Pike, Ritter hoping for medals at state wrestling tournament
Park Rapids' Danny Pike and Brandon Ritter entered the wrestling season with different expectations.
Pike wanted to cap off his senior season by earning another trip to the state Class A tournament while Ritter entered his junior season not thinking about earning a state berth.
Both Park Rapids wrestlers ended the season the same way by qualifying for state with runner-up finishes at last Saturday's Section 8A tournament at Glyndon.
Pike qualified for his second state meet by placing second at 171 pounds while Ritter earned his first state berth by winning a true-second match at heavyweight.
Both wrestlers were hoping to advance to today's (Saturday's) finals at the Xcel Energy Center.
Pike expected state berth
After finishing second at last year's section meet at 160 pounds and qualifying for his first state meet, Pike entered this year's section meet confident of returning to state.
The No. 2 seed at 171 pounds fulfilled that quest by placing second last Saturday.
Pike, who was rated No. 10 at 171 in the latest state Class A poll, opened the tournament by pinning West Marshall's Justin Haugtvedt in 3:37. A takedown in the first period gave Pike a 2-0 lead before a reversal in the second period set up the pin.
In the semifinals, Pike posted a 12-2 major decision over Greenbush's Timm Ingle. After a scoreless first period, an escape and takedown gave Pike a 3-0 lead after the second period. Ingle opened the third period with an escape, but Pike countered with a pair of takedowns and nearfalls for the win and a spot in the finals.
Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton's Shawn Johnson lived up to his No. 1 seed and No. 4 ranking in the latest state Class A poll by defeating Pike with an 18-3 technical fall in the championship match. Johnson led 4-1 after the first period and 11-2 after the second period before ending the match at the 5:40 mark.
Despite that loss, Pike was awarded a state bid when Ingle edged Frazee's Nate Sandberg 3-2 in overtime in the third-place match.
"I thought my chances (of qualifying for state) were pretty good," said Pike. "I was pretty confident I could win my quarterfinal and semifinal matches. Johnson pinned me earlier this season, but I figured (Ingle) would beat (Sandberg) and I'd make it."
Last year, Pike lost his first-round match at state and was eliminated. This year, the Park Rapids senior is looking to advance to the medal round.
"I know what to expect and I know what caliber of wrestling it takes to place. You can't hold back and I'm going to go for it," said Pike, who entered the state tournament with a 34-4 record. "I'm hoping to place. I think my chances are pretty good. If I wrestle good, I definitely think I can do it."
Ritter earned first state bid
Before the section tournament began, Ritter had a tough decision to make.
The Park Rapids 210-pounder could either compete at 215 pounds or heavyweight. Both brackets had two of the state's top wrestlers with Crookston's Brody Davidson (No. 4) and Frazee's Rick Brandt (No. 10) rated at 215 and Greenbush's Alex Yeager (No. 1) and Mahnomen's Jordan McArthur (No. 4) rated at heavyweight.
Ritter elected to move up to the heavyweight bracket. That move paid off with a trip to state.
"Both (brackets) had good guys, but it seemed like I had a better chance of going to state at 285," said Ritter. "It feels great to be going to state. I'm pretty excited."
Ritter, the No. 3 seed, opened the section tournament by pinning Frazee's Brett Gildersleeve in 1:47. A takedown and nearfall set up the first-period pin.
In the semifinals, Ritter faced McArthur, the No. 2 seed in the section. After a scoreless first period, Ritter used a takedown to build a 2-1 lead after the second period. Ritter opened the third period with an escape for a 3-1 lead when McArthur went for a throw. Ritter countered the move and took down McArthur to set up a pin at the 4:55.
"I felt pretty confident I could beat him," said Ritter. "I got myself fired up."
In the championship match, Yeager claimed the section title by pinning Ritter in 56 seconds. When D-G-F's Jake Hanson upset McArthur in the wrestlebacks and defeated Gildersleeve 11-6 in the third-place match, Ritter had to face Hanson in a true-second match for the other state berth.
Ritter pinned Hanson in 1:05 to earn the other state berth. Ritter carried a 23-7 record into his state debut.
"I never thought I'd be able to go to state this year," said Ritter. "I'm going to wrestle my best and do as good as I can. I'm planning on placing. I think I can do it."