Pirates upset top-seeded Frazee, 43-29, one win away from section title
FRAZEE — Coach looked at athlete, and athlete looked at coach. No words were exchanged, because no words were needed.
The Crookston wrestling team led Frazee, 31-29, with two matches remaining. If Ethan Boll could pin his opponent at 220 pounds, he would clinch the upset of the top-seeded Hornets and put the Pirates in the Section 8A championship match for the first time since 2010.
Wes Hanson didn't have to remind his athlete of any of that. Before Boll stepped onto the mat, Hanson simply gave him "the look." Boll knew exactly what that look meant.
Seventy-two seconds later, the referee slapped the mat and blew his whistle. Boll had pinned Howard Solem. He threw his right fist into the air and bounded into a huddle of his exuberant teammates. Crookston was moving on.
"He knew the implications of the match," Hanson said. "And he's always a guy that's looking to grab bonus points."
With a 43-29 win, the fourth-seeded Pirates defeated Frazee in the Section 8A team semifinals Thursday night. On Saturday, they'll face Badger/Greenbush-Middle River in Cass Lake with the section title on the line.
"In my tenure as coach, we haven't had the opportunity to wrestle in the section final," Hanson said. "... It's been a while, and to beat Frazee on the way there is a big accomplishment."
It wasn't just an upset over the section's top team, though. It was an almost complete flipping of the script from when the Pirates and the Hornets met just seven days ago in Frazee. The Hornets won that match, 42-33, helping them earn their No. 1 seed and home-mat advantage in the first place.
Prior to the rematch, Hanson parsed through what Crookston (21-10, 7-3 section) needed to do to change that outcome. Limiting defeats to decisions instead of pins. Weathering the storm during the middle weights.
In addition, Hanson tweaked the Pirates' lineup. Carter Coauette, who had lost to Jake Nagel at 132 pounds last Thursday, moved down to 120. Zach Brown slotted in at 126 to go against Christian Carlson, who he'd faced in last year's individual section championships. Ethan Bowman took Coauette's spot at 132.
"We got Carter Coauette down at 120, and he's very effective right there," Hanson said. "We knew Zach had a familiar opponent at 126 with Christian Carlson, and that was a matchup we kind of liked. We figured with Ethan Bowman up at 132, he's just having a great year and he was ready for the challenge."
The changes worked just as planned. Crookston, which after dropping the first match took a 6-4 lead on Nolan Dans' pin at 113 pounds, won at 120, 126 and 132 pounds as well. Coauette was in control right from the jump, and his pin of Brady Borah in the second period seemed inevitable. Bowman piled on the points late, with a third-period takedown and near fall at the buzzer to record a major decision over Jake Nagel.
Brown had a little bit more trouble with Carlson, who took a 2-1 lead on a reversal with 48 seconds left in the third period. But Brown, the No. 7 wrestler in Class A, rose to the occasion, taking back the lead via two escapes and hanging on for the 3-2 decision.
Last Thursday, Frazee won seven of eight matches between 132 and 195 pounds. Five of those victories came by fall. This time, the Pirates limited the damage, just as Hanson hoped.
Crookston held a 19-10 lead at 145 pounds when Tyler Moe took Braxton Volker to the mat. Volker's shoulders hovered off the ground, but never for two seconds at a time. Moe had to settle for a major decision. At 152 pounds, Spencer Ness hung on in a similar fashion against Preston Mayfield, who had pinned him last Thursday. Ness nearly came back from a near fall and 7-0 deficit, ultimately forcing a 9-6 decision.
"That's something we've been preaching all along," Hanson said. "For those guys to just keep competing and not give up the big move was critical for us."
Hunter Knutson's pin at 160 pounds returned the momentum to the Pirates' side. But the Hornets (12-11) won the next two matches, and took their second lead of the night at 29-25.
With the Pirates having won the 220 and 285-pound matches last Thursday, the dual seemed to hang in the balance at 195 pounds, where Crookston sent out Layten Fuentes. Fuentes hadn't wrestled against Frazee previously — in fact, it had been nearly a month since he had competed on varsity at all.
Rust be damned, Fuentes scored a takedown immediately and came out strong in the second period as well, pinning Erick Rodelo.
"The right moment was there," Hanson said. "He had the opportunity to get the big move. A huge win for Layten, and I'm just proud of him."
With that, the table was set for Boll.
"It was confident," Boll said of Hanson's expression before his match. "He had confidence in me to get six."
And why wouldn't he? Boll, ranked No. 3 in Class A, came into Thursday with a record of 29-2 and 15 pins to his name.
It didn't take him long to make it 16. Boll took down Solem early and stayed in control from there, rendering the 285-pound match between Greg Gonzalez and Byron Kropuenske anticlimactic. Gonzalez, for good measure, won that too, pinning the Frazee heavyweight in the third period.
Boll, the closer, credited his teammates for putting him in position to be such.
"It mostly just comes down to the team," Boll said. "We wrestled great tonight."
No more words were needed.
UP NEXT: Both the Section 8A and Section 7A championship matches will be held in Cass Lake on Saturday. The respective section champions will wrestle each other immediately afterwards, with the winner qualifying for the four-team state tournament March 27 in St. Michael.
Crookston will wrestle No. 3 seed Badger/Greenbush-Middle River for the Section 8A championship. The winner of that match will face either Section 7A No. 1 seed Royalton-Upsala or No. 3 Aitkin.
Badger/Greenbush-Middle River, the defending section champions, defeated the Pirates, 42-35, in Crookston on Jan. 28.
"You work hard all year round and your whole career, but it comes down to postseason time," Hanson said. "I know as we keep competing, we've been building some momentum, and our guys are putting the little things together, getting close to where we need to be. Hopefully we're peaking at the right time."
CROOKSTON 43, FRAZEE 29
- 106 pounds: Cade Nagel (Frazee) over Evin Trudeau (major dec. 14-2)
- 113 pounds: Nolan Dans (Crookston) over Sebastian Sonnenberg (fall 1:56)
- 120 pounds: Carter Coauette (Crookston) over Brady Borah (fall 2:57)
- 126 pounds: Zach Brown (Crookston) over Christian Carlson (dec. 3-2)
- 132 pounds: Ethan Bowman (Crookston) over Jake Nagel (major dec. 9-1)
- 138 pounds: Kaden Kiemenz (Frazee) over Cameron Weiland (fall 1:24)
- 145 pounds: Tyler Moe (Frazee) over Braxton Volker (major dec. 14-5)
- 152 pounds: Preston Mayfield (Frazee) over Spencer Ness (dec. 9-6)
- 160 pounds: Hunter Knutson (Crookston) over Derek Zitzow (fall 3:39)
- 170 pounds: Brock Barlund (Frazee) win by forfeit
- 182 pounds: Max Rue (Frazee) over Cade DeLeon (fall 0:55)
- 195 pounds: Layten Fuentes (Crookston) over Erick Rodelo (fall 2:34)
- 220 pounds: Ethan Boll (Crookston) over Howard Solem (fall 1:12)
- 285 pounds: Greg Gonzalez (Crookston) over Byron Kropuenske (fall 4:34)
The Times welcomes your feedback. You can send any comments or questions to our office at (218) 281-2730 or sports editor Jacob Shames at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow along on Twitter @crookstonsports and @Jacob_Shames for all the latest stories and live game updates.