With the Magic wrestling team finishing second at the section meet last week, wrestlers knew they would have to step up individually to earn their chance at wrestling on the mats at Xcel Energy Center this weekend. They did just that. Over the course of two days, Monticello qualified eight wrestlers (the most in the section) for the upcoming individual state tournament.
“We definitely showed up to wrestle this weekend,” said junior Zach Beaumaster, one of the qualifiers. “Everyone was really mad [from team sections], so we just took it out on each individual as the tournament went on.”
The tournament, beginning last Friday, got off to a good start for Monticello. Ten wrestlers won either one or two matches on Friday to qualify for the semifinal round that would be wrestled Saturday morning.
With two people from each weight class going to state, and the option of a true second match, getting to the final of the winners’ bracket isn’t one hundred percent required for a kid to qualify for state, but it makes the process a whole lot easier. So as the Magic got ready to hit the mats Saturday morning, Coach Andy Zigan stressed to the boys that their first match of the day was the big one.
“We told them their finals match was the semis, if you didn’t win the semis you probably weren’t going to qualify for state,” said Zigan. “They took care of business.”
Monticello won 8 of their 10 semifinal matches, and all eight of those winners would eventually qualify for the state tournament.
At 113 pounds Tevin Zavadil used a second-period pin over Obsa Ali (who Zavadil had barely beat at team sections) from Richfield, his third pin of the day, to earn his finals berth.
While Zavadil was pinned in the finals, he was guaranteed second place and a state berth when Ali finished in third.
At 120 pounds, Logan Stiller earned his third state berth, and became Monticello’s lone senior qualifier, when he cruised to the semifinals, then earned two comfortable decisions (7-3, 8-3) in the final two rounds to earn a section championship.
Jack Bourgeois, wrestling at 126 pounds, earned his first career state tournament berth. Bourgeois picked up a late first period pin to extend Monticello’s semifinal dominance. But when the freshman lost in the finals, and third place went to a kid that Bourgeois hadn’t wrestled, he was forced to wrestle one more time to earn his state berth. It proved to be a non-issue. Bourgeois cruised to a 17-3 major decision, earning the title of true second place.
At 138 pounds Zach Beaumaster earned Monticello’s fourth state berth, and second section championship. The junior, making his fourth state tournament appearance, snuck through a tough 1-0 match in the semifinals, setting him up for a dominant 15-4 major decision in the section final.
“Anytime it’s 1-0, you’re really close to anything bad happening,” said Zigan, about one of Monticello’s closer calls. “But [Beaumaster] came out and wrestled a lot better in the finals.”
Jake Berthiaume, wrestling at 145 pounds, continued Monticello’s dominance of the lower weights. Berthiaume was pinned in the final 30 seconds of the section final, but his second-period semifinal pin over the eventual third-place finisher made him Monticello’s fifth qualifier.
Carter Barnes meanwhile earned two quick pins before having to battle to a 2-1 semifinal decision that would prove to be another example of Zigan’s mantra that the semifinals were the most important. Even though Barnes lost in the finals, on a 14-2 major decision, he was granted second place and a state berth at 152 pounds when his semifinal opponent secured third place.
At 170 pounds freshman Seth Gardner navigated a loaded bracket to earn a second-place finish and his second state tournament berth.
“His bracket was definitely one of the tougher brackets,” said Zigan.
Gardner made quick work of it to get to the finals, where he fell in a high scoring 15-11 decision, but was granted a tournament berth and second-place by virtue of the third place winner.
Last, but certainly not least, Magic sophomore Brent Riddle earned the eighth state berth at heavyweight. The Riddler, as he is known by his coaches and teammates, earned two first-period pins to get to the finals, and once there he took care of business with a 6-2 decision, becoming Monticello’s third section champion.
Zigan said that in previous weeks Riddle had taken fourth in a tournament, then third, then second, as he continued to raise his goals to place higher.
“This weekend he said, ‘well, that’s the first time I’ve ever taken first in a tournament,’” said Zigan. “We told him ‘well, that’s a good tournament to take first in.’ ”
And it was a good time for Monticello to exceed expectations, even expectations that have continued to rise after recent years of success. The eight wrestlers Monticello will send to state this year are one more than the seven they sent last year.
“I only thought personally that five of us would make it,” said Stiller. “When eight of us made it, I think we shocked everybody a bit.”
With sections now a memory, and a much more positive one than they were after team sections last weekend, Monticello turns its focus to the state tournament, held this Friday and Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center.
The Magic don’t have any individuals that will be ranked in the top couple seeds at the state tournament, but they do have a lot of kids who have been there before, plus a lot of kids who have already shown they are willing to exceed expectations. They also have a bit of a built-in advantage this year, even if it may not have seemed that way at first.
“We don’t have three hard matches the day before,” said Zigan, in reference to not being at team state. “That puts a beating on your body to have to come back, make weight that day, go to bed and get up to have to wrestle another tough match or two. It’s kind of a blessing in disguise to not have to wrestle team [state] the way they have it formatted.”
Instead Monticello will get down to the tournament Thursday to take in some of the team matches, get ready for weigh-ins and take care of all the detail-oriented stuff such as checking into the hotel and finding meals. Then, they’ll turn their focus to finding success of some sort at the weekend tournament. What that success is, well that depends on the wrestler.
With seven of the eight wrestlers coming back to the program for at least one more year, the state tournament almost becomes the beginning to the next year.
“Hopefully [we] get some wins and we get some guys wrestling late on Saturday,” said Zigan. “But at the end of the day it’s about personal improvement. This is another great opportunity to get better.”
But for one wrestler, this weekend represents the culmination of his career. And Logan Stiller wants to end it in style.
“It’s a little bit more emotional than anything, just knowing that it’s coming to an end. After this weekend I’ll never step on a mat for Monticello again,” said Stiller. “So, I want to win big.”
The first round of the Class AA Individual State Tournament is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Friday morning at Xcel Energy Center. The championship round is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday night. Tickets cost $14 per session for an adult. The individual tournament is made up of four sessions over two days. Passes (a slightly better deal) for all sessions are available at the tournament.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]