Before the Class 3A wrestling state tournament, the 132-pound weight class was considered the toughest, including four-time state champion Reid Ballantyne of Stillwater and three-time champ Derrick Cardinal of Forest Lake. But the top seed was undefeated Zach Hanson Lakeville North.
Ballantyne withdrew before the individual meet because of injury. Cardinal and Hanson lived up to expectations, meeting for the championship. Cardinal, a senior, got an escape in overtime for a 3-2 victory to join the exclusive club of four-time champions.
“It feels really good and satisfying to prove everyone wrong,” said Cardinal, now with a school-record 240 victories.
“When I first moved down to 132, they had me ranked No. 3, behind Reid and Hanson. Then they bumped me up to No. 2. That win over Zach proves that I should have been No. 1 the whole time.”
Cardinal won despite the recurrence of a back injury suffered in December that cropped up halfway through the match.
“I was having a little trouble moving over the last half of the match, but I just pushed through it and got it done,” he said.
• Wayzata 152-pounder Cael Swensen had faced his finals opponent, Eden Prairie’s Bryce Dagel, twice this season, winning both matches. But he knew a third time wasn’t going to be easy.
“He’s pretty strong,” Swensen said. “But nothing stops me from shooting [the legs]. I knew if I kept firing, something would open up.”
It did, but not until overtime, as Swensen wrapped up a 39-0 season with his second consecutive Class 3A individual crown with a 3-1 win.
Swensen’s younger brother, Logan, a freshman, had lost in a similar way in the 106-pound finals, falling to Prior Lake’s Aaron Koehler by an identical score, also in overtime.
“I felt bad for him, but he knows that being a state finalist in your freshman year is a pretty big deal,'' Swenson said. "He got over it pretty quickly.”
Swensen said his finish capped a fulfilling season. “To go undefeated in my senior season and not get taken down all year, I’m really proud of that,” he said.
• The 113-pound final between Shakopee’s Blake West and St. Michael-Albertville’s Caleb Thoennes was a rematch from the morning team final. West won that match 3-1, and his ability to ride and defend against Thoennes’ relentless shooting of the legs showed in the individual final. West, a senior, won 6-2 for his second consecutive state title.
• Coon Rapids’ Gavin Layton soothed a yearlong hurt by winning the heavyweight title with a 7-0 victory over Anoka’s Tyler Nebelung, capping a 32-0 season. Last year, Layton also was undefeated and the favorite in his weight class but got pinned in the finals. Layton was in complete control for the entire match Thursday, careful to avoid a recurrence of a year ago.
• Two wrestlers won their second straight state championships in rematches of 2020. Lakeville North’s 120-pounder Jore Volk defeated St. Michael-Albertville’s Landon Robideau, whom he defeated in the 106 final a year ago, 3-1. And Waconia sophomore Max McEnelly won the 182-pound championship, beating Gabe Nagel of Little Falls 3-2. Both McEnelly and Nagel went into their final undefeated. McEnelly finished the season 37-0.
• A COVID-related exposure that put the New Prague season on hold for about two weeks didn’t faze 126-pounder Koy Buesgens and 145-pounder Nick Novak. Buesgens defeated St. Michael-Albertville’s Parker Janssen 5-0 to win his first state championship. Novak got a 15-0 tech fall to defeat the Knights’ Jed Wester.
— Janssen’s loss was the third consecutive finals loss for St. Michael-Albertville wrestlers. The Knights’ unfortunate streak of runner-up finishes ended when Cole Becker defeated Anoka’s Brandon Howes 5-2 at 138 pounds.
• While Ballantyne wasn’t able to win another title, two Stillwater wrestlers did. Hunter Lyden, last year’s champion at 152, won at 170 pounds and Roman Rogotzke, defending champion at 182, won at 195 pounds.
• While the wrestlers appreciated having a state meet, crowds restricted to 250 people at St. Michael-Albertville High School lacked the usual Xcel Energy Center electricity. “It definitely took a lot of the showmanship away,” Wayzata’s Swensen said.
106: Alan Koehler, Prior Lake
113: Blake West, Shakopee
120: Jore Volk, Lakeville North
126: Koy Buesgens, New Prague
132: Derrick Cardinal, Forest Lake
138: Cole Becker, St. Michael-Albertville
145: Nick Novak, New Prague
152: Cael Swensen, Wayzata
160: Landen Johnson, Owatonna
170: Hunter Lyden, Stillwater
182: Max McEnelly, Waconia
195: Roman Rogotzke, Stillwater
220: Jacob Meissner, Osseo
285: Gavin Layton, Coon Rapids