ST. PAUL — Making its first state appearance since 2009, the Stillwater wrestling team was stopped by eventual Class AAA state runner-up Anoka 48-13 in the quarterfinals on Thursday, March 2 at the Xcel Energy Center.
Stillwater (20-8) was then dispatched by Willmar 34-27 in a much tighter dual that came down to the final weight class.
Anoka was stopped by Apple Valley 30-24 in the finals as the Eagles claimed their 12th consecutive state championship — and 25th overall since 1983. After knocking off the Ponies, Willmar (18-4) fell to fourth-seeded Owatonna 30-29 in the consolation finals.
“I thought we wrestled well,” Ponies coach Rich Keller said. “(Willmar) lost to Owatonna by a point, so we were right there and that’s encouraging that we’ve got some great things that can continue to happen for us if we keep working.”
Stillwater will graduate just four seniors from its state lineup and five overall from a team that captured its second straight Suburban East Conference title before upending top-seeded Centennial in the Section 4AAA finals.
“We got that goal, and it’s great to go, but we talked with them about going next year and bringing something back,” Keller said. “The group of kids we have coming back have a great chance to accomplish that.”
Reid Ballantyne, who won two matches in the team tournament before winning and individual state title two days later, echoed those sentiments.
“I definitely think that next year we’ll make it to state again and I think we’ll win a few matches and place,” Ballantyne said. “That’s the next big team goal we could have.”
The Ponies jumped out to a fast start in both matches. Ballantyne pinned Jack Roehl of Willmar in 1:13 at 106 pounds and Javon Taschuk followed with a 7-3 triumph over Jonas Anez at 113 pounds, but the Cardinals answered with five straight victories from 120 to 145 pounds to build a 22-9 advantage.
Peter Hagel quieted the momentum with an 8-4 victory over Kaden Streed at 152 pounds, but it was short-lived as Lincoln Shinn of Willmar, who placed fourth in individual competition at 160 pounds, pinned Will Harter in the second period for a 28-12 lead. Harter normally wrestles at 152 pounds, but was bumped up to 160 after teammate Josh Piechowski suffered a broken arm late in the regular season.
“We won those first two, but what killed us was the way they were lined up,” Keller said. “If we win the coin flip I think we win at least two more, but there were some really good matches in that one.
“Hagel won a big match at 152. One of the highlights from the team tournament was to have Peter Hagel win that match, a kid who has worked his career trying to get to the state tournament and does it with the team and wins that big match. He was smiling ear to ear, and that was fun to see kids do that.”
The Ponies strung together four straight victories to pull within 28-27, but Willmar heavyweight Brady Reigstad — who placed third in individual competition — pinned Tommy Flores to preserve the victory for the Cardinals.
Flores was put into a tough spot while filling in for Tyler Olson, who suffered a knee injury in the opening match of the tournament and was unable to compete against Willmar or during the individual state tournament the following day.
“Tyler got dinged up on his knee so we weren’t going to put him in there against the No. 2-ranked kid in the state,” Keller said. “Then the doctor pulled him out of everything.”
Kevin Thole recorded a 6-3 victory for the Ponies at 170 pounds and James Huntley followed with a 17-2 technical fall at 182 pounds. Will Gleason scored a 9-0 major decision over Josiah Swanson at 195 pounds and Connor Weiss held off Andrew Reigstad 2-1 at 220 pounds.
Anoka finished with six medalists from among its eight individual state qualifiers and was a tall order for the Ponies, who also qualified eight for the individual state tournament.
Stillwater received an early boost from Taschuk with an 8-3 win at 106 pounds and Ballantyne followed with a 7-2 victory over Riley Emery at 113 pounds.
“With Javon and Reid switching back and forth all year — and really team-wise — nobody really complained about moving up and down and doing what’s best for the team,” Keller said. “The unselfishness of that and doing what’s best for the team is fun.”
Anoka, however, reeled off victories in each of the next eight matches to seize control.
“I thought our kids wrestled hard,” Keller said. “We got those first two wins and were competitive in matches that we could compete in.”
James Huntley ended Anoka’s streak with an 11-0 major decision over Jackson Street at 182 pounds and Connor Weiss added a 5-4 overtime victory for the Ponies over Ben Lathlop at 220 pounds.
“Anoka is good and they had a great run, but I thought we competed well,” Keller said.
• This marked the fifth state tournament appearance for Stillwater. Prior to this year, the Ponies also competed at state in 1996, 1997, 2004 and 1009.
Willmar 34, Stillwater 27
106 — Reid Ballantyne (St) pinned Jack Roehl, 1:13; 113 — Javon Taschuk (St) dec. Jonas Anez, 7-3; 120 — Israel Navarro (Wil) dec. Trey Kruse, 12-9; 126 — Josh Miley (Wil) major dec. Andy Constant, 15-1; 132 — Cael Carlson (Wil) pinned Jeffrey Robinson, 4:38; 138 — Clay Carlson (Wil) pinned Porter Estenson, 3:27; 145 — Bryce Erickson (Wil) dec. Jared Christian, 10-8; 152 — Peter Hagel (St) dec. Kaden Streed, 8-4; 160 — Lincoln Shinn (Wil) pinned Will Harter, 3:17; 170 — Kevin Thole (St) dec. Levi Hauser, 6-3; 182 — James Huntley (St) tech fall Howard Zuniga, 17-2; 195 — Will Gleason (St) major dec. Josiah Swanson, 9-0; 220 — Connor Weiss (St) dec. Andrew Reigstad, 2-1; 285 — Brady Reigstad (Wil) pinned Tommy Flores, :18.
Anoka 48, Stillwater 13
106 — Javon Taschuk (St) dec. Parker Debrockey, 8-3; 113 — Reid Ballantyne (St) dec. Riley Emery, 7-2; 120 — Colby Njos (An) pinned Andy Constant, 1:48; 126 — Dylan Droegemueller (An) major dec. Trey Kruse, 8-0; 132 — Scott Springer (An) dec. Jeffrey Robinson, 9-3; 138 — Zach Fritz (An) pinned Jared Christian, 4:23; 145 — Tyler Eischens (An) pinned Peter Hagel, 3:19; 152 — Jason Rollins (An) pinned Thomas Riesselman, 1:58; 160 — Calvin Germinaro-Nahring (An) major dec. Will Harter, 10-2; 170 — Richie Hammonds (An) major dec. Kevin Thole, 14-3; 182 — James Huntley (St) major dec. Jackson Street, 11-0; 195 — Evan DeChene (An) pinned Will Gleason, 3:18; 220 — Connor Weiss (St) dec. Ben Lathlop, 5-4 in OT; 285 — Brandon Frankfurth (An) dec. Tyler Olson, 7-4.
Contact Stuart Groskreutz at [email protected]