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Park Rapids wrestlers took different routes to state tournament

Park Rapids' Danny Pike, Jared Nash, John Drury and Kenny Weaver used runner-up finishes at the Section 8A wrestling tournament at Glyndon Saturday to earn their first trips to the state Class A tournament.

All four took different routes to reach the same destination.

Drury (the No. 2 seed at 189 pounds) and Weaver (the No. 2 seed at heavyweight) won their first two matches to advance to the finals and qualified despite losing in their title matches. Nash (the No. 1 seed at 171) also won his first two matches, but lost in the finals and had to prevail in a true-second match to qualify. Pike (the No. 4 seed at 160) lost his semifinal match and had to battle back to earn a true-second match and a state berth.

All four were hoping to advance to the medal round at the state Class A tournament, which concludes today (Saturday) at the Xcel Energy Center.

Healthy Drury fulfills goal

Drury was determined to qualify for state in his final attempt.

After placing sixth at 160 pounds at the Section 8AA tournament as a sophomore, Drury was forced to miss last year's section tournament because of injuries.

That provided plenty of incentive for the Park Rapids senior this season.

"I felt pretty good about my chances. I thought I had a pretty good shot if I wrestled smart and wrestled the way I had all year," said Drury. "Since I started wrestling, getting to state has always been one of my goals. It was a realistic goal that I could make it this year."

Drury coasted to the finals by pinning Crookston's Justin Altepeter in 2:26 and Badger's Ben Evans in 1:31 last Friday.

Those two wins pitted Drury against top-seeded Kody Lafranier-Sorenson of Frazee, who entered the section tournament ranked No. 3 in the state.

Drury started off well in Saturday's title match with a takedown, but Lafranier-Sorenson responded with a reversal and nearfall for a 5-2 lead after the first period.

Another reversal and two nearfalls pushed Lafranier-Sorenson's lead to 12-3 after the second period before a third-period takedown sealed a 14-3 major decision.

Despite the loss, Drury earned a state berth when Evans pinned Red Lake County Central's Keaton Laymon in the third-place match.

"I started off (the title match) with a takedown, but it went downhill from there," said Drury. "Halfway through my match, I saw that Evans pinned his guy, so I knew I was going. I would have liked to get first, but making it to state is awesome. I was really pumped when I made it."

Drury, who entered state with a 24-5 record, was looking to cap off his senior season with a state medal.

"I'm going to focus and try to place at state," said Drury. "I'm going to wrestle smart and go out there and be confident and aggressive. It's going to be a challenge, but my goal is to finish in the top six and place."

Weaver faces controversy

Weaver took a controversial route to earning his first state berth.

The Park Rapids senior heavyweight started the tournament in routine fashion by pinning Frazee's Devon Drewes in 3:06 in the quarterfinals.

After a scoreless first period in Friday night's semifinals, Mahnomen's Jordan McArthur used an escape and takedown to claim a 3-0 lead over Weaver. However, Weaver responded with a reversal to set up a pin at the 2:36 mark.

That pin was nullified when the officials ruled that Weaver had a false start earlier in the period and the second period had to start over. Weaver recorded three escapes and received a penalty point for stalling, but a takedown by McArthur in the third period gave the Mahnomen heavyweight a 5-4 victory.

Clark protested the match, saying that since the second period started from the beginning, McArthur should have lost his points for the escape and takedown. After a discussion with officials at the Minnesota State High School League, it was decided that McArthur would lose those points and Weaver was awarded a 4-2 victory and a spot in the finals.

In Saturday's title match, Greenbush's Alex Yeager pinned Weaver in 1:35. Yeager entered the section meet as the No. 1-rated wrestler in the state.

Weaver earned his state berth when McArthur defeated Crookston's Nick Merten 4-2 in the third-place match.

"I was in shock that I made it to the finals. I thought I had lost (my semifinal match)," said Weaver. "I was fairly confident (McArthur) would take third and I'd be going to state. It feels great to be going to state. Going to state has been a goal since I started wrestling and it was my No. 1 goal this year. All the hard work was worth it."

Weaver, who carried 23-5 record into his first state appearance, was also looking to earn a spot on the podium.

"I'm happy to be going down there," said Weaver. "I'm going to wrestle hard and try to place. If I wrestle smart, I think I can beat a few guys down there."

Nash rebounds from tough loss

After seeing the 171-pound bracket, Nash was confident he would be wrestling in his first state tournament.

The section's No. 1 seed needed only 37 seconds to pin Mahnomen's Keith Warren in the quarterfinals, but needed a takedown in the third period to seal an 8-6 win over Badger's Timm Ingle in the semifinals. A takedown gave Nash a 2-1 lead after the first period and an escape and takedown pushed the lead to 5-2 after the second period as Nash advanced to the finals.

In the championship match, Frazee's Rick Brandt used a takedown in the third period for a 5-4 win. An escape in the first period, a takedown in the second period and an escape in the third period gave Nash a 4-3 lead before Brandt rallied for the win.

That loss meant the Park Rapids senior had to face Crookston's Josh Edlund in a true-second match. Nash dominated that match by building an 11-0 lead before recording a pin at the 3:30 mark to claim a state berth.

"I knew I'd get there. I just had to focus on each match," said Nash, who placed fifth in the section at 145 as a sophomore and fourth at 160 last year. "The pressure got to me (in the finals). He surprised me when he shot in on me and he took me down twice. I was pretty confident I'd win my true-second match because I'd beat him twice this season. I was pretty bummed out that I took second, but getting to state was my main goal."

Nash, who entered the section meet ranked No. 9 in the state, was looking to improve on his 32-6 season record and 93-23 career record at Park Rapids.

"I'm going to stay relaxed because I wrestle my best when I'm relaxed," said Nash. "I'm hoping to beat some guys and place. It will all come down to who comes to wrestle."

Pike faces tough road to state

As the No. 4 seed, Pike had a tough road to travel to reach his destination of a state berth.

"I knew it would be a long journey, but I knew I had a good chance," said Pike. "I'm happy it all worked out."

After opening the section tournament by pinning Crookston's Cody Osland in 1:16, Pike was thrown into the wrestlebacks with a 20-5 technical fall loss to Dilworth's Shawn Johnson in the semifinals. Johnson entered the section meet ranked No. 5 in the state.

On Saturday, Pike pinned Fertile's Kyle Jadeke in 1:55 and Osland in 2:31 to earn a true-second match against Frazee's Brandon VanWatermulen, who lost a 13-5 decision to Johnson in the finals.

The true-second match for the other state berth was a battle. VanWatermulen opened with a takedown before an escape and takedown gave Pike a 3-2 lead after the first period. VanWatermulen opened the second period with an escape, but Pike countered with a takedown for a 5-3 lead. VanWatermulen almost ended the match with a nearfall in the third period, but a reversal gave Pike a 7-6 lead. VanWatermulen escaped in the closing seconds to tie the match and force overtime.

After neither wrestler scored in the first overtime, Pike elected the down position and escaped during a 30-second overtime to claim an 8-7 lead. Pike then kept VanWatermulen down for 30 seconds to prevail and advance to state.

"I knew it would be a close match," said Pike. "It was intense. We were both exhausted. It came down to who wanted it more."

Pike, who entered state with a 29-7 record, was also looking to cap his junior season with a few wins at state.

"My main goal this year was to make the state tournament," said Pike. "My ultimate goal would be to win state, but I'd be really happy to win a few matches. I've got nothing to lose. I'm going to give it my all and hopefully place."