By Gary Larson
Mille Lacs County Times
Milaca is heading back to the Class AA State Team Wrestling Tournament!
The Wolves defeated Mora 45-25 in the Section 7AA Tournament title match Friday at Mora. It was not the easy victory that the score would indicate.
Milaca, which will be making its 10th trip to the state meet under coach Randy Zimmer, topped Hibbing 54-15 in the semifinals while Mora handled defending-champion Grand Rapids.
Against Mora, the Wolves got off to a quick 17-0 lead behind technical fall victories by sophomore Ray Hoffman at 106 pounds and junior Joey Curtis at 113, a major decision by senior Joe Moscho at 120 (his 100th career victory) and a decision by senior Chris Newgard at 126.
However, at 132, junior Jonah Gahm of Milaca suffered a shoulder injury and lost by injury default. Gahm was leading when he was injured.
Mora received six points and a break that lit a fire. The Mustangs won four of the next five matches to take a 25-21 lead with four matches remaining.
Ninth-grader Josh Otten’s major decision at 152 was the Wolves’ lone win during the stretch.
That left Milaca in a position of needing to win at least three of the reaming four matches or win twice with a pair of pins.
The Wolves did even better, closing the match out with falls by senior Jake Earl at 182, senior Justin Ladehoff at 195, sophomore Brandon Merten at 220 and senior Jordan Ahner at heavyweight.
“It was one of the best finishes we’ve ever had,” said Zimmer, who’s stepping down at the end of the season after 24 years as Milaca head coach. “Mora was charged up. We beat a good team.”
Milaca’s last trip to the state team meet was two years ago.
The opening round of the Class AA State Tournament is Thursday, March 1, at 11 a.m. at the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul.
The seeding and pairings for the meet will be determined next week.
The Wolves will now head to the Section 7AA Individual Tournament Friday, Feb. 24 and Saturday, Feb. 25, at Mora. Friday’s first round begins at 4 p.m., with Saturday’s first session at 11 a.m.