Under coaches Andy Zigan and Matt Palmer, Magic wrestling has never shied away from tough opponents. This year, it seems, the Magic are going even more out of their way than usual to test themselves against strong competition in the early going.
Just two weeks into their schedule, the Magic have already squared off with numerous ranked teams and countless ranked individuals, as they look to prepare early for what is to come later.
With new arrangements this year, the Magic find themselves in a loaded section that is highlighted by Foley, the top-ranked team in Class AA. To get ready for that challenge, Monticello is facing as many strong teams as they can find this year.
“We’re trying to get tough competition,” said Zigan. “We have to make sure we’re ready to go for sections.”
So far, Zigan has been pretty happy with how the Magic have responded to the competition.
After losing a dual to powerhouse St. Michael-Albertville, 48-24, Thursday, the Magic bounced back with a fourth-place finish at the Coon Rapids Invitational on Saturday.
Monticello, which was seeded fifth at the tournament, began play with a match against fourth-seeded White Bear Lake.
The Magic used six pins in the match to upend White Bear Lake, 48-18.
Monticello got an opening pin from Carsten Scherber in the third period of his match, as they jumped out to a 6-0 lead. After the higher seed answered with a decision, Monticello came back with decision wins by Tevin Zavadil and Jack Bourgeois, pushing the lead to 12-3.
After WBL got to within 12-6, Monticello pulled away in the middleweights.
Cooper Hanson picked up a first period pin, Zach Beaumaster earned a tough overtime win, Jake Berthiaume put his guy on his back and got a second period pin and Carter Barnes earned a decision win. The 18 consecutive points pushed the Magic lead to 30-6.
Kyle Nathan sandwiched a pin in between two White Bear Lake pins before Luke Palmer and Brent Riddle closed the match strong for the Magic with each picking up pins.
In the semifinals, Monticello found themselves matched up with No. 4AA Simley, an annual powerhouse.
The Magic scored 24 points against Simley, but allowed 50 in defeat.
In the third place match, Monticello took on Coon Rapids, No. 12 in Class AAA, for the second time this year. The Magic fell 41-28 in a rematch that didn’t feature very many rematches. Both teams adjusted their lineups from the first match, according to Zigan, but the results remained relatively similar.
Monticello got out to an early lead, 22-14, behind wins from Bourgeois, Andrew Mergen and Berthiaume, as well as pins from Zavadil and Beaumaster. But Coon Rapids was too strong late, with Luke Palmer’s pin being the only points earned by the Magic down the stretch.
Despite the two losses, both to state-ranked teams, Zigan saw positives in how the Magic wrestled.
“You never like to lose,” he said. “But we were pretty happy with our performances. We wrestled tough, and lost a lot of close matches.”
While the Magic are working a few new individuals into the lineup this year, they also have a lot of stalwarts who have been strong early.
Beaumaster has racked up wins early this year, despite constantly tough competition. Five of the six kids he’s wrestled have been ranked in the state, including a win this weekend over the No. 3 wrestler in the weight class above him.
Luke Palmer, Bourgeois, and Riddle, among others, have also earned big wins over ranked kids in recent competition, said Zigan.
Not that all of Monticello’s victories over ranked opponents are upsets, as the Magic have quite a few ranked wrestlers of their own.
Beaumaster, who has been wrestling at 145 pounds early in the year, is Monticello’s highest ranked wrestler, coming in No. 3 at 138 pounds. He’s joined in the rankings by Zavadil (No. 10 at 126 pounds), Bourgeois (No. 9 at 132 pounds), Berthiaume (No. 10 at 152 pounds), Barnes (No. 6) at 160 pounds and Riddle (No. 6 at 285 pounds).
As for the younger guys that are acclimating to varsity action, Zigan is already seeing improvement.
“They go out there and they battle,” said Zigan. “They’re getting better every week.”
For now, that remains the goal for the Magic, to get better. They know they won’t get wins in every match during the loaded parts of their schedule, but if they improve and successfully prepare for the end of the year, they’ll be happy.
“We talk about getting one percent better every single day,” said Zigan, who said he got the idea from Augsburg’s nationally renowned wrestling program. “At the end of the year, we can get to be 76 percent better than we were at the start. That’s our goal.”
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]