By Bruce Strand
A breakout season by the Rogers wrestling team that started with a win over Maple Grove ended with a loss to the same Crimson team Saturday, one win short of state.
The Crimson took a 27-0 lead over the top-seeded Royals and held on to beat them 38-28 in the Section 5AAA finals at Maple Grove.
“We tried, we fought, but we came out a little flat at the start,” said Rogers captain Phil Anderson, whose pin at 138 was the team’s first points. “We didn’t give our heavyweight a chance (to win it).”
The Royals, who beat Maple Grove 42-23 in a season-opening tournament in December, finished their best season with an 18-6 record. They advanced to finals with wins of 69-6 over Park Center and 43-25 over Osseo.
“We came out flat and we couldn’t keep that ball rolling once Phil got it going for us,” said coach Chris Donnay. “Fifty two and sixty were kind of the key matches for us and we lost both of them.”
In a section with no ranked teams, Maple Grove emerged as the state entrant despite a so-so 16-14 record coming in that included a 55-15 loss to Elk River in the last week of the regular season and losses to all three teams they beat at sectionals.
“Every single guy on our team was ready today,” said Crimson coach Troy Seubert. “We have 19 guys on our roster and 18 wrestled today. It was fun to see them all come together and wrestle the way I knew they could.”
The Crimson, who beat Champlin Park 61-6 and Centennial 43-28 to reach the finals, will take a 19-14 record into state.
Rogers, after cruising into the finals, had a disastrous start.
Their 106-pounder, eighth-grader Bret Wilson, wins over 90 percent of the time, but Maple Grove’s Brad Osatuik was state runner-up last year. Rogers doesn’t have a 113-pounder, so Donnay forfeited 106 and hoped Wilson could win at 113 despite giving up almost 10 pounds. Wilson got pinned by Tyler Shilson, which was followed by a tech fall, pin and major decision adding up 27 points.
“We figured if we left Bret at 106,” said Donnay, “Maple Grove would bump all their guys up, and their 32 would bump up to Phil, and Phil beat him 1-0 earlier. We were hoping Cruz could win at 26 and Phil could pin, for nine points. But we didn’t get it. Their 20-pounder had beaten us twice, too, so we had to try something.”
Rogers had to stay close enough to let their formidable four at the top pull it out, but managed just one more win before then, by Connor Larson 3-1 at 145.
In two other matches that could go either way, Will Suehr topped Jordan Bond 6-0 at 152 and Elijah Solomon got a takedown with 10 seconds left to beat Sam Suedbeck 4-3 at 160.
“Elijah had lost to him twice this year, both close matches, but he pulled that one out, so that was huge,” said Seubert.
Maple Grove had the victory clinched at 170, never mind that Rogers closed the gap with pins by Tyler Eicher and Jordan Lemcke, an overtime win by Jake Owns and a major by Andrew Piehl.
It was the second section runner-up trophy of the school year for the football players in the lineup, including junior linebacker Owens. The gridders also lost in the section finals to a team (St. Michael-Albertville) they beat earlier.
“Yeah, it’s a gross feeling, to work hard all season, and get to this point, and then lose,” said Owens.
The Royals will try for state individual qualifications next Friday and Saturday.
“We’ll go back to work and try get a bunch of guys down there (to state),” said Anderson, who’s already gone to state twice.
Donnay said nine Royals have a shot if they wrestle well “but our goal is to have more than the three we had last year, and keep building on that every year.”
In Rogers nine previous years of wrestling they had two winning seasons, 12-9 in 2006-07 and 12-11 in 2007-08. They were 23-52 the four years after that, but started to turn the corner last year (13-14) with Donnay taking over.
The Royals will lose three solid seniors but return 10 other starters.
“I think we’ll be back,” said Owens.