Milaca will have four representatives at the Class AA State Individual Wrestling Tournament, which opens Friday morning at 9 a.m. at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Junior Ray Hoffman at 113 pounds, senior Joey Curtis at 132, sophomore Austin Weidner at 170 and junior Brandon Merten at heavyweight each placed second at the Section 7AA Tournament at Hibbing.
“Our wrestlers did well at the section meet – we’re happy to have four going to the state meet,” said co-head coach Mitch Vedders. “If not for injuries, our young team might have had more entrants.”
•Hoffman, who will be making his second trip to state after qualifying at 106 last year, went 3-1 at the section meet. He pinned eighth-grader Josh Weston of Virginia in 1:00 in the opening round, then scored a pin in 54 seconds against sophomore Doug Filbrandt of Hibbing in his second match.
Hoffman continued to roll in the semifinals with a pin in 1:38 over sophomore Thomas Hitcher of Mora. Ninth-grader Kyle Schoenecker of Chisago Lakes, who’s ranked No. 7 in Class AA, won a 13-5 major decision over Hoffman in the finals.
“Schoenecker is very good – he’s very quick,” said Hoffman, who will carry a 29-6 record to the state meet.
Hoffman will face sophomore David Flynn of Scott West in his opening match. Flynn is 37-4 and ranked fifth at 113.
“I’m excited about getting back to state,” said Hoffman. “I think last year’s experience will help me.”
•Curtis, who will be making his fourth trip to the state individual meet, was 3-1 at the section tournament. He pinned senior Bryce Lanhart of Rush City-Braham in 1:29 in the first round and won a 15-0 technical fall over sophomore Tobias Cuypers of Proctor in the quarterfinals.
Curtis won a 4-3 decision over sophomore Jackson Schauer of Grand Rapids in the semifinals before losing to senior Kyle Opsahl of Pine City-Hinckley-Finlayson 5-0 in the finals.
“I feel good about the weekend,” said Curtis, a co-captain. “I lost to a good wrestler and I beat some good wrestlers.”
Curtis, 29-5, faces junior Austin Hjelle of Thief River Falls-Goodridge (32-7) in his opening match at state.
“I’d like to place,” said Curtis.
•Weidner also went 3-1 at the section meet. He won an 8-0 major decision over senior Seth Nelson of Grand Rapids in his first match and pinned junior Mike Sampson of Chisago Lakes in 4:37 in the quarterfinals.
Weidner won a 5-2 decision over junior Mitch Bonderson of Nashwauk-Keewatin-Greenway in the semifinals, then was pinned by unbeaten senior Cody LaFromboise of Mora in the finals. LaFromboise is ranked No. 3 at 170.
Weidner carries a 30-6 record into the state meet where he’ll face junior Bobby Lee of Becker (29-12) in the first round.
“I had a goal to get to state and now I want to wrestle hard and see what happens,” said Weidner. “My goal is to place.”
•Merten battled a tough group of heavyweights at the section meet.
He received a bye in the first round, then pinned junior Owen Philbrick of Hibbing in 2:33 in the quarterfinals. Merten pinned eighth-ranked senior Austin Richard of Mora in 4:46 in the semifinals which put him in the finals against fourth-ranked senior Jonah Westbury of Chisago Lakes.
Westbury pinned Merten in 3:06 which moved Merten to a true second match against junior Seamus Hunter of North Branch. Merten decisioned Hunter 6-4 to claim his first state berth.
“I was a little nervous – I had lost to Hunter in the section team tournament,” said Merten, who will carry a 26-11 record into the state tourney.
Things don’t get any easier for Merten at the state meet where he’ll face top-ranked junior Sam Stoll of Kasson-Mantorville (42-0) in the first round.
“He’s good but I’ll give it my best,” added Merten.
Senior Mike Hoffman placed third at 126 at the section, losing to Reid Johnson of North Branch 7-4 in a match for true second.
Ninth-grader Dru Kuchenbaker placed fourth at 138, sophomore Jack Barsody placed fifth at 145, sophomore Aaron Moscho placed fourth at 152, junior Jorgen Erickson placed sixth at 160 and sophomore Zach Peterson placed fifth at 220.
Sophomore Hunter Noor at 120 and sophomore Josh Otten at 160 did not compete because of injuries.
“We’ve got four good wrestlers at state,” said co-coach Clay Hoeck. “They will do a good job representing our program.”