you can get a little bit of luck and can wrestle hard and win a couple of matches down there.”
Bahl (34-12), who lost both of his matches while competing at state a year ago, posted a 3-2 record to capture his fourth-place medal at 106 pounds and Jordan (39-8) matched that showing while competing in his third state tournament at 126 pounds.
“I was a little disappointed with fourth, but kind of proud at the same time,” Jordan said. “It’s better than last year and it shows I improved and everything.”
Jordan advanced to the semifinals with a 9-0 major decision over Nate Mittag in the first round and then toppled Tanner Mills of St. Michael-Albertville 10-5 in the quarterfinals. Mills defeated one of the favorites Ben Brancale of Eden Prairie 9-3 in the opening round. Jordan secured a spot on the medal stand by advancing to the semifinals, where he fell to eventual champion Dustin Weinmann of Irondale 7-3.
With little time to dwell on the defeat, Jordan responded with an 8-2 victory over Logan Crosby of Bemidji before running out of gas in a 17-5 loss against Trent Butcher of Chaska in the third-place match.
“He kept trying a few things to score, but it wasn’t as far out of line as the score might indicate,” Keller said. “(Butcher) wrestled really well and kind of controlled the match.”
It took some outside motivation to help refocus Jordan after losing in the semifinals.
“It took a lot of pep talks from my coaches, because I was discouraged and kind of down in the dumps after losing and knowing there’s no way I’m going to make it to the finals, but you’ve got to pick yourself up and try to bounce back,” Jordan said. “My last match was the toughest for me, knowing it was my last one and just trying to leave it all out there, but I was spent. It takes a toll, definitely.”
Jordan finished his prep career with a 123-46 record to rank No. 4 on Stillwater’s all-time victories list behind Dustin Dahlblom (183-48), Steve Dahlblom (132-57) and Joey Gould (125-32). He is one of just 11 Ponies to eclipse the 100-victory mark in their career.
He hasn’t finalized his college plans yet, but is leaning towards continuing his academic and wrestling careers at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Jordan said. “I’m still kind of in shock that it’s all over, it just hasn’t really hit me that my wrestling career is over and that I wore my shoes for the last time. I’m just trying to enjoy being able to eat.”
Bahl posted 9-0 and 18-7 major decisions while advancing to the semifinals with victories over Grant Brandemuhl of Moorhead and Alex Lloyd of Shakopee. Brad Osatiuk (37-6) of Maple Grove stopped Bahl 9-2 in the semifinals before falling to Taylor Venz (43-2) of Farmington 6-0 in the finals. Like Jordan, Bahl had to regroup quickly after that semifinals loss and squeezed out a 1-0 victory over Jack Bergeland of Centennial to earn the opportunity to wrestle for third place.
In that match, Bahl scored an escape midway through the second period and Bergeland chose neutral for the third but was unable to score against Bahl, who also defeated him 7-6 in the Rochester Holiday Tournament in mid-December. Mitchell McKee (42-4) of large-school state co-champion St. Michael-Albertville then defeated Bahl 6-3 in the third-place match.
“Your goals are higher than fourth place, but the experience of being there and placing was good,” Bahl said. “It gives you motivation to be back again. Being down there as a seventh-grader is kind of a shock. You’re kind of wrapped up in the moment, but coming back as an eighth-grader you’re already in the routine and it wasn’t such a shock and everything that you were doing. That helped me a lot being there last year.
“I didn’t particularly have a bad tournament. Osatiuk was on fire during the tournament and the loss for third place was a tough guy — I just flat out got beat.”
The setback hasn’t shaken his desire to take it even further going forward.
“That was my goal this year to be on the middle mat,” Bahl said. “So watching this year and having two guys in the finals who are workout partners I’ve known forever is really motivating. You want to do everything possible to get there next year.”
Jordan, for one, has no doubts about Bahl’s future in the sport.
“He’ll get to the top of that podium before we know it,” Jordan said. “The kid’s an animal and I’ve got high hopes for him.”
None of Stillwater’s remaining six qualifiers won a match, even though four of the six who lost in the first round received an opportunity in wrestlebacks after their opening opponent advanced to the semifinals.
Competing at 120 pounds, senior Wayde Hall (16-15) lost to eventual fifth-place finisher Ryan Weinmann of Irondale 6-2 and sixth-place finisher Travis Swanson of Cambridge-Isanti in the wrestlebacks.
Junior Dillan Nelson drew a tough opponent in the first round at 132 pounds and dropped a 12-6 decision to Mark Voss (42-6) of St. Michael-Albertville, who went on to place second after losing a one-point decision in the finals. Carson Canedy of Northfield eliminated Nelson, who was competing at state for the third time, with a 9-2 victory in the wrestlebacks.
Making his state debut, senior Matt Riehle (12-8) lost to fourth-place finisher Owen Webster of Shakopee 6-0 in the first round and to fifth-place finisher Jose Rodriguez of Henry Sibley 14-9 in the wrestlebacks.
“I thought Matt Riehle showed a lot of heart,” Keller said. “He had a pretty banged up knee from the section tournament. If it was two seconds more (in the wrestleback, he had that kid flat on his back at the end.”
Haden Hausken (14-24) also wrestled twice for the Ponies at 220 pounds, falling to runner-up Justin Cumberbatch of Alexandria 18-2 in the first round and then getting pinned by Zach Lorang of Rochester Mayo in the wrestlebacks.
Junior Grant Wohlwend (17-13) and senior Sebastian Dingle (28-13) each lost first-round matches for the Ponies while competing at 160 and 182 pounds and did not get an opportunity in the wrestlebacks.
“We told the guys to stand tall and proud,” Keller said. “(The placewinners) and all the kids that went down there, they had a chance to represent Stillwater and be there in the state tournament — that’s a pretty select group that gets to do that. For the underclassmen, we have four kids coming back with Bahl, Nelson, Grant and Haden, it’s great experience that you get to take advantage of.”
The weekend capped what has been an up-and-down season for the Ponies, but the triumphs easily outweighed the distractions.
“As seniors as a whole, I thought this was the best season by far with everything we overcame with kids quitting and there was a bunch of drama,” Jordan said. “For us to set a (school) record with getting eight (state qualifiers) and almost making it as a team and having two state placewinners, we overcame a lot and as a team we bonded and everybody got real close — it’s like a family. You could say it was an intense year, but it was a blast and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
106 — Christian Bahl (3-2, 4th place): major dec. Grant Brendemuhl (Moorhead) 9-0; dec. Alex Lloyd (Shakopee) 18-7; lost to Brad Osatiuk (Maple Grove) 9-2; dec. Jack Bergeland (Centennial) 1-0; lost to Mitchell McKee (St. Michael-Albertville) 6-3.
120 — Wayde Hall (0-2, DNP): lost to Ryan Weinmann (Irondale) 6-2; lost to Travis Swanson (Cambridge-Isanti) 9-3.
126 — Austin Jordan (3-2, 4th place): major dec. Nate Mittag (Willmar) 9-0; dec. Tanner Mills (St. Michael-Albertville) 10-5; lost to Dustin Weinmann (Irondale) 7-3; dec. Logan Crosby (Bemidji) 8-2; lost to Trent Butcher (Chaska) 17-5.
132 — Dillan Nelson (0-2, DNP): lost to Mark Voss (St. Michael-Albertville) 12-6; lost to Carson Canedy (Northfield) 9-2.
138 — Matt Riehle (0-2, DNP): lost to Owen Webster (Shakopee) 6-0; lost to Jose Rodriguez (Henry Sibley) 14-9.
160 — Grant Wohlwend (0-1, DNP): lost to Ryder Schmidt (Mound-Westonka) 8-0.
182 — Sebastian Dingle (0-1, DNP): lost to Matt Njos (Anoka) 7-1.
220 — Haden Hausken (0-2, DNP): lost to Justin Cumberbatch (Alexandria) 18-2; pinned by Zach Lorang (Rochester Mayo) :27.