Milaca went 4-0 to win the Waconia Wildcats Wrestling Invitational Saturday. It was the first action of the season for the Wolves.
And, they looked pretty good, according to co-head coach Clay Hoeck.
“Overall, we felt the varsity and junior varsity did a great job,” said Hoeck. “I think we gradually came together as a team as we worked our way through the tournament. And, that’s important – we had wrestlers pulling for each other.”
Hoeck and Mitch Vedders, both former Milaca standouts, made their debut as co-head coaches. They take over for longtime head coach Randy Zimmer and assistant coach Roger Rahm, who retired last spring.
The Wolves trimmed LeSueur-Henderson 67-8 in their first match, then topped Marshall 42-30 and Waconia 37-30 to move to what proved to be the title match against Shakopee in the round-robin tournament.
With the Wolves trailing 21-18, sophomores Josh Otten at 170 pounds and Austin Weidner at 182 scored pins to give Milaca a 30-21 edge. After Chaydon O’Fallon notched a pin for Shakopee to cut the margin to 30-27, sophomore Zach Peterson clinched the victory for Milaca with a third-period pin at 220. Peterson’s fall came at 4:33.
“It was very exciting to watch Zach work for and get the pin,” said Hoeck. “He had an opportunity and he took it.”
Junior Brandon Merten won an 11-6 decision at heavyweight to make the final score 39-27.
Milaca spotted Shakopee six points by forfeiting at 106, the first match of the dual. The Wolves had been using seventh-grader Jonathan Hall at that weight and Hall had gone 2-1 in his first three matches.
“John looked good and got his season off to a nice start,” said Vedders. “But, he’s young and inexperienced and we didn’t want to put him up against a very tough wrestler. We felt we could overcome the deficit.”
The Wolves did as junior Ray Hoffman won a 6-2 decision at 113, sophomore Hunter Noor scored a fall at 120, senior Mike Hoffman won a decision at 126 and senior co-captain Joey Curtis won a decision at 132 to give Milaca a 15-6 lead.
Milaca’s other win in the match came from senior co-captain Jonah Gahm who won a decision at 145.
Shakopee, ranked No. 11 in The Guillotine magazine’s pre-season Class AAA ratings, defeated Milaca 40-27 in the title match at Waconia last year.
Shakopee reached the title match by topping Waconia 52-24, Marshall 57-24 and LeSueur-Henderson 61-12.
“Shakopee has a very strong team and we were excited to wrestle them,” said Hoeck. “And, we beat a good team in Waconia.
“All four of the teams we faced had some very good wrestlers, so it was a good way for us to open the season.”
Noor at 120, Mike Hoffman at 126, Curtis at 132 and Otten at 170 were 4-0 in the tournament, with Otten scoring three pins. Gahm was 3-0.
Mora Mustangs up next
Milaca, ranked No. 6 in The Guillotine’s Class AA preseason ratings, travels to Mora tonight (Thursday) in its Granite Ridge Conference opener, then hosts its own invitational Saturday.
Milaca, the defending Section 7AA champion, and Mora, last year’s runner-up, are considered favorites in the section this season.
“Mora is very good and returns several good wrestlers,” said Hoeck. “It will be a tough early-season test for both teams. We need to go out and wrestle hard. If we do that we’ll give Mora a good match.”
The Mustangs opened their season Saturday by placing second at the Chisago Lakes Tournament. Mora topped Chisago Lakes 42-32 and Grand Rapids 39-29 before losing to Cambridge-Isanti 69-12 in the finals. Cambridge-Isanti is ranked No. 3 in Class AAA.
“We’re still a little beat up from football,” said veteran Mora Coach Tom Youngblom. “We looked pretty good at the weights where we are healthy.
“I was pleased that some of our young wrestlers did well but I was disappointed with our effort against Cambridge-Isanti.”
The Milaca-Mora match could come into play at the end of the regular season when the seeding for the section is done.
“The result will be important for seeding,” said Youngblom. “But, both teams will get better as the season progresses.
“We always seem to match up well with Milaca but we have a hard time closing the deal. As usual, I expect a hard-fought, exciting match.”
The Mustangs are led by senior Cody LaFromboise at 182. LaFromboise was 31-6 last year and placed fourth at the state tournament.
“Milaca and Mora have a good history of exciting matches and this should be another one,” said Hoeck.
Holdingford, coached by former Milaca standout Adam Johnson, is the defending Milaca Invitational champion and the Huskers return another solid team.
Holdingford tipped Milaca 33-31 in the finals last season.
“We have a good mix of veterans and new blood on this year’s squad,” said Johnson. “We return three state entrants and eight others with varying amounts of varsity experience.
“Right now we’re looking for more depth and we’re working on our conditioning. We feel we can be competitive as a team again this season.”
Holdingford opened its season by placing third at the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa Invitational Friday. New London-Spicer won the eight-team, individual-format tournament.
Saturday’s invitational, which includes a junior varsity division, starts at 9 a.m. and continues through the afternoon.