The Magic wrestlers knew they needed a few breaks to go their way if they were going to make their third consecutive state tournament appearance this year. In the section semifinal match Friday, they got a couple of those all-important breaks. But, when they ran into top-seed Totino Grace in the section final, there were none left to be found.
The Eagles handed the Magic a 50-20 defeat, ending Monticello’s two-year reign atop Section 5AA.
“We wrestled well on Friday,” said Coach Andy Zigan. “We just ran into Totino. They were the better team that night, that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Monticello, which has been battling multiple injuries down the stretch, knew they needed to gain some steam with the lower portion of their lineup, by racking up not only wins, but bonus points.
The Eagles didn’t let that happen. With Logan Stiller out due to a back injury suffered earlier in the night, Monticello won just two of their first five matches. All three losses were pins, while the wins were only majority decisions – earned by Tevin Zavadil (2-1 on the night) and Jack Bourgeois (3-0).
Even after Monticello got wins from Zach Beaumaster (who joined the 100 win club on the night) and Jake Berthiaume (became the 15th member of the Monticello 100 win club a couple weeks prior), the Magic still trailed 18-14 after wrestling all the way through the portion of their lineup that they felt best about.
“We were good down low, we knew they were better up top,” said Zigan. “But they didn’t give up bonus points where we needed to get bonus points.”
That led to the match gradually sliding away during the second half, with the only Magic victory coming on a first-period pin by freshman Seth Gardner.
But in the end, all was not lost for the Magic. They had positive memories from beating a quality Benilde St. Margaret team in the semifinals, and they gained experience they hope will carry them through individual sections this weekend.
Monticello earned a 41-21 win over BSM, with the tone of the match being set just four minutes in.
Carter Michaels, an eighth-grader who was called up just a couple of weeks ago, took to the mat for the Magic, still looking for his first varsity win that didn’t come via forfeit. He trailed through much of the first period, but as the period wound to a close, Michaels pulled off a beautiful reversal and earned a near-fall, giving him a 6-2 lead heading into the second period.
With bonus points at a premium, Michaels didn’t just sit on that lead. Instead, now in the second period and with time again waning, Michaels got his opponent on his back. As the seconds ticked from 3 to 2 to 1, finally a whistle. A pin for the eighth-grader, just fractions of a second before the end of the second period.
The crowd, knowing full well it was his first true varsity win, erupted. The moment provided not only a tangible scoring boost for the Magic, but also a huge shift of momentum.
“We told Carter if he doesn’t get pinned it saves points for us,” said Zigan, who had been used to taking a forfeit at the 106 weight class for most of the year. “Him getting a pin was kind of a 12-point swing. That was a huge, huge match for us, as far as confidence wise and making everyone feel good.”
The match stayed close for a while, but with Benilde needing to take a couple forfeits in the heavier weights, the writing was on the wall that the Magic were in control after the opening match.
The last two years, individual sections haven’t held too much pressure for the Magic. For wrestlers aspiring to win a state championship, individual sections were still all-important. But for individuals who just wanted to wrestle at state, well they were already assured of doing that with the team. That changes this year. As Monticello heads to Fridley Friday and Saturday for the two-day section tournament, the wrestlers know they have to earn their own way down to the state meet.
“They don’t have that safety net to fall into,” said Zigan. “So, we just talked about, it’s all on your shoulders now, how bad do you wanna go?”
For most wrestlers, the answer is pretty bad. Five of them (Stiller, Beaumaster, Berthiaume, Carter Barnes and Seth Gardner) will be looking to make repeat appearances at the ‘X’. Beaumaster will be looking for a fourth straight performance. Others will be look for their first showing. All will be looking to exact a little revenge.
“There’s not much we can do now that we lost [at team sections],” said Zavadil, a captain. “But I guess our goal now would be to send more individuals than Totino.”
To do that, the Magic individuals will need to learn from mistakes that may have been made at team sections. With 8 to 12 wrestlers in every bracket, and only the top two finishers advancing to state, there is little room for error at the individual tournament.
They’ll also study their opponents, to see what has worked and what hasn’t worked in the past.
“You can prepare all week for it,” said Berthiaume, the other Magic captain. “You have a whole nother week to figure out what they’re going to be doing and find ways to beat that.”
The individual section tournament is held at Fridley High School. It begins Friday and continues through Saturday.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com