Six area matmen ready for state
Six area wrestlers who have ridden the rails all the way to final stop will be competing at Xcel Energy Center Wednesday for the first round of the Class A state wrestling tournament.
Wadena-Deer Creek will send three first-time state entries to the big show while Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale will have two veterans and a deserving senior on the mat.
When the Class A individual tournament begins at Wednesday at 8 p.m. WDC will have 112-pound sophomore Mitch Steffens, 130-pound junior Jordan Rentz and 140-pound junior Jacob Wegscheid competing. Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale entries include 152-pound senior Jake Braaten, 171-pound senior Amos Schmidt and sophomore heavyweight Colin Turchin.
The red-headed Steffens is "the most relentless wrestler I have," according to WDC head coach Norm Gallant. Steffens is very quick and flows from one move to another with ease. Ranked ninth in the final Guillotine poll, Steffens takes a 30-5 record into his first state tournament. Steffens has drawn the state's No. 2 -ranked wrestler, Medford's Zach Keller, in the first round. Keller is 29-1 this season.
"Rentzie is just Mr. Consistent," said Gallant who has appreciated the quiet leadership which the WDC captain has shown this season. Rentz has been wrestling varsity since the eighth grade and has the kind of work ethic Gallant likes. Rentz will match his 22-11 record against Royalton-Upsala's Odin Guerard, who is 23-11.
The WDC junior has been turning in his best wrestling of the season over recent weeks winning 11 of his last 12 matches. Wegscheid takes a 22-12 mark into his first state tournament. The twin brother of WDC standout Jared Wegscheid, Jacob is not your typical WDC wrestler who pins his opponent according to Gallant but has the ability to score a lot of points quickly. Wegscheid has drawn Class A's No. 3 wrestler in the first round, LeSueur-Henderson's Brett Pfarr, who is 38-2.
The Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale star is Class A's third-ranked wrestler has won four section titles and wades into the state tournament with a 29-2 record. Braaten got a late start this year because of a football injury he suffered in the Section 4, Class Nine-man championship game against, ironically, Verndale. Braaten will be shooting to improve on last year's third place finish in the 152 weight group. Braaten faces Dover-Eyota's Jake Krogstad, 31-7, in his first match. Krogstad is ranked seventh in the state.
Schmidt added another laurel to his great high school career with his state-qualifying performance at last week's Section 6A tournament. Schmidt competed in the Class A state track and field meet last spring and the Class Nine-man state football playoffs last fall. He has been competing against wrestlers above his normal weight class in past seasons. Schmidt will be taking former teammate Matt Moenkedick's place in the 171 weight class and brings a team-best 34-4 record into state. Class A's fifth-ranked wrestler faces Paynesville Area's Michael Doom, 29-4, in the opening round. Doom is ranked eighth in the state.
Turchin is ranked fourth by The Guillotine as he enters his second straight state tournament. Wrestling in Section 6A has given Turchin an opportunity to sharpen his skills this season against Class A's No. 3-ranked heavyweight, New York Mills' Landyn Saewert. Turchin will put a 32-9 record on the line against Jackson County Central's Jordan Phibbs, 27-10. Turchin's only losses this season have been to ranked opponents.