Zach Brown placed fourth in the state for 113 pounds in Class A.

ST. PAUL -For the second straight year, a member of the Crookston Pirates found a spot on the podium at the state wrestling meet. Zach Brown (So. 113 Pounds) finished the two-day tournament with a record of 3-2 and walked out with a fourth place medal. Crookston's other state qualifier, Lukas Meier (Sr.), did not place after going 2-2.

    Through one day of wrestling, Brown won both of his matches to advance to the semifinals. Lukas Meier stayed alive on day one going 2-1, the second win came in an elimination match.

    “We feel pretty good about where we’re at,” Pirates Head Coach Wes Hanson said after day one. “I thought both guys wrestled really well, had a lot of good offense and put together some good matches. Both guys picking up two wins on the day is fun.”

    Brown dropped the semis match to open day two, beat his consolation semifinals opponent and ended the season with a loss by fall in the third place match.

    Meier's tournament concluded with a loss in the second round of the consolation bracket.

    “As everyone knows, the deeper you get into these tournaments, the tougher it  gets,” Hanson said. “Day two is a showcase of the best wrestlers in the state.”

Zach Brown (So. 113 Pounds)

    Brown, the fifth seed in the tournament, secured his first round victory over Brady Holien (Fr.), a 12 seed of Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City, with a win by fall in 49 seconds. Not only did Brown's 16th pin of the season advance him to the quarterfinals, the win served as Brown’s 100th in his career as a Pirate.

    The sophomore hoped to face No. 4 Carter Meiners (So.) of LPGE-Browerville, the wrestler responsible for Brown’s season-ending loss at state last season and his only defeat this year, in the quarterfinals. But after Meiners’ double overtime loss in round one, Brown met with No. 13 Tucker Ginther (8th Grade) from Caledonia-Houston, who improved to 24-15 after beating Meiners.

    “I went out and got a quick pin that first match, and that definitely helped because I didn’t have to go a full six minutes,” Brown said. “That second match was a pretty good kid. He was good at defending takedowns and scrambling. Whenever I’d get in on a shot, I’d always have to work to get that takedown. To go out there and beat him and make it to the semis is nice.”

    Against Ginther, Brown snagged a quick 2-0 lead with a takedown and expanded his advantage on a takedown and a near fall to 6-0, the eventual final.

    Hanson had nothing but praise for Brown on day one.

    “His mindset this year is to go and wrestle hard and win a bunch of matches down here,” Hanson said. “In that first one, he countered a nice leg attack, got one of his own and picked up a pin for his 100th win. In the quarterfinals, he was able to get to some fakes and run through him with a double leg. He really wrestled well in all positions.”

    Brown, who improved his record to 38-1, faced the No. 1 seed, Charley Elwood (8th Grade) from Medford, in the semifinals.

    Knowing he had a medal locked up, Brown put focus on climbing the podium.

    “[Elwood] is pretty good, but I feel if wrestle my match, I can take him on,” Brown said on Friday. “It’s nice knowing that I’ve placed, but right now, I want to reach big and get in that finals match.”

    Elwood controlled the first and second periods scoring on a takedown, a reversal and a nearfall. Brown's first takedown in the third period cut the deficit to 6-2 and his second made it a 7-4 match with under a minute to go. 

    Brown benefited from a penalty but still needed two more points to tie the match with 12 seconds left. Elwood then iced the match on a reversal in the final six seconds for a 9-5 score and moved on to the finals where he won a state title with a record of 35-2.

    “Even though I lost, I feel like I wrestled really good against Charley Elwood,” Brown said. “Being the number one kid in the state and me only losing by a couple definitely makes me feel good where I’m at right now.”

    The sophomore moved to the consolation semifinals to face No. 6 Cael Bartels (Jr.) from Chatfield at 33-9. The two traded two points from a takedown and a reversal, and Brown took a 3-2 lead in the shortened first period on an escape.

    Bartels evened the score on an escape to start the second period, and Brown regained a two-point advantage with his second takedown of the match. With three points from an escape and a takedown in the third frame, Brown went on to win 8-3 and advance to the bronze medal match.

    “After the first loss, I was really proud of the way [Zach] bounced back,” Hanson said. “He wrestled well in every position: he scrambled, he scored a lot of takedowns, rode tough in the top position. He’s a complete wrestler, and he’s right there. For a sophomore, his future’s very bright.”

    In the consolation championship, Brown wrestled No. 3 Aydin Horner (Fr.) from Tracy-Milroy-Balaton-Westbrook-Walnut-Grove.

    Horner seized the first points of the match via a takedown. Then, with 14 seconds to go in the period, Horner put Brown on his back and picked up the pin to take third and give Brown fourth.

    It was the first time all season Brown lost by a pin. He finishes the season with a record of 39-3. Horner moved to a 47-4 record.

    In this record season for Brown, the sophomore accumulated six tournament championships, won his second straight Section 8A Championship and also notched his 100th career win. It is his first time on the podium at the state competition, and the highest placing for a Pirate under Head Coach Wes Hanson.

    “It’s awesome just making the podium, but losing that last one definitely sucks,” Brown said. “It’s going to stick with me until next year. Hopefully, I can wrestle [Horner] again and take it to him better next time. I feel like I can get very high on that podium if I keep working my hardest, get up a couple places each year. That’d be real nice.”

Lukas Meier (Sr. 152 Pounds)

    Meier, seeded sixth, beat No. 11 Isaac Denstad (Jr.) from Caledonia-Houston in the first round. Denstad entered the match with a 33-10 record, but Meier controlled the entire contest. Meier scored on three takedowns, three nearfalls and a reversal. The third takedown put away Denstad 16-1 in 5:36.

    Improving to 20-6 on the season, the senior faced a difficult task in the form of No. 3 Seth Brossard (Sr.) of Kenyon-Wanamingo. Brossard came in with a 45-0 record.

    Meier avoided a pin in the first period, but Brossard still jumped out ahead 5-0. After a reversal, Brossard led 7-0 through two periods. Meier claimed two points on a takedown in the third, but Brossard's lead proved too great as the undefeated senior won by major decision 13-2.

    Brossard stayed unbeaten and claimed the state championship the next day.

    “Looking back at today, we got caught out of position, especially in that second match,” Meier said. “We weren’t putting [Brossard] in the position we wanted him to be where we were attacking. He was more on the offense. Got to look past today, and tomorrow’s a new day.”

    In Meier's first consolation match, he wrestled No. 14 Damion Theisen, a senior from Royalton-Upsala, with a record of 18-7. Meier led 2-1 after one period, grabbed two nearfall points in the second and capped off an 8-6 decision win with two escapes and a takedown.

    Hanson admired Meier's ability to react in a win-or-go-home situation.

    “In his first match of the day, he just had a ton of offense,” Hanson said. “He ran into a really good opponent in that quarterfinals match, but the way he bounced back speaks volumes. It’s all on the line and a must-win. He picked up a really nice takedown in the first and locked up a nice cradle.”

    Meier entered the arena for his second elimination match to start Saturday. Needing one more win to ensure a podium appearance, Meier took on No. 7 Marcus Otomo (Sr.) from Dover-Eyota.

    Fully aware of the stakes, Meier said on Friday he cannot put too much thought on who he wrestles in future matches.

    “Coming into this tournament, my goal was to finish on the right side of the podium, which means I win my last match,” Meier said. “I don’t want to give up on my goals. I need to focus on myself and not my opponent. I need to really get back on my offense.”

   The match featured a great deal of offense but not in the first period, which is shortened to one minute for this round in the tournament.

    Otomo scored four unanswered points via escape, reversal and nearfall to lead 4-1. Meier countered on a takedown and a nearfall to go ahead 5-4. Meier had Otomo on his back after the takedown, but the expiring clock to end period number two saved the senior.

    Trailing 6-5 after a takedown in the third, Meier earned an escape to tie the match with less than a minute to go. The match went into overtime, and 53 seconds in, Otomo took down Meier to end the match and Meier's season.

    “Lukas’ match to get into the placings, he fought hard, and that’s what he’s always done,” Hanson said. “He wrapped up a tremendous career. It’s never easy. You never want to have a good thing come to an end, and Lukas has brought a lot of great things to our program. That one moment in that match does certainly not define him as a wrestler. It’s a culmination of over 100 career wins, a state place finish last season and some good leadership.”

    Otomo improved to 34-4 record, and Meier ended his senior campaign at 21-8.

    In his career as a Pirate, Meier amassed over 100 wins, qualified for state twice and placed fifth at the 2018 state tournament at 145 pounds.

    After two straight years of a Pirate wrestler placing at state, Hanson believes the expectations for Crookston wrestlers are rising.

    “Having Lukas find the podium [last year], and Zach on the podium with the fourth place finish, you just hope that, moving forward, we continue to get more and more qualifiers,” Hanson said. “Although this end-of-the-year tournament is something that we want to focus to get to, I think the mindset is changing to wanting to come down here and win a bunch of matches and get some hardware.”

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