John Kyllonen's success during the regular season set him up to qualify for his first state Class AA wrestling tournament.
Kyllonen, who went 21-16 and finished fifth at last year's Section 8AA meet, entered this year's section meet in a perfect position to advance to state as the No. 2 seed at 182 pounds.
The Park Rapids junior accomplished his mission by defeating Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus' Justin Mackenthun 3-2 in the Section 8AA title match Saturday at Fergus Falls.
Kyllonen had no problem advancing to the finals by pinning East Grand Forks' Matt O'Leary in 3:26 in the first round, pinning Thief River Falls' Tyran Jones in 1:22 in the quarterfinals and pinning United Clay Becker's Alex Lindsay in 3:42 in the semifinals on Friday.
That pitted Kyllonen against Mackenthun, the No. 1 seed, in Saturday's final. Those two wrestlers split matches during the regular season with Kyllonen posting a 9-4 decision in a dual meet and Mackenthun winning 13-5 in the Mid-State Conference championship match.
"He beat me pretty bad and I beat him once (this season)," said Kyllonen. "This was the rubber match. I thought I needed to win because I didn't want to have to wrestle a true-second match."
After a scoreless first period, Mackenthun elected the down position for the second period and Kyllonen quickly put Mackenthun on his back for a nearfall. Mackenthun gained a reversal as Kyllonen carried a 3-2 lead into the third period.
Kyllonen elected the down position and avoided giving up any points to advance to state as the section champion.
"In the final match, I told myself that I've worked the whole year for this," said Kyllonen. "It all came down to this. I really wanted to win that match."
Kyllonen will carry a 29-8 record into his first-round match against Waconia senior Max Bullock, who enters Friday's tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul with a 35-7 record. The state tournament concludes Saturday.
"I'm really happy with my season. I accomplished most of my goals. I wanted to get to 30 wins, but hopefully I'll get that at state," said Kyllonen. "My goal was to make it to state. Now I want to go down there and place."
Baumgartner, Sunram just miss state trips
Park Rapids' Ben Baumgartner just missed returning to state while Jared Sunram just missed earning his first trip to state with third-place finishes Saturday.
Baumgartner, who entered as the No. 1 seed at 132 pounds, opened with a bye and a pin over Nick Wamre of United Clay Becker before dropping a 13-11 decision to Perham's Josh Werner in the semifinals. Baumgartner followed with a 12-7 decision over Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus' Nick Gravdahl and a 6-3 minor decision over Cody Weiland of Crookston to finish third. Baumgartner was denied a shot at a true-second match when Werner lost a 5-2 decision to Thief River Falls' Austin Hjelle in the title match.
Sunram, the No. 3 seed at 106, opened with a bye and a pin over Fosston/Bagley's Lane Olson before being pinned by Thief River Falls' Josh Bernier in the semifinals. Sunram rebounded by pinning Roseau's Brett Dale and defeating Fergus Falls' Spencer Sikkink 10-6 to finish third. Sunram also was denied a true-second match when Bernier lost to PL/PR-B's Anthony Phillipson 15-0 in the championship match.
Also placing for the Panthers were Justin Dravis at 145 (fifth) and Chris Baxter at heavyweight (sixth). The other section wrestlers for Park Rapids were Tanner Lewis at 113, Nolan Booge at 120, Logan Johnson at 126, Zach Nelson at 138, Zachary Hocking at 152 and Jeff Dickinson at 170.
106: Anthony Phillipson, Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus, technical fall over Josh Bernier, Thief River Falls, 15-0.
113: Abbot Aho, Fergus Falls, technical fall over Stephen Holecek, Thief River Falls, 16-0.
120: Tyler Giza, Fergus Falls, major decision over Brett Jerome, Roseau, 12-3. True second: Tae Malone, Thief River Falls, minor decision over Jerome 8-6.
126: Blake Miller, Staples-Motley, minor decision over Noah Bernier, Thief River Falls, 7-3. True second: Bernier pinned Casey Warner, Roseau, 3:37.
132: Austin Hjelle, Thief River Falls, minor decision over Josh Werner, Perham, 5-2.
138: Luke Sailer, Perham, minor decision over Zach Baker, Detroit Lakes, 9-5. True second: Baker minor decision over Mason Swegarden, United Clay Becker, 9-7.
145: Parker Jackson, Detroit Lakes, minor decision over Drey Loge, Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus, 5-1. True second: Loge minor decision over Colin Neitzke, Perham, 4-1.
152: Nathanael Holecek, Thief River Falls, minor decision over Dane Ringquist, Fergus Falls, 7-2.
160: Holden Nelson, Thief River Falls, major decision over Blake Bergeron, Crookston, 9-1. True second: Bergeron pinned Cole Schmitz, Perham, 3:18.
170: Jordan Heldman, Staples-Motley, pinned Trevor Pederson, Roseau, 1:00. True second: William Parks, Perham, pinned Pederson 2:11.
182: John Kyllonen, Park Rapids, minor decision over Justin Mackenthun, Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus, 3-2. True second: Gus Makovsky, Fergus Falls, minor decision over Mackenthun 7-6.
195: Josh Edlund, Crookston, minor decision over Matthew Pepper, United Clay Becker, 5-3.
220: Cody Nylander, Perham, pinned Tyshawn Brown, Thief River Falls, 2:31. True second: Brown pinned Jordan Murphy, Fosston/Bagley, 3:47.
285: Chris Kucera, Thief River Falls, pinned Jared Adkins, Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus, 5:00. True second: James Huwe, Detroit Lakes, pinned Adkins 3:14.
Park Rapids results
Jared Sunram (106): bye; pinned Lane Olson, Fosston/Bagley, :49; pinned by Josh Bernier, Thief River Falls, 4:09; pinned Brett Dale, Roseau, 2:39; won minor decision over Spencer Sikkink, Fergus Falls, 10-6 (3rd).
Tanner Lewis (113): bye; pinned by Abbot Aho, Fergus Falls, 1:48; pinned by Tristen Molden, Fosston/Bagley, 3:23.
Nolan Booge (120): pinned Jacob Swendsrud, Staples-Motley, :45; lost minor decision to Brett Jerome, Roseau, 4-2; pinned Jarrett Lange, United Clay Becker, 2:00; lost minor decision to Chase Curtis, Perham, 8-6.
Logan Johnson (126): pinned by Gabe Hanson, Fosston/Bagley, 2:37; bye; lost major decision to Casey Warner, Roseau, 12-2.
Ben Baumgartner (132): bye; pinned Nick Wamre, United Clay Becker, :56; lost minor decision to Josh Werner, Perham, 13-11; won minor decision over Nick Gravdahl, Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus, 12-7; won minor decision over Cody Weiland, Crookston, 6-3 (3rd).
Zach Nelson (138): pinned by Zach Baker, Detroit Lakes, :28; bye; pinned by Jace Loge, Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus, 1:52.
Justin Dravis (145): bye; lost minor decision to Jayden Sikorski, Roseau, 17-15; pinned Clarke Peterson, East Grand Forks, :30; pinned Sam Manecke, Fosston/Bagley, 1:31; lost minor decision to Colin Neitzke, Perham, 12-5; pinned Sikorski 1:48 (5th).
Zachary Hocking (152): pinned by Jarett Nosal, Detroit Lakes, :18; bye; pinned by Osmund Miller, Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus :13.
Jeff Dickinson (160): pinned by Eli Deziel, East Grand Forks, 3:59; bye; won minor decision over Nick Vig, Fosston/Bagley, 9-5; pinned by Walker Heinen, Fergus Falls, 5:22.
John Kyllonen (182): pinned Matt O'Leary, East Grand Forks, 3:26; pinned Tyran Jones, Thief River Falls, 1:22; pinned Alex Lindsay, United Clay Becker, 3:42; won minor decision over Justin Mackenthun, Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus, 3-2 (1st).
Chris Baxter (285): bye; pinned by James Huwe, Detroit Lakes, :31; pinned Jesse Bucholz, Perham, 1:49; won minor decision over Evan Deziel, East Grand Forks, 5-3; pinned by Luke Juve, Fosston/Bagley, 2:00; pinned by A.J. Biermaier, Crookston, 1:05 (6th).