A wrestling state tournament without the Monticello Magic just wouldn’t feel right.
For more than 20 years, the Magic have sent at least one wrestler to the individual state tournament. Thanks to Carsten Scherber and Matt Baloun, that streak lives on.
Monti, which wasn’t seeded to have anyone advance out of sections, turned in a strong final meet of the year at the Section 6AA Individual Tournament, highlighted by a section championship for Scherber and a runner-up finish for Baloun, qualifying each for the Class AA State Tournament.
Jason Thompson, in his first year as head coach of the Magic, quipped Monday that he was glad to keep that streak intact.
“It was nice not to break that streak my first year as a head coach,” he said.
Thompson added that having the program represented at state really is a big deal.
“As a community, as a team, as a school, it’s huge to get somebody down there and have that to look forward to,” he said.
Monti will be sending two well-qualified representatives.
Scherber will head down to state at 138 pounds, after bringing home the section championship this Saturday. The junior had a strong year for Monticello, and said he was hopeful that he may be the one seed at the Section 6AA Tournament. Instead he was seeded third. While the seed likely gave him a tougher route, it also provided motivation.
“It gave me something to fight for,” said Scherber.
The junior took a couple of new approaches into the section tournament – one mental and one physical.
Physically, he recently made a change to his wrestling style that he has seen pay big dividends. He admitted Monday that it was a change his coaches had been trying to implement for some time, but it took the help of a friend to see it come to fruition.
“I have to owe a lot to my friend Jack Bourgeois (former standout wrestler at MHS) who came back from the Marines recently,” said Scherber. “He came down and helped me out a lot and said that my stance was too high. I worked on getting it low, and I haven’t lost a match since he told me that.”
Additionally, Scherber put an emphasis on taking things one match at a time at the section meet.
“I’ve gone into tournaments before thinking about semifinal and finals matches and I don’t do well,” said Scherber.
That wouldn’t be a problem at the section tournament.
Scherber, who was one of several wrestlers to receive a first round bye in the bracket, started his tournament against a Becker wrestler in the quarterfinal round. The Magic junior cruised into the semifinals with a 9-2 decision. He kept things rolling there. Facing off against Andrew Loch from Litchfield, Scherber once again was able to limit his opponents scoring en route to a 7-2 decision and a spot in the section final.
That final match, taking place on Saturday, was the highlight of the weekend for Scherber.
Thompson said he shared a short message with his junior wrestler before the championship showdown.
“We talked about the hard work that he’s put in, how much he deserves it, to just go out
and take what he wanted,” said Thompson. “And that’s what he did.”
He took an early lead, earning a 4-2 advantage after one, and was able to keep Dassel-Cokato’s Brody Schmidt at bay the rest of the way, holding on for a 7-4 decision after three periods.
“I wanted it so bad,” said Scherber. “Once I got the lead I knew I couldn’t just focus on winning, I had to keep it going, I had to keep putting pressure on, getting more points and wrestling like I know I can.”
The junior said the state tournament has been on his mind ever since he was a freshman, and came up one takedown short of a state qualification. Now he’s headed there.
“It’s pretty unbelievable,” said Scherber. “It’s something I’ve been working toward for the better part of the last five years. It’s a lot of work coming.”
At state, Scherber will take on Tim Stapleton (30-10) from Waconia in the first round. The junior said that is the only match he’s currently worried about.
“I gotta go one match at a time,” he said. “Right now I’m focused on beating Tim Stapleton from Waconia and we’ll see where it goes from there.”
Monti’s second state qualification went to Baloun, who like Scherber will be making his first state appearance. The difference for Baloun is that as a senior, this was his last chance.
Thompson said that as a high school wrestler, he also qualified for his first state tournament his senior year, so he’s well aware of the significance.
“I can tell you it means so much, both to the program and to Matt,” he said.
Thompson called the 195-pounder’s section performance “amazing.”
“He came out with a vengeance,” said Thompson. “Being a senior, I’m sure he kind of had the do or die going on. And he did what he had to do to make it happen. I’m proud of him.”
Baloun said he came into the section tournament wanting to be aggressive. It paid off in a major way.
In his first match, Baloun pinned his Dassel-Cokato opponent in a mere 24 seconds, hardly needing to break a sweat.
That put him into the quarterfinals, where things were made only slightly more challenging. This time, facing a Delano wrestler that had a bye through the first round, Baloun earned a pin in 57 seconds to secure a spot in the semifinals.
That matched him up with Tristan Revering (23-5), the No. 2 seed in the bracket out of Litchfield. Baloun hadn’t wrestled him in the past, but knew he had recently come down from heavyweight and then from 220 and would have a weight advantage on Baloun.
The lanky senior said he went into the match with a plan.
“I used my length to my advantage and just went after it,” he said.
Less than a minute into the semifinal match, an opportunity presented itself.
“Everything just kind of aligned,” said Baloun. “He gave me the cradle, I took it and went with it.”
Just 57 seconds in, Revering was flat on his back and the referee was slapping the mat for a pin, Baloun’s third first-period, first-minute pin of the tournament.
That put the Monti senior into the section championship against Saylor Schmit, the second-ranked wrestler in the state.
Fortunately for Baloun, there was little pressure. Well before the championship match was to be wrestled, Baloun found out the third-place match was between two wrestlers he had already beat, meaning there would be no chance of having to wrestle for true second, and that his state berth was guaranteed.
“I ran right up to my dad, and gave him a huge hug,” said Baloun. “We were both pretty happy at that moment.”
Baloun would go on to lose the championship match by a third period pin, but his state berth, something he’s been thinking about for a long time, was well in hand.
“It’s one of my goals that I had at the beginning of the season, one of the goals I had since my freshman season,” said Baloun. “I’m just really excited for it.”
Baloun draws a tough assignment in round one, facing off against Will Storch, who enters with a record of 35-2. Monti’s senior said he plans to just leave everything on the mat.
“I’ll go out there, and give it my all and just wrestle with my heart,” said Baloun.
A number of other grapplers had strong section tournaments for the Magic as well. Carter Michels finished fifth at 126 pounds, ending his career with a victory. Nelson Anderson, a seventh-grader, finished sixth at 113 pounds. Jesse Midas also placed sixth at 182 pounds, capping a strong season. And senior Kyle Nathan, who Thompson said was under the weather, battled to a sixth-place finish at 170 pounds.
“He would never use that as an excuse,” said Thompson. “But him going out there and placing says a lot about who he is.”
The State Wrestling Individual Tournament is this Friday and Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul. The Class AA first round is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. Friday, with the quarterfinals scheduled for 5 p.m., and wrestlebacks beginning at 7 p.m. The tournament resumes Saturday.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]