Wrestlers bring home medals
Park Rapids' Ben Baumgartner, Forrest Drury and Brandon Ritter were looking to bring home medals from the state Class AA wrestling tournament.
All three accomplished that goal with three sixth-place finishes at the Xcel Energy Center Saturday.
Baumgartner survived through the wrestlebacks to finish sixth at 120 pounds while Drury and Ritter won their first two matches en route to placing sixth at 170 and 220, respectively.
Those three Park Rapids wrestlers combined for a 6-1 record on Friday, but went 1-8 during Saturday's finals.
"If you told me before state that we'd bring home three medals, I would have been pretty happy," said Park Rapids head coach Matt Clark. "We had a great Friday, but we had a tough Saturday. You can't complain about winning three medals."
The three state medals were the most for the Panthers since Dick Pike (second), Joe Seigel (third), Mark Costello (third) and Tom Henry (fourth) won four medals in 1970.
Baumgartner battles back
After opening the state tournament with a 4-3 decision over St. Paul Johnson senior Ger Lor, Baumgartner was thrown into the wrestlebacks by being pinned by Stewartville junior Brett Stolarzyk in 2:27 in the quarterfinals. Stolarzyk entered the state meet as the No. 2-ranked wrestler at 120 pounds.
The Park Rapids freshman battled back by defeating Dawson-Boyd sophomore TJ Fulton 9-5 and Monticello senior Eric Bourgeois 5-4.
Baumgartner had to settle for sixth place following a 4-2 loss to Foley senior Tyler Jenson and an 8-7 loss to Adrian junior Jaydan Bullerman.
In Saturday's finals, Rockford sophomore Ty Griffin defeated Scott West senior Luke Betchwars 10-6 in the championship match. Griffin (who is the son of former Park Rapids state qualifier Todd Griffin and the grandson of former Park Rapids wrestling coach Tom Griffin and two-time state qualifier Jerry Holmer) entered as the No. 5-ranked wrestler in the state and ended with a 36-3 record. Betchwars, the No. 3-rated wrestler, finished at 41-5.
In the third-place match, Stolarzyk pinned Jenson in 3:56. Stolarzyk ended his season at 37-7 while Jenson, who was rated No. 10, finished 32-11. Bullerman finished with a 35-9 record.
Baumgartner, who wasn't rated and advanced to state as the Section 8AA champion, concluded his freshman season with a 40-7 record.
Drury fulfills main goal
Drury wanted to conclude his senior season by bringing home a medal in his first appearance at the state tournament.
Winning his first two matches Friday enabled Drury to accomplish that goal.
Drury opened with a 4-2 decision over Foley senior Nick Lefebvre and a 5-4 decision over Plainview/Elgin-Millville senior Garret Miller in the quarterfinals. Lefebvre entered state ranked No. 5 while Miller was the No. 2-rated wrestler at 170.
In the semifinals, Delano junior Mile Hammerlund pinned Drury in 1:49 to deny the Park Rapids senior a spot in the title match. Hammerlund was rated No. 6 entering state.
A 7-4 loss to Scott West senior Nick Dvorak and a 5-3 loss to Caledonia senior Casey Stemper gave Drury sixth place. Dvorak was rated No. 3 entering state.
Simley senior Micah Barnes, who was the No. 1-rated wrestler entering state, capped off a 44-0 season by pinning Hammerlund in 2:57 in the title match. Hammerlund ended the season with a 28-6 record. Miller defeated Dvorak 6-0 for third place. Miller ended at 42-1 while Dvorak finished at 34-11. Stemper ended his season at 33-12.
Drury, who qualified for his first state meet as the Section 8AA champion at 170, ended his senior season with a 37-9 record.
Ritter captures medal
At last year's state meet, Ritter was defeated in his first match and was eliminated from the state Class A tournament.
This year, Ritter was determined to contend for a state title in the state Class AA tournament.
The Park Rapids senior put himself in contention for a state title by defeating Chisago Lakes junior Jonah Westbury 5-2 and by pinning Fairmont senior Jovan Ramos in 5:19 in his first two matches Friday.
Ritter had his chance of winning a state title denied with a 7-6 loss to Totino Grace junior Joe Schiller in the semifinals. Ritter led 6-3 before Schiller used a takedown and nearfall in the final 10 seconds to pull off the win.
Two close losses on Saturday had Ritter settling for sixth place. Monticello senior Nic Grimley edged Ritter 3-2 before Mankato East junior Lincoln Benzkofer edged Ritter 2-1 in the fifth-place match.
Schiller edged Dawson-Boyd junior JD Struxness 6-5 in the title match. Schiller ended the season at 33-11 while Struxness, who was rated No. 3 in the state, finished at 40-4. Grimley defeated Plainview senior Tyler Petit 7-5 for third place. Grimley, who was rated No. 5, ended the season at 34-6 while Petit, who was rated No. 2, ended at 39-4. Benzkofer, who was rated No. 7, finished at 31-7.
Ritter, who qualified for his second state tournament after finishing as the Section 8AA runner-up at 220, ended his senior season with a 27-5 record.