The Milaca wrestling team was where it wanted to be Friday night at Pine City – in the Section 7AA championship match.
The outcome wasn’t what the young Wolves had been working hard this season for, though, as they lost to talented Chisago Lakes 40-23. The Wildcats turned back Milaca’s bid to return to the Class AA State Tournament while notching their first state-tournament trip since 1984.
“We battled hard – each guy gave 100 percent,” said Milaca Co-Coach Mitch Vedders. “We lost to a very good team that has several great wrestlers. Chisago Lakes will represent our section well.”
Milaca, which trimmed Grand Rapids 40-27 in the semifinals earlier Friday, found itself trailing Chisago Lakes 12-0 after two matches.
Ninth-grader Aaron Sistrunk pinned Milaca seventh-grader Jon Hall at 106 pounds and Milaca forfeited at 113.
The forfeit came about when sophomore Hunter Noor, Milaca’s starter at 120, re-injured his shoulder against Grand Rapids.
Vedders and co-coach Clay Hoeck decided to forfeit at 113 and move junior Ray Hoffman to 120. Wildcats’ standout ninth-grader Kyle Schoenecker, ranked No. 7 in Class AA at 113 by The Guillotine wrestling magazine, received the forfeit win.
Hoffman then pinned eighth-grader A.J. Harrington for the Wolves’ first six points.
At 126, CL sophomore Dylan Connell, won a 6-4 decision over Milaca senior Mike Hoffman to put the Wildcats ahead 15-6. Connell is ranked No. 5 at 120.
Milaca senior co-captain Joey Curtis then pulled his team to within 15-12 with a pin over ninth-grader Mike Bliskowski at 132.
At 138, CL senior Quade Zupko, ranked No. 5 at 138, scored a five-point technical fall over sophomore Logan Sahlstrom to make it 20-12 but Milaca sophomore Jack Barsody won a 6-5 decision over junior Carson Velaski to cut the gap to 20-15.
CL junior Mark Sontag decisioned Milaca sophomore Aaron Moscho 4-1 at 152 but Wolves junior Jorgen Erickson won a 9-0 major decision over junior Sean Hoyt at 160 to pull Milaca within 23-19.
At 170, CL sophomore Joe Virga, ranked No. 7 at 160, topped Milaca sophomore Josh Otten 9-3.
Sophomore Austin Weidner pulled Milaca to within 26-23 by winning a 9-1 major decision over junior Mike Sampson at 182.
That was as close as the Wolves got as the Wildcats scored 14 points in the final three weights. Senior Eric Brown won by technical fall over sophomore Colton Sailor at 195, senior Dan Sargeant decisioned sophomore Zach Peterson 4-3 in overtime at 220 and senior Jonah Westbury pinned junior Brandon Merten at heavyweight.
“We wrestled several of their top wrestlers tough and did not give up big points,” said Hoeck. “We did not have the lineup we were hoping for but we went after them hard with what we had. We just fell a little short.”
“I really felt the win at 106 was big for us,” said Chisago Lakes Coach Shawn Frederixon. “Our wins at 195 and 220 were also big. I guess, every win is a big one.
“Milaca has a great program and to come out on top against them in a championship match means a lot to our program.”
Chisago Lakes handled Hibbing 54-16 in the semifinals.
Milaca, which finished 21-11, now heads to the Section 7AA Individual Tournament Friday and Saturday at Hibbing.
Friday’s schedule begins with the first round at 1 p.m. and ends with the semifinals at 4:30. Saturday’s schedule starts at 11 a.m. with wrestlebacks. The championship finals and matches for third and fourth place begin at 2 p.m.
The top two placers at each weight earn a berth to the Class AA State Individual Tournament at the Xcel Center in St. Paul. The Class AA Individual Tournament begins Friday, March 1, at 9 a.m.
Chisago Lakes will compete in the Class AA State Team Tournament Thursday, Feb. 28. The team tournaments are one-day events.