Crookston wrestling season in review
This article is the eighth in a series recapping the winter sports season for Crookston High School and the University of Minnesota Crookston. Previously: UMC women's basketball, UMC hockey, UMC men's basketball, Crookston boys' basketball, Crookston girls' hockey, Crookston boys' hockey, Crookston girls' basketball. Today: Crookston wrestling.
The Crookston boys' hockey team had one goal coming into 2021: to "take over the section."
The Pirates were coming off one of their most successful seasons in recent memory, in which they sent five individual wrestlers to the Class A State Tournament. With almost the entire team set to run it back, expectations were high, befitting the talent in Crookston's wrestling room.
But during the regular season, the Pirates were just a step behind Badger/Greenbush-Middle River, Frazee and United North Central in Section 8A. They lost close duals against all three schools, and fell to the No. 4 seed in the section tournament as a result.
Then, when it mattered most, everything came together.
Crookston rolled Fosston-Bagley in the quarterfinals before going on the road to upset top-seeded Frazee, 43-29. That set up a date with two-time defending section champs BGMR in the title match in Cass Lake on March 13.
It had been 11 years since the Pirates last wrestled for a section championship, 22 since a team other than BGMR or Frazee won it, 33 since Crookston's last section championship. But the Pirates brought the latter two streaks to an end with a 39-27 victory over the Gators; the culmination of a dream season.
Crookston lost to Royalton-Upsala in the state preliminaries, but the Pirates weren't done. They had 10 wrestlers qualify for the individual state preliminaries the next week, with two — Ethan Boll and Zach Brown — going on to represent them in St. Michael on March 27.
Boll placed fifth at state while Brown did not place, making 2021 the fourth straight season a Crookston wrestler finished on the podium. But this year, the Pirates also had the team success to go along with it.
- Record: 22-11, 8-3 Section 8A
- Regular season: fourth in Section 8A
- Postseason: W 39-27 vs. BGMR in Section 8A Championship, L 49-26 vs. Royalton-Upsala in Class A State Preliminary
- Statistical leaders: Ethan Boll (38-3, 20 pins), Ethan Bowman (35-3, 14 pins), Zach Brown (34-5, 16 pins), Nolan Dans (30-8, 17 pins), Braxton Volker (25-14, 14 pins), Carter Coauette (24-6, 12 pins), Hunter Knutson (23-15, 15 pins), Cameron Weiland (19-17, 13 pins)
- Seniors: Cade Coauette, Cameron Weiland, Greg Gonzalez, Nolan Dans, Zach Brown
- State preliminary qualifiers: Braxton Volker, Cameron Weiland, Ethan Boll, Ethan Bowman, Evin Trudeau, Greg Gonzalez, Hunter Kresl, Hunter Knutson, Nolan Dans, Zach Brown
- State qualifiers: Ethan Boll (5th), Zach Brown (DNP)
The Pirates had a string of milestones in the middle of the season. Brown won his 150th career match in Barnesville on Feb. 4, Boll won his 100th in Bertha on Feb. 6, and Carter Coauette and Nolan Dans won their 50th and 100th, respectively, in Barrett on Feb. 9. Against Fosston in the section tournament, Hunter Knutson picked up his 50th win.
But there's no question what the crowning achievement of Crookston's season was.
The Pirates dominated right out of the gates against BGMR, taking a 26-0 lead after six matches. Even the injured Cade Coauette got into the action, jogging out to claim a win by forfeit at 160 pounds which gave Crookston a 35-6 lead and put them one win of any kind from the section title.
The job of closing it out fell to Boll, who had done the same with a match-clinching pin against Frazee two days earlier. In control throughout, he wrapped up a 9-1 major decision over Caleb Vacura, and the Pirate faithful rejoiced.
Crookston will graduate five seniors: Brown, Dans, Coauette, Cameron Weiland and Greg Gonzalez.
Brown ends his career as one of the greatest Pirates of all time, with 171 wins, three section titles and four state appearances to his name. Between Coauette, Dans, Gonzalez and Weiland, Crookston loses 285 career wins, including 70 this season.
But don't expect a rebuild.
The Pirates' sophomore class is stacked. Boll was one of the most dominant wrestlers in the state at 195 pounds. Ethan Bowman was unbeaten for most of the season wrestling at 120, 126 and 132 pounds. Knutson, a state qualifier in 2020, was fourth on the team in pins at 160 pounds, and Braxton Volker won 25 matches mostly at 138 and 145. Hunter Kresl and Layten Fuentes pitched in with several important wins at 195 and 220 pounds. At the lower weights, Evin Trudeau and Carter Coauette, a state qualifier last year, lead a strong group of freshmen.
There are a few open spots in Crookston's lineup as of now, but if the Pirates' young talent continues to step forward, they'll continue to be a force in Section 8A. And they'll do so from a perch they last occupied in 1989.
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