Monticello hosted a nine-team wrestling tournament at the high school on Saturday, and it provided a microcosm of the season thus far for the Magic.
As they have done all year, Monticello welcomed some of the state’s best teams with open arms.
Eight of the nine teams at the tournament were either ranked in the top ten in their class by The Guillotine, the premier wrestling website, or in the lean and mean section of the rankings, a location for those that are just on the outside of the rankings (where Monticello currently finds themselves).
And like they have all year, the Magic took a few lumps, but they also earned some big victories, as they walked away from the tournament with a fifth-place finish.
Most importantly, by challenging themselves, the Magic felt they continued to improve.
“I thought we wrestled pretty well,” said captain Jake Berthiaume. “We’re getting better every time we wrestle.”
The Magic didn’t ease into their own tournament.
Their opening pool consisted of them, section rival Annandale/Maple Lake and perennial powerhouse Apple Valley – reigning state champions.
Monticello opened their morning by squaring off with the Eagles. And Apple Valley, as they do almost every time they step on the mat, won convincingly, 56-7. But there were some positives, as the Magic picked up a couple of wins against one of the top programs, in any sport, in the state.
Senior captain Tevin Zavadil, wrestling at 120 pounds, earned one of those wins for the Magic.
Zavadil, who has been outstanding this year, dominated his match for a 14-1 major decision.
Monticello’s other win came in another strong performance from another captain. Zach Beaumaster shut out his opponent, earning a 5-0 decision.
Next up was Monticello’s most important match of the day, as it could weigh into section seeding.
The Magic fell behind Annandale/Maple Lake early, trailing 12-0 after two matches and 18-6 after five, but Monticello finished strong, beating their section rival 36-27.
Monticello was heavily aided by a strong showing from the middleweights.
The Magic got decision victories from Andrew Mergen, Zach Beaumaster, Carter Barnes and Connor Adrian. Those wins were sandwiched around a first-period pin by Jake Berthiaume in his match at 152 pounds.
The 18-point Monticello run gave the Magic a 24-18 lead.
But Annandale/Maple Lake wasn’t done.
They secured two straight victories, including a pin, to take a 27-24 lead with two matches remaining.
Fortunately for the Magic, with the match coming down to the final two wrestlers, Monticello’s big guys were up to the task.
Luke Palmer got the lead back for the Magic by picking up a second period pin.
And with a first period pin at heavyweight, Brent Riddle sealed the victory for the Magic.
Coach Andy Zigan said it was an important win for the team.
“The biggest thing was that we beat Annandale,” he said.
By splitting their matches in their opening pool, Monticello found themselves in the second of three pools.
They wrestled just one match there, against Farmington, as Coon Rapids did not wrestle during the second portion of the tournament.
Farmington, another state-ranked team, got the better of the Magic, winning a hard fought match, 41-27.
“We wrestled some good matches against them,” said Zigan.
The Magic found themselves down early again to Farmington.
This time, the Magic dropped the first three matches, including a loss for Zavadil, his first of the year, ending his streak of 20 consecutive wins.
Zigan said that in the big picture, the loss for Zavadil might be a good thing.
“He’s got that little monkey off his back,” he said. “He doesn’t have to worry about that undefeated stuff anymore.”
Immediately following Zavadil’s loss, Monticello picked up a win that was the individual highlight of the weekend, according to Zigan.
Jack Bourgeois, wrestling at 126 pounds, went toe-to-toe with defending state champion Taylor Venz for the entirety of three periods, plus two overtime sessions.
Bourgeois finally got the best of him, picking up a 6-5 victory in double overtime.
After dropping two more matches, Monticello again found a strong run in the middle of their lineup.
Zach Beaumaster won by decision, shutting out his opponent for the third consecutive match, 6-0. Jake Berthiaume picked up his second consecutive pin of the tournament, in the second period, to bring Monticello up to 12 points on the day. And Carter Barnes backed up Berthiaume with a third-period pin of his own at 160 pounds.
That victory brought Monticello to within 26-18, but they wouldn’t get any closer.
Jay Yeats picked up a decision victory and Luke Palmer added his second pin of the day, just twenty seconds into the match, but it was too little too late.
But, the Magic aren’t concerned about the losses now. Rather than regretting their tough schedule, they see the strong opponents, the big wins and even the tough losses as building blocks.
“We probably have more losses as individuals on our record than we could have,” said Zigan, in reference to wrestling an easier schedule. “But we’d rather take some losses now and be ready to go when it comes to section time.”
It’s in line with the short term pain for long term gain philosophy that wrestlers live by and it’s a thought that the wrestlers have bought into.
“I like [the schedule],” said Beaumaster. “It gets us ready for sections.”
“It’s kind of hard,” said Zavadil, when comparing it to past years. “But it could be a game-changer for us.”
That being said, while the Magic are constantly preparing for sections, they aren’t focusing on it, or even talking about it, yet.
They still have plenty of regular season work to do, starting with their final home dual of the season this Friday.
The Magic take on Big Lake, in The Pit at the Monticello Middle School, at 7 p.m.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com