Things didn’t get off to an ideal start for the Magic wrestling team at the state tournament this past weekend. But they couldn’t have ended much better.
Six of the eight Magic state participants were eliminated in the first round, but the two who survived, Logan Stiller and Zach Beaumaster, each advanced to the Saturday evening medal rounds, finishing fourth and fifth respectively.
“It was a fun weekend overall,” said Coach Andy Zigan. “Zach and Logan did a really nice job.”
The weekend started slowly. Friday morning saw losses by Tevin Zavadil (7-2 decision), Jack Bourgeois (11-4 decision), Jake Berthiaume (6-4 decision), Carter Barnes (12-3 decision), Seth Gardner (17-7) and Brent Riddle (8-4 decision).
Any one of those six would have advanced to wrestlebacks if their opponent could win his second round match. None did.
“We didn’t get any help from the [opponents],” said Zigan. “That’s the bummer of the state tournament.”
But it was a reality that the Magic prepped for, and it was the reason that Zigan stressed the importance of the first round to his wrestlers, much like he stressed the importance of the semifinals at the section meet.
“We told them down here your first match is the match,” said Zigan. “You need to get a win so you can guarantee yourself some more wrestling.”
Beaumaster and Stiller took that especially to heart. Beaumaster, who led the team in experience at the tournament, and Stiller, the team’s only qualifying senior, came out fired up and ready to go right away Friday morning.
“The two guys that won probably did the best job of getting themselves warmed up down there,” said Zigan.
In Stiller’s opening match, he found himself pitted against Logan Duffy from South St. Paul. The two 120 pounders had already wrestled twice this year, with each wrestler garnering a close victory. Stiller took the rubber match in convincing fashion, winning 7-1.
“I put the smack down on him [this time],” said Stiller. “It gave me a lot of confidence.”
Meanwhile, Beaumaster, wrestling at 138 pounds, faced off with more of an unknown.
“I knew he was going to be tough obviously,” said Beaumaster. “Because it’s the state tournament.”
But Beaumaster was tougher.
The junior controlled his match from the start, ending up with a 9-0 decision and a guaranteed longer tournament.
“It took off a ton of pressure,” he said.
In the quarterfinal of the champions bracket, both Magic wrestlers came up short. Stiller lost a 5-0 decision, while Beaumaster fell 4-1.
Now each wrestler would have to come back at 8 p.m. Friday for their third match of the day, needing a win if they wanted to advance to Saturday.
They both took care of business in low-scoring decisions. Stiller won 2-1, while Beaumaster didn’t allow a point, winning 3-0.
That set up another big round Saturday morning.
Saturday morning was the point that neither wrestler, in a combined five previous trips to the tournament, had gotten past.
It’s really the determining round. It determines if a wrestler will medal and it determines if a wrestler is All-State.
The Magic wrestlers were determined to capture both. Stiller came through with a 4-3 win at 120 pounds, while Beaumaster continued his streak of not allowing a point, winning a 1-0 nail-biter to advance in his bracket.
That got them to the afternoon match at the X, the one that would determine if they would wrestle for third or fifth place. By Saturday afternoon, and especially into the evening, the energy at the Xcel Energy Center tends to start growing exponentially.
“You get an extra adrenaline rush,” said Beaumaster. “But as soon as you step on the mat, you zone everything else out.”
In the Saturday afternoon match, Beaumaster came up just short. He fell 5-3 to Mason Brownlee, who had just lost in a three overtime semifinal battle.
Stiller also wrestled a kid who had fallen back from the semifinals, and it was something that the Magic tried to use to their benefit.
“We had the advantage of winning and resting and watching them wrestle,” said Zigan of that round.
Sensing a tired wrestler, Stiller stayed on the attack through his match. Late in the third period, Stiller still hadn’t been able to record a point against his opponent, but his aggression was about to pay off. Already having been warned for stalling once, Stiller’s opponent was caught a second time, with just seconds left in the third period. This one gave Stiller a point, evening the match at one and forcing overtime.
“If he wasn’t aggressive the way he was throughout the whole match he never would have got the calls that he did,” said Zigan. “He just kept going after the kid. He basically forced the ref to call stalling.”
After a scoreless first overtime period, each wrestler was given a 30-second period to try to escape. After Stiller impressively rode out his opponent for the full 30 seconds, he got his chance. With the clock winding towards zero, Stiller began breaking free. Before the clock struck all zeros, he was free. He had escaped into the third-place match.
“It was pretty dramatic,” said Zigan. “Logan had a smile from ear to ear.”
Stiller would go on to lose the third place match, falling 13-5. But his run through wrestlebacks was still enough to finish with an impressive fourth place finish.
Stiller’s teammate, Beaumaster, fared better in his final match. After jumping to an early lead he was able to hold on, thanks to an illegal throwing call, as he secured a 6-5 win and a fifth place finish at the state tournament.
“It was a great feeling,” said Beaumaster. “This time I made it through all the way to the last session.”
For Beaumaster, there will be a next time. He comes back next year as a senior, possibly returning to a weight class where only one non-senior finished above him. For every other teammate who bowed out in the first round there will be a next year as well. For Stiller though, this was it. And it was everything he wanted it to be.
“There were no tears going out,” said Stiller. “I can look back and say I gave it my all. I did the best I could. I did better than I thought I could.”
Contact Clay Sawatzke at firstname.lastname@example.org