Ethan Boll and Zach Brown's routes to a state title
At 3:15 p.m. Friday afternoon, a caravan of cars left the Crookston High School parking lot carrying the hopes and dreams of two athletes, the Crookston wrestling team and the town of Crookston itself.
On Saturday, the Class A Individual State Finals will take place at St. Michael-Albertville High School in St. Michael. The top eight wrestlers in each weight class will compete for supremacy.
Ethan Boll and Zach Brown, the two Pirates to qualify for the finals this season, are three wins away from standing atop the podium and equaling the achievements of past Crookston greats Paul Kuznik (1985, 1986) and Lenny Meine (1989, 1990).
The Crookston duo will also be looking to outdo their state finishes from a season ago, when they were the highest-placing Pirates at the state tournament. Brown finished fifth at 120 pounds, and Boll placed sixth at 182 pounds.
Boll, a sophomore competing at 195 pounds this season, enters as the No. 3 wrestler in Class A, per The Guillotine. He has a 36-2 record on the season, with 20 wins by fall and six by major decision. He has not lost since Feb. 9, when he was defeated by No. 1 Thomas Dineen of Benson by 6-2 decision.
Boll qualified for state easily, going undefeated at the Section 8A Individual Tournament last Tuesday and winning all three of his matches at the state preliminaries in Cass Lake on Saturday.
As the No. 2 seed in the bracket, Boll will wrestle No. 7 seed Carter Quam of Kenyon-Wanamingo in the first round. Quam is 27-3 on the season.
Should Boll defeat Quam, he would then face either third-seeded Ethan Kovars (28-1) of Zumbrota-Mazeppa or Gideon Ervasti (26-3) of Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale/Parkers Prairie. Boll faced Ervasti earlier this year in a triangular on Feb. 6, falling by 3-2 decision.
On the other side of the bracket, top-seeded Dineen (35-0) will wrestle United North Central's Torrey Carlson (22-6) in the quarterfinals. The winner of that match will take on either Jackson County Central's Caleb Vancura (30-2), the No. 4 seed, or Kimball Area's Carter Holtz (29-3).
If Boll and Dineen were to meet in the championship match, it would be a rematch of last season's fifth-place match at the state tournament, where Dineen pinned Boll in the third period.
Brown, a senior, is making his fourth straight appearance at the state tournament. While he is competing at 120 pounds, The Guillotine ranks him seventh in Class A at 126 pounds. Brown enters the tournament at 34-3 with 16 pins, three technical falls and six major decisions.
Brown made it to state by virtue of placing second in the state preliminaries. In the final match Saturday, he was pinned by Aitkin's Marshall Larson, Class A's No. 1 wrestler at 120 pounds and owner of a 36-1 record.
As the No. 6 seed at 120 pounds, Brown will wrestle Ryan Jensen (32-4) of Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa in the first round. If Brown defeats Jensen, it could potentially set up a semifinal rematch with Larson, the No. 2 seed, who will take on Lane Fink (31-5) of Canby in the quarterfinals.
Brandon Ross of Caledonia/Houston is the No. 1 seed at 120 pounds. Ross is 28-0 on the season, and faces Zumbrota-Mazeppa's Kaleb Lochner (23-7) in the first round. Fourth-seeded Eric Carrasco (29-4) of Minneota and Border West's Eli Larson (30-4) will wrestle for the right to take on either Ross or Lochner in the semifinals.
Brown and Ross have some history. Last season, the two met in the semifinals, and Ross used a third-period takedown to defeat Brown by 3-1 decision. If Brown and Ross were to meet again, it would likely be with a state title on the line.
If Brown were to meet Larson, it would also be a rematch, as Larson defeated Brown by 6-5 decision in a triangular on Jan. 22.
Crookston has had a podium finisher each of the last three seasons, after a five-year drought from 2013-2017. Lukas Meier finished fifth at 145 pounds in 2018, and Brown placed fourth at 113 pounds in 2019.
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