Monticello wrestlers knew their chances of reaching the state tournament as a team were slim this year.
That’s the way it goes when you share a section with one of the top-ranked teams in the state.
But, that reality didn’t demoralize the Magic, nor did it keep them from trying to get as close to the state meet as possible. And that’s exactly what Monticello accomplished at the section meet the team hosted Saturday, cruising by Zimmerman and beating Becker in a thriller, before falling to top-seeded Foley in the section final.
In the quarterfinal match, Monticello dispatched of seventh-seeded Zimmerman with ease, winning by a score of 53-16. Coach Andy Zigan was happy with the result, as it improved on Monticello’s victory over the Thunder earlier this season.
In the second round, Monticello met up with Becker. The Bulldogs entered the meet as the sixth seed in the section, but according to Zigan, many felt they were under-seeded.
They proved it in the first round, toppling third-seeded New London-Spicer 37-25 to set up their semifinal date with the Magic.
Monticello dropped the opening two matches, but by losing a decision and a major decision, they salvaged points, something that Zigan stresses this time of year.
Zigan was particularly pleased with how eighth-grader Carsten Scherber wrestled at 106 pounds. Scherber trailed throughout the match, but fought through the third period to keep the match competitive, allowing Becker just three team points.
“It was really fun to watch Carsten wrestle,” Zigan said. “He probably wrestled the best he has all year long.”
After keeping negative effect of their losses to a minimum, the Magic capitalized on their wins.
Tevin Zavadil, Jack Bourgeois and Andrew Mergen rattled off consecutive pins for Monticello, putting the score at 18-7, despite holding just a 3-2 edge in matches won.
“Those points down low were huge,” Zigan said.
For Zavadil, the pin marked his 100th career win.
“That was one of his goals this year,” Zigan said. “He worked hard, all year long, getting as many wins as he could.”
The senior, who is now 33-3 on the year, became the third Magic senior to reach 100 wins, following Zach Beaumaster (currently at 139 wins) and Jake Berthiaume (138).
“It was nice to add another wrestler to that list,” Zigan said.
Becker ended the Magic streak of pins with an overtime match at 138, but again the Magic preserved points, as Cooper Hanson hung tight with one of Becker’s better wrestlers.
“The guys that lost, they wrestled their butts off to not give up those bonus points,” Zigan said.
Monticello’s run of seniors, each wrestling up a weight class, provided more cushion for the Magic. Zach Beaumaster picked up a pin at 145, followed by decision victories for Jake Berthiaume and Carter Barnes, putting Monticello up 30-10.
Still, Zigan said, they weren’t comfortable.
“We don’t ever feel good till it’s over for sure,” he said.
Saturday showed why.
The Bulldogs ran off four straight wins, including one pin, one major decision and two decisions, to pull within 30-26 with just one match remaining.
That match pitted heavyweight Brent Riddle against Becker’s sophomore Caey Vesledahl, who entered the day with a record of 26-10.
According to Zigan, the Magic were confident with Riddle on the mat.
“They basically had to pin Riddle to beat us, and we know how tough Riddle is,” Zigan said.
The coach said they didn’t want the junior to change the way he approached the match.
“He knows what his job is and we just tell him to go out and do his job,” said Zigan. “And a lot of times he delivers.”
Saturday, he delivered.
Riddle, who never found himself in real danger during the match, brought his bench and the crowd to their feet with a third-period pin, securing a 36-26 win for the Magic.
“When it’s all riding on that one match, the crowd gets into it,” Zigan said. “It makes it pretty fun.”
The victory propelled the Magic into the finals, where they faced off against Foley, the second-ranked team in Class AA.
Monticello held court with Foley early, taking a 10-9 lead after four matches, and remaining within 18-13 after seven matches. But it was all Foley late, as the top seed went on to beat Monticello 49-13 to earn its bid to the state tournament.
Monticello’s wins came from Tevin Zavadil, who picked up a pin, Jack Bourgeois (major decision) and Zach Beaumaster (decision). All three wrestlers were unbeaten through the day.
Now, the Magic turn their focus to individual sections, which are set to take place Friday and Saturday at Becker High School. By the end of the day Saturday, Monticello hopes to have qualified as many as eight wrestlers for the state meet. But Zigan knows that they can’t worry about the end of the day Saturday yet.
“Their first match on Friday is the most important match of the tournament,” said Zigan.
If a wrestler drops his first match, he may be eliminated from state contention without getting to wrestle another match.
The Magic hope to benefit from having a lot of experience, including a handful of senior leaders who have been through this process at the section and the state level.
“They know what’s expected of them,” Zigan said.
The coach also said there is little to no concern about the section final loss to Foley carrying over to this weekend.
“Last weekend is over with and in the rear view mirror,” Zigan said. “Ultimately, this is an individual sport, and now is the time for those studs to shine.”
The meet is set to begin Friday afternoon, and will resume Saturday morning. All matches will be held at Becker High School.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com