By Gary Larson
Mille Lacs County Times
Milaca will have seven wrestlers competing at the Class AA State Individual Tournament, which begins Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Does that number sound familiar. It likely does to Milaca fans. It will be the fifth time Milaca has advanced seven to the state individual meet.
“That’s impressive,” said Milaca Coach Randy Zimmer. “We always feel good about advancing four or five to the state tournament, so getting seven qualifiers that many times is great.
“We felt that if we performed well we had a good shot at advancing six or seven this year. And, we almost had two more state qualifiers.
The top two placers at the section tournament earn passage to the state meet and Milaca had four champions and three second-place finishers at the Section 7AA Individual Tournament Friday and Saturday at Mora.
“We had a good tournament,” said Zimmer. “All of our entrants wrestled hard with a lot of determination
Milaca’s Section 7AA champions included junior Joey Curtis at 113 points, senior Joe Moscho at 120, senior Jake Earl at 170 and senior Justin Ladehoff at 195.
Sophomore Ray Hoffman at 106, Junior Jonah Gahm at 132 and senior Jordan Ahner at heavyweight all claimed second place.
•Curtis went 3-0 after receiving a bye in the first round. He won a 16-1 technical fall over Rush City-Braham’s Tyler Sitz in the quarterfinals before scoring a 14-9 decision over North Branch sophomore Aaron Senne in the quarterfinals.
Curtis then won a 6-4 decision over ninth-grader Dylan Connell of Chisago Lakes in the finals.
Curtis (37-3) will face ninth-grader Tony Lynn (24-10) of Adrian in the opening round of the state meet Thursday.
•Moscho posted a 3-0 mark at the section meet, boosting his season record to 35-5. He scored a technical fall over North Branch eighth-grader Aaron Sistrunk in the quarterfinals, then won an 8-3 decision over Nashwauk-Keewatin junior Aaron Trunt in the semifinals.
That moved Moscho to a title showdown with Hibbing sophomore Tone Fuenffinger, who had defeated Moscho in all three of their previous meetings, the most recent in the Section 7AA Team Tournament Feb. 17.
This time Moscho used a near fall to top Fuenffinger 6-4.
Moscho will meet sophomore Colin Ayers of Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (32-10) in his opening state match.
•Earl went 4-0 to win the 170-pound title. He pinned Virginia junior Gabe Lund in 1:04 in the first round, then stopped North Branch junior Levin Eastwood 11-3 in the quarterfinals.
Earl won a 6-3 decision over Mora ninth-grader Jordan Tober in the semifinals and stopped senior Damon Schwartz of Hinckley-Finlayson-Pine City 10-5 in the championship match.
Earl, 32-9, faces senior Blake Olson (28-7) of Fosston-Bagley in his opening match.
•Ladehoff won a 17-0 technical fall over Chisago Lakes senior David Barwin in the quarterfinals before scoring a 15-0 technical fall over sophomore Jaden Erkkila of Nashwauk-Keewatin in the semifinals.
Ladehoff, 22-1, won by injury default over Mora senior Sam Lawrence in the finals.
He will meet sophomore Paxton Jordahl (27-11) of Hutchinson in his first match at the state meet.
Ladehoff placed sixth at 171 pounds last year.
•Hoffman went 3-1 as he topped Mora eighth-grader Drew VanVleet with a pin in 58 seconds in the first round, then won a 13-1 major decision over Grand Rapids eighth-grader Josef Palik in the semifinals.
Chisago Lakes eighth-grader Kyle Schoenecker topped Norman 7-2 in the finals and Hoffman ended up wrestling for true second against eighth-grader Beau Hunter of Hinckley-Finlayson-Pine City. Hoffman moved on to the state meet by pinning Hunter in 1:55.
Hoffman, 25-15, will face sophomore Cortez Arredondo (23-18) of Simley in his opening match at state.
•Gahm, hampered by a shoulder injury the past month, topped eighth-grader Kyle Merry of Chisago Lakes with a pin in 1:26 in the first round before stopping sophomore Dakotah Grey-Owl of Virginia with a 15-0 technical fall in the quarterfinals.
He won a 12-4 major decision over junior Jeremiah LeTourneau of H-F-PC in the semifinals.
In the finals, Zimmer elected to have Gahm forfeit by injury default to senior Tyler Jobe of Grand Rapids and place second.
“Jonah’s shoulders were hurting and it didn’t make sense to wrestle him when he was assured of a state berth,” said Zimmer.
Gahm, 36-4, is scheduled to face Monticello sophomore Zach Beaumaster (31-12) in his opening state match.
Gahm placed fourth at 125 last year at state.
Ahner moved to his first state tournament trip by pinning senior Wayne Greensky of Nashwauk-Keewatin in 4:35 and sophomore Owen Philbrink of Hibbing in 54 seconds.
He won a thrilling 3-2 double overtime verdict over Grand Rapids senior Austin Johnson in the semifinals before losing a 4-0 decision to eventual champion senior Chase Kammerer of Chisago Lakes in the finals.
That dropped Ahner to a true second match against North Branch sophomore Seamus Hunter, with Ahner scoring a 3-2 decision.
Ahner, 28-13, will face Princeton senior Josh Linder (25-7) in his opening-round state match. Ahner and Linder met Dec. 16 at Milaca, with Ahner winning when Linder was disqualified. Ahner was leading 6-4 at the time.
Senior Chris Newgard placed third at 126 as he advanced to the finals, then lost twice, including the match for true second.
Sophomore Brandon Merten was the busiest wrestler at the section meet as he went 5-2 and placed third, losing a match for true second.
Ninth-grader Josh Otten went 2-3 and placed sixth at 160.
The opening round of the Class AA State Individual Tournament is Friday at 1 p.m.