By Gary Larson
Mille Lacs County Times
What a way for the Milaca wrestling team and coach Randy Zimmer to finish the season!
The Wolves, in their 10 appearance at the Class AA State Team Wrestling Tournament, all with Zimmer as coach, went 2-1 and claimed the consolation title Thursday, March 1, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
For Zimmer, his wrestlers’ showing capped his 24th and final season as Milaca head coach. He will be turning in his resignation this spring.
And, it was a fine, if painful, showing by junior Jonah Gahm, who placed fourth at 132 pounds in the Class AA State Individual Tournament. Gahm, who was fourth at 125 pounds last season, battled a painful should injury, not only at the state meets, but also at the Section 7AA tournaments.
“The team did as well as we possibly could,” said Zimmer, who was named Class AA State Coach of the Year. “We were big underdogs against a very powerful Simley team but we didn’t back down.
“Every wrestler gave his best effort against Simley, a team that also dominated the individual tournament. I was proud of how hard and how aggressive we wrestled against a team that won its fifth-straight state title.
“In the consolation matches there were four very even teams and we proved to be the best. Placing fifth among the state’s best teams was a deserved reward for a team that worked hard to improve all season. It was a fun time.”
Milaca lost to top-ranked and four-time defending state champion 44-17 in the quarterfinals. That moved the Wolves into the consolation semifinals where they topped Perham 32-26 to set up a match against Monticello for the consolation title.
That one went right down to the wire, with senior heavyweight Jordan Ahner’s major decision giving the Wolves the four points they needed for a 35-34 victory.
“That was awesome,” said Ahner. “I wasn’t really keeping track of the score until near the end. I new I needed a major decision.”
Ahner topped Monticello’s Brent Riddle 17-9, with Riddle doing everything he could to score points in the closing seconds.
Other winners against the Magic included junior Joey Curtis, who had a technical fall at 113 pounds, senior Joe Moscho, who had a technical fall at 120, ninth-grader Jack Barsody, who scored a pin at 145, ninth-grader Austin Weidner, who won a decision at 152, senior Jake Earl, who scored a first-period pin at 170, and senior Justin Ladehoff, who notched a first-period pin at 195.
For Barsody, the pin was his first varsity victory as he filled in for injured junior Dylan Czech.
Against Simley, which handled No. 2-ranked Scott West 36-22 in the Class AA championship match, the Wolves received wins from ninth-grader Ray Hoffman, who won a major decision at 106, Moscho, who scored a major decision at 120, ninth-grader Josh Otten, who scored a first-period pin at 160, and Ladehoff, who won a decision at 195.
Curtis at 113 and Moscho at 120 nailed pins against Perham while Earl at 170 and Ladehoff at 195 won major decisions and junior Mike Hoffman at 132, Gahm at 138, Weidner at 152 and Otten at 160 scored decisions.
Gahm was Milaca’s lone placer in the individual tournament as he posted a 3-2 record.
He reached the semifinals with victories over Zach Beaumaster of Monticello and Austin Fitzgerald of Caledonia.
The win over Beaumaster avenged a 4-3 loss he suffered against him in the team consolation finals.
In the semifinals, he lost to eventual 132-pound champion Joey Munos of South St. Paul, 10-2. Munos finished the season with a 45-0 record and was the state Class AA champion at 119 pounds in 2010 and the Class AA 125-pound champion in 2011.
Gahm then defeated Mason Brownlee of Montgomery-Lonsdale 5-4 to move to the third-place match where he lost by injury default to Chase Austvold of New London-Spicer.
“I had hoped to place higher but, all things considered, I feel good about winning another medal,” said Gahm, who has been contending with dislocated shoulders. “The shoulders were pretty painful
“I was very happy that our team took fifth place. Our goal was to do well for coach Zimmer.”
Ray Hoffman at 106, Curtis at 113, Moscho at 120, Ladehoff at 195 and Ahner at heavyweight all lost in the first round and were unable to come back in the wrestlebacks because the wrestler who beat them lost in the quarterfinals.
Earl, at 170, won his opening match with a pin in 44 seconds against Fosston-Bagley senior Blake Olson but then lost his next two matches.
“All seven of our individuals qualifiers wrestled hard,” said Zimmer. “We made some mistakes and that’s the difference at the state tournament. One little slip-up will cost you.”
(State summaries on page 9.)