Zach Brown, Colton Weiland and Lukas Meier competed at the state tournament in St. Paul with Meier placing fifth.
Crookston took two section champions and one runner-up to St. Paul over the weekend. Freshman Zach Brown, senior Colton Weiland and junior Lukas Meier all represented Crookston and Section 8A at the Xcel Energy Center with Meier reaching the podium taking fifth place in the 145 class.
The tournament began on Friday, March 2 with 16 wrestlers in each class. A win guaranteed a spot in the championship quarterfinals, but a loss could mean the end. With a loss in the first round, the loser must hope their first opponent wins in the quarterfinals. Otherwise, the loser is out. The first two rounds of the consolation bracket serve as elimination matches. Once a wrestler reaches the consolation semifinals, they are guaranteed two more matches and a spot on the podium.
Brown’s first match resulted in a 11-8 decision loss to Carter Meiners, but with Meiners winning his quarterfinal match, Brown earned a spot in the wrestlebacks (consolation) bracket.
In the first round of wrestlebacks, Brown trailed 4-1 late in the third period and it appeared his inaugural state tournament would be coming to a close. Suddenly with seconds remaining, Brown received two points for a takedown and two more back points as time expired and won 5-4 to stay alive.
“I thought I was down four so I knew I had to push the pace,” Brown said. “I was trying to get a takedown, but then he got in on the takedown, so I tried to drive him over and put him to his back. He got in pretty deep so I rolled through and got some back points in the takedown. It was pretty exciting and I couldn’t hold back my celebration. It’s a big thrill.”
Head Coach Wes Hanson watched his freshman execute his final moves to perfection and joined in the celebration when he realized Brown earned the points in time.
“That was awesome,” Hanson said. “You just keep pushing forward and good things happen. That wasn’t the way we had it drawn up, but a thrilling finish for sure. It was good to see him have a short memory and take the come-from-behind victory.”
The win gave Brown a spot in the wrestleback quarterfinals which took place the next day. Brown took a 4-0 lead into the third period, but could not hold on surrendering five points to his opponent for a 5-4 decision loss.
Both wrestlers who beat Brown ended up finishing fifth and sixth overall.
“It was a very great freshman season for Zach,” Hanson said. “He is right in the mix. Any given day, he could be competing for a state title. He showed he could wrestle with the best of them. He’ll improve over the offseason and come back ready to go.”
Weiland’s state tournament also began with a loss, an 8-7 decision to Owen Bjerga. Bjerga won his next match 3-2 keeping Weiland alive and sending him to the first round of the wrestlebacks.
With new life, Weiland handily won his next match 6-1 and took another step towards a podium finish.
“I don’t think I was warmed up enough for the first one,” Weiland said. “I was mentally in it, but not physically. I just decided all I really needed was one more chance. I did and I just gave it everything I got.”
In the consolation quarterfinals, Weiland ran into Owen Novacek, the wrestler Weiland beat exactly one week earlier to win the section title.
After one period, the match remained scoreless. Weiland grabbed a 2-0 lead, but Novacek responded with four straight points. Weiland inched closer to make it 4-3 and trailed 6-3 after two periods. Novacek then went on a run taking a 9-4 lead and ending the match with a pin. Novacek went on to finish fourth and Bjerga placed sixth.
Weiland’s first year of wrestling came in Hanson’s first year as the wrestling coach in Crookston and Hanson commended his senior on an incomparable career.
“Words can hardly explain what he’s meant to our program,” Hanson said. “When he’s in our room, everybody feeds off of his energy. He’s a great leader and very fun to coach. It’s tough to see it come to an end this way, but we knew it would be tough. He gave it his all and it’s been an outstanding career for him. It’ll be fun to follow him wrestling in college.”
Meier began his run to the podium with a 5-3 overtime win in his first match. Leading 3-1, Meier’s opponent earned points for a takedown and forced overtime and Meier had to get refocused and ended the sudden death round with a takedown of his own.
“I was keeping my hips up and staying pretty confident,” Meier said. “Then in the last period, he got a takedown to send it into overtime. In overtime, it was looking like he was going to score, but I just kept powering through and got the takedown.”
Hanson credited Meier for continuing to compete even after allowing tying points to extend the match.
“He did a really nice job of scrambling and getting a takedown,” Hanson said. “He led for pretty much the whole match. He ended up giving up a takedown to force overtime. He just kept competing, never gave up and that’s what it took to win that match.”
That evening, Meier came back to wrestle in the championship quarterfinals. The match stayed close with each wrestler getting two points at a time. At one point, Meier trailed 6-4 in the second period, but rallied for three points to lead 7-6 by the start of the third period.
Meier dominated the third period outscoring his opponent 6-0 and winning 12-6 to advance to the championship semifinals and ensure a top six finish.
Meier came up short in the semifinals losing 6-0 to the eventual state champion and then lost by fall to the third place finisher.
The two losses put Meier in the match for fifth place. Meier fell behind early 2-0, but only allowed one more point the rest of the way and put up five. Meier held on for the 5-3 win and took fifth place in the state tournament.
Meier’s podium finish is the first for Crookston in four years and the first in Hanson’s time as the Crookston coach.
“Lukas had a really great tournament going 3-2,” Hanson said. “When you’re down here, everybody is tough. Five matches in two days is big. Going into next season as a tournament state place winner will help out.”
Hanson praised his state-qualifiers’ performances and hopes the success carries into years to come.
“It was really a great event down here,” Hanson said. “I thought our guys wrestled really hard. Getting three guys here and all to day two was huge. We had a couple of setbacks, but ultimately they had great seasons and the chance to wrestle here.”