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Smythe, Dravis earned state bids

     Connor Smythe qualified for his fourth and final state meet while Justin Dravis qualified for what he hopes is his first of four state trips last Saturday.

     Smythe advanced to the state Class A boys swimming meet after placing second in the 100-yard backstroke and third in the 100-yard freestyle at the Section 5A meet at Alexandria while Dravis advanced to the state Class A wrestling tournament after winning the Section 8A title at 145 pounds at Glyndon.

     Both Park Rapids athletes were hoping to advance to the finals and bring home state medals as both state tournaments conclude today (Saturday).

Smythe fulfills final mission

     Smythe was confident that he would cap off his senior season with another trip to the state meet.

     As a freshman, Smythe helped the 200-yard medley relay advance to state and helped the Panthers send the 200 freestyle relay team to state the last two seasons. Smythe also qualified for state the last two seasons in the 100 backstroke, placing 16th in 57.47 as a sophomore and earning all-state honors by placing eighth last season with a 56.21, which set a school record.

     Entering his final section meet, Smythe was looking to return to state in the 100 backstroke, qualify for the first time in the 100 freestyle and help a relay team earn a state berth. Even though the Panthers fell short in qualifying a relay team, Smythe was able to advance to state in two events.

     “I was hoping for another state trip,” said Smythe. “I wanted to go back in the backstroke and make it in the freestyle and I wanted to help bring a relay down, too, but that didn’t happen.”

     The Park Rapids senior put himself in position to advance to state during last Friday’s preliminaries.

     In the 100 freestyle, Smythe entered as the No. 5 seed with a time of 52.13 and finished third with a 50.62. Fergus Falls’ Cal Mouritsen took first in 49.33 while Alexandria’s Max Jacobson was second in 50.50. Melrose/Sauk Centre’s Brent Blommel was fourth in 51.03.

     Smythe entered the 100 backstroke as the No. 4 seed with a time of 58.99, but moved up to the No. 2 spot with a 56.56, which was easily under the state-cut time of 58.57. Fergus Falls’ Joe Kitzman led the way with a 53.84 while Fergus Falls’ Conner Hatfield was third in 56.70.

     Both those races gave Smythe plenty of confidence entering the finals.

     “I was pretty happy I dropped time in the freestyle and ended up third,” said Smythe. “I felt really confident in the backstroke. I was the No. 4 seed, but I knew I’d finish higher than that. I knew where I had to finish, so I saved a little bit. But I still had a good time.”

     In the finals, Smythe completed his quest by qualifying in both races.

     Smythe held his spot in the 100 freestyle, dropping his time to a 50.23 for third place. Cal Mouritsen took first in 46.78 and Jacobson was second in 49.85 while Fergus Falls’ Dalton Mouritsen was a distant fourth in 51.14.

     “I was a little nervous in the 100 free,” said Smythe, who moved into the No. 4 spot in school history behind Jonah Winter’s 49.94, Gerry Schwartz’s 50.05 and Sam Goebel’s 50.19. “I swam even faster and dropped time from the first day.”

     Securing a state berth took some of the pressure off in the 100 backstroke, where Smythe clocked a runner-up 56.19 to break his own school record and lock up another state berth. Kitzman took first in 53.84 while Hatfield was third in 56.70.

     “I wasn’t really nervous in the backstroke. I was already two seconds under state cut and a second ahead of the third-place guy,” said Smythe. “I just swam my race. I was hoping to go faster, but I went faster than the first day.”

     “Connor had a good first day and he capped it off on Saturday,” said Park Rapids head coach Todd Fritze. “He’s got experience down there, so that will help him. But you can’t wish for it. You have to go out and do it.”

     Smythe entered his final state meet looking to advance to the finals in both events and bring home another state medal.

     “I want to make it to the second day in both events,” said Smythe, who was seeded 14th out of 20 swimmers in the 100 freestyle and tied for eighth out of 26 swimmers in the 100 backstroke. “I’m sitting pretty good. I want to drop .3 seconds in the 100 free and beat Jonah’s record and I want to get down to a 55, break my record in the 100 back and get another state medal.”

Dravis earns first state trip

     Dravis entered his third section tournament confident of earning his first trip to state.

     As a seventh-grader, Dravis placed sixth at 138 at the Section 8AA meet and compiled a 16-8 record in his varsity debut and followed by going 26-12 and placing fifth at 145 last season.

     Entering this year’s Section 8A meet, Dravis was the No. 2 seed and opened by pinning Trent Dufault of Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton in 37 seconds in the quarterfinals.

     That set up a semifinal match with Badger/Greenbush/Middle River’s Cory Hasbrouck, who was the No. 3 seed and ranked No. 10 in the state Class A poll.

     Hasbrouck recorded a takedown to take a 2-0 lead after the first period. Dravis responded with a takedown to start the second period before an escape gave Hasbrouck a 3-2 lead. Dravis opened the third period with a reversal for a 4-3 lead, but a clasping call on Dravis tied the match at 4-4 and forced overtime. A takedown in overtime gave Dravis a 6-4 decision and a spot in the championship match.

     In the finals, Dravis faced No. 1-seeded Kody Lefebvre of Mahnomen-Waubun. Lefebvre opened the match with a quick takedown before both wrestlers exchanged reversals as Lefebvre carried a 4-2 lead into the second period. Dravis opened the third period with a nearfall before recording a pin at the 3:00 mark for a trip to state.

     “I was pretty confident. I knew I’d either win my semifinal match or have a chance at a true-second match,” said Dravis. “I lost to Hasbrouck 12-7 last year, but I knew I could wrestle with him. I didn’t know a lot about (Lefebvre). I got down right away, but I caught him in a cradle and pinned him.”

     Dravis was looking to cap off his freshman season with at least one win in his state debut.

     “The matches are going to be close,” said Park Rapids head coach Matt Clark. “I can see Justin winning his first match.”

     “Winning my first match is the only thing in my head,” said Dravis, who carried a 30-9 record to state. “I think I have a chance to win my first match. I’m just going to do my best.”