It is a gauntlet. Three of the top four ranked teams in Class A in wrestling all resided in section 1A, #2 Caledonia /Houston, #3 Chatfield, and #4 Dover-Eyota. Cal/Hou’s 1A tourney run wasn’t without its tense moments (Chatfield in the finals). The Warriors endured and are heading to state for the first time since 2016.
After downing Triton 64-12 in the quarters (See “Wrestling”), the #2 Warriors semifinal foe was #4 Dover-Eyota (4-seed, 19-4). Caledonia (1-seed, 30-6) won the regular season dual 34-28. The post-season match went about the same way. Cal/Hou dominated early, taking 113 (Hunter Frank 17-2 tech fall), 120 (#4 Braxton Lange pin), 126 (Tanner Ginther 8-6 decision), 132 (#3 Owen Denstad pin), 138 (#7 Cory Scanlan 11-5 decision), and 145 (#2 Tucker Ginther 19-4 tech fall) to lead 28-3. Scanlan’s win was over #4 at 132 Bolton Thesing. The Eagles got their wins from their big studs at 152 (#1 Brodie Kellen pin), 160 (#1 Gavin Gust 19-4 tech fall over #4 at 152 Isaac Blocker), and 170 (#4 Landon Lehnertz 6-2 decision over #7 at 160 Simon Seymour). D-E got as close as 28-17, but Warriors Aden Kulas (182) and Eric Mauss (195) then notched 2-1 and 6-3 decisions to make it academic at 34-17. D-E won the last two, but the Warriors downed the defending section champs 34-29.
Meanwhile, #3 Chatfield (2-seed, 15-2) beat FCLMC 51-24 in the quarters (see “Wrestling”) to set up their semifinal dual with Kenyon-Wanamingo (3-seed, 26-4). Chatfield never trailed. The first nine matches went the distance, seven to decision. The Gophers won bouts in groups of two. Javier Berg (#1 at 106) and Kaisen Johnson (113) started things with 10-3 and 7-4 decision wins. At 126 and 132, #6 Gage Bartels (11-3 major decision over #10 at 113 Masyn Hanson) and Alden Pearson (4-2 decision in SV-1) then continued the trend for a 13-4 lead. K-W took 138 and 145 by decision, the latter another OT match (Trent Foss 8-6 in SV-1 over #9 Ayden Miner). Chatfield’s lead was cut to 13-10. At 152 and 160, #6 at 145 Carson Rowland (6-3 decision over #9 Dillon Bartel) and Jack Dornack (3-1) notched back-to-back decision wins, making it 19-10. K-W took 170 by fall. They were penalized a point for unsportsmanlike conduct. Chatfield then took 182 (Thad Evans 1-0 decision via a third period escape) and 195 (#2 at 182 Kail Schott pin) to lead insurmountably 28-15. K-W won 220 by pin (28-21). The penalty point made 285 inconsequential. Gopher Bralyn Burnett won by fall anyway. Chatfield won 34-21.
That set up a third dual between the #3 Gophers (2-seed, 16-2) and #2 Warriors (1-seed, 31-6). Cal/Hou won twice in the regular season. They had to sweat in the third. Chatfield won three of the first four weights to lead 14-4. The Warriors then took the next three to lead 16-14. But when #6 at 145 Carson Rowland beat #4 Isaac Blocker at 152, Gopher momentum started to grow. Rowland led 7-2 after two, and barely avoided a head-lock pin in the third, as Blocker closed to down 8-7. But Rowland notched a reversal and went on to the thrilling 12-9 decision win. Gopher
Jack Dornack (160) then knocked off #7 Simon Seymour 5-3 in sudden victory for another huge win. Cal/Hou won 152 and 160 in both regular season matches. Gopher Thad Evans (170) followed with a 10-2 major. The Warriors were sweating, as the Gophers led 24-16. Eric Mauss (182) and Aden Kulas (195) ended the Cal/Hou bleeding with 10-3 and 5-1 decision wins, making it 24-22. At 220, it set up a massive match between Chat’s #2 at 182 Kail Schott and Cal’s #2 at 195 Ayden Goetzinger. Neither loses often. Regulation saw only from-bottom escapes. Sudden victory was scoreless. Schott just missed a regulation end-of-period takedown. Goetzinger multiple times was in on a leg. In Schott’s 0:30 overtime period on bottom, he quickly escaped. A bloodied Goetzinger needed to do so too (or better) in his 0:30 from bottom. With 0:02 on the clock, the senior got a reversal for the huge 3-2 decision victory via “tie-breaker.” The dual went to 285, Cal/Hou up 25-24. Grant Ness took on Bralyn Burnett. A much bigger Ness authored a takedown every period. He used his mass to stay on top. His 6-0 decision clinched the win 28-24 and the state tourney bid. Fulfilling their potential, Caledonia (32-6) is 2023 1A wrestling champion. For a second straight year, Chatfield’s section title hopes were crushed at the last possible weight. Warriors #4 Braxton Lange (120 > 11-1 major), #3 Owen Denstad (132 > 26-11 tech fall), #7 Cory Scanlan (138 > 4-2 decision over #9 Ayden Miner), and #2 Tucker Ginther (145 > 14-5 major) had early wins. Top-ranked Javier Berg (106 > pin), Kaisen Johnson (113 > 11-2 major over Hunter Frank), and #6 Gage Bartels (126 > 11-3 major) had Chatfield’s early wins. Johnson and Frank split in the regular season. Chatfield’s strong 1A runner-up season agonizingly ends at 16-3. Only about half their line-up carried over from last year.