Crookston beats BGMR, 39-27, for first section title since 1988
CASS LAKE — The words are written in all caps on a big board in the Crookston wrestling room: "WE'RE GONNA WIN THE SECTION."
Those words have been there since the beginning of the season. But the full impact of such a feat stretches back much farther.
Before Saturday, it had been 33 years since a Pirate team won a section championship; 23 years since a team not named Badger/Greenbush-Middle River or Frazee had made it to the state tournament out of Section 8A; 11 years since the Pirates had last taken the mat in a section final at all.
They weren't necessarily supposed to be here even now. They lost regular-season duals to each of the section's other contenders: BGMR, Frazee and United North Central. They dropped to the fourth seed in the section tournament, and needed to take down the top-seeded Hornets on the road Thursday. They did so emphatically, and arrived in Cass Lake on the brink of history.
And on Saturday, these Pirates wrote themselves into the record books. Crookston defeated two-time defending section champions Badger/Greenbush-Middle River, 39-27, to win its first section title since 1988.
"You think about all the time that we've put in and all of the repetitions on different techniques. It just takes a complete effort all the way through to have something like this happen," said Crookston coach Wes Hanson. "I'm just awfully thankful and lucky to coach this group of guys, and proud of this work."
The Pirates' biggest strength resides in their lower weights, and going up against a Gator squad posing a slew of formidable opponents at 160 pounds and up, a blazing start was a requirement. They got that and more, jumping out to a 26-0 lead after six matches.
Evin Trudeau beat Christian Berg by decision at 106 pounds. Nolan Dans pinned Elliott Isane at 113. At 120, Carter Coauette went up against a familiar opponent in Jaxon Janousek, who he'd beaten in the true second match in last season's individual section championships to qualify for state. Coauette nearly had Janousek pinned late in the third period, but was more than happy winning by an 8-1 decision.
"Carter Coauette just was instrumental in our run here," Hanson said. "His determination and drive and willingness to go out and compete for his team at 120 pounds was just huge."
Zach Brown piled up the points via takedown to score a technical fall over Bode DeZelar at 126 pounds. At 132 pounds, Crookston sent Cameron Weiland out as his more natural weight, after Weiland had spent much of the season at 138 or 145 pounds. Weiland looked right at home, pinning Danyn Janousek in three minutes.
Weiland's move meant that Ethan Bowman, unbeaten at 126 and 132 pounds this season, wrestled up at 138 against Tony Olson. Bowman was in trouble early, as Olson had him in a near fall in the second period. But a smooth reversal got Bowman out of the jam, on the scoreboard and gave him momentum. He took control late and flipped Olson on his back with 10 seconds left, and while he couldn't finish off the pin, a three-point near fall gave Bowman the win by decision.
"That's something we preach in the room all the time," Hanson said. "Keep believing, pushing forward and wrestle the entire six minutes, good things happen. Ethan's a guy that's bought into that. He just never gave up."
BGMR won at 145 pounds, but Crookston inched closer to victory with Braxton Volker's decision over Brogan Beito at 152. As the Gators and Pirates both had forfeited matches at 170 pounds in their previous dual, they were required to forfeit the weight class directly above or below 170 in all subsequent postseason duals.
When the Gators chose to forfeit at 160, Crookston sent out Cade Coauette, who's currently unable to wrestle due to an injury. That didn't matter Saturday, as the senior clearly relished jogging onto the mat to claim six points for his team, smiling as he returned with the 35-6 lead in tow.
With five matches to go, one more win — of any kind — would clinch the section title for the Pirates. Even a loss, as long as it wasn't via pin or technical fall, would do the job.
At 195 pounds, Crookston sent out Ethan Boll, whose pin against Frazee had clinched the semifinal dual, to slam the door shut once again.
"We just had to make sure that we were keeping it simple," Hanson said. "As long as Ethan went out there and kept to high-percentage techniques, stayed in good position, we were gonna win that dual."
Boll did everything he needed to. He never relinquished control against Caleb Vacura, and as time ran out on a 9-1 win by decision, the reality of what the Pirates had just done began seeping in.
Dominik Vacura and Dawson Beito picked up wins at 220 and 285 pounds for BGMR, but they were for naught. The Gators then filed out of the gym slowly, their quest for a section three-peat brought to a halt.
The end of the match, however, wasn't a perfect picture of contrasts. Crookston, even after accomplishing its "primary goal" for the season according to Hanson, still had to wrestle later in the day in the state preliminaries against Section 7A champion Royalton-Upsala.
As a result, it wasn't complete and total joy just yet. The Pirates couldn't lose their focus for their next match.
But they knew, regardless of whatever would happen later Saturday afternoon, that they had made those five words written back home in their wrestling room come true.
CROOKSTON 39, BADGER/GREENBUSH-MIDDLE RIVER 27
- 106 pounds: Evin Trudeau (Crookston) over Christian Berg (dec. 8-4)
- 113 pounds: Nolan Dans (Crookston) over Elliot Isane (fall 3:20)
- 120 pounds: Carter Coauette (Crookston) over Jaxon Janousek (dec. 8-1)
- 126 pounds: Zach Brown (Crookston) over Bode DeZelar (tech. fall 17-1 at 6:00)
- 132 pounds: Cameron Weiland (Crookston) over Danyn Janousek (fall 3:15)
- 138 pounds: Ethan Bowman (Crookston) over Tony Olson (dec. 5-4)
- 145 pounds: Garrett Undeberg (BGMR) over Spencer Ness (fall 2:45)
- 152 pounds: Braxton Volker (Crookston) over Brogan Beito (dec. 8-4)
- 160 pounds: Cade Coauette (Crookston) win by forfeit
- 170 pounds: Ethan Waage (BGMR) over Hunter Knutson (fall 3:16)
- 182 pounds: Nathan Waage (BGMR) win by forfeit
- 195 pounds: Ethan Boll (Crookston) over Caleb Vacura (major dec. 9-1)
- 220 pounds: Dominik Vacura (BGMR) over Hunter Kresl (fall 0:16)
- 285 pounds: Dawson Beito (BGMR) over Greg Gonzalez (dec. 7-6)
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