by Jared Hines
Contributing Sports Writer
One year ago, nine area wrestlers—four from Elk River, two from Spectrum and Rogers, and one from Zimmerman—competed at the 2016 MSHSL state wrestling tournament. The tournament brought place finishers from all four schools, including Rogers’ first state champion in Andrew Piehl.
2017 was a little different down at the Xcel Energy Center, with only two of the area schools sending wrestlers (three total). That said, there was still excitement down on the mat.
“It didn’t feel like I was in a closed environment like our high school gym,” Elk River senior Casey Schilz said about wrestling at the Xcel Energy Center for the first time. “Overall, it was pretty fun considering the crowd and the hype before the match.”
Schilz entered the state tournament 30-3, representing section 7-3A after a more-than-respectable senior season in which he defeated almost anyone who came in his path. In the 7-3A section tournament, he pinned two of his three opponents, both in the first period.
The first opponent for Schilz on Friday afternoon was Tanyi Besong of Apple Valley. Besong and the Eagles were coming off championship No. 25 in 36 appearances with their win over Anoka the night prior. Schilz took down Besong with 45 seconds left in the first to take a 2-0 lead before Besong escaped 20 seconds later. Schilz had a 2-1 lead after the first period.
In the second period, Schilz started on bottom and escaped before Besong took him down 52 seconds into the second period. Schilz escaped yet again but Besong was right there for two more points on another takedown. With 10 seconds left in the period, Schilz was able to get off his back and turn Besong, giving him a two-point reversal and a 6-5 lead heading into the final period.
“This sport has meant a lot to me,” Schilz said. “It’s a character builder, and I can’t thank the coaches and friends I’ve become close with over the years.”
Besong tied the score just six seconds into the period by escaping from the bottom. One minute later, Besong issued his third takedown of the match, giving him a two-point lead with just 50 seconds left. Schilz escaped with 36 seconds to spare but couldn’t take down Besong before the final whistle blew.
In Besong’s next match, Schilz became his biggest supporter, as Besong’s result with determine whether Schilz had another match, or if his career was over. In the state tournament, you are only entered into the wrestle-back matches if the opponent who beats you continues to win. Unfortunately for Besong (and Schilz), this was not the case. Besong dropped his match 7-5, ending Schilz senior season at 30-4.
“This sport has made me who I am over the years,” Schilz said. “Even though I wasn’t a success at the state tourney, I think overall this year and my career have been successful. I love this sport and I wouldn’t trade the past ten years I’ve been doing it for anything in the world.”
The other two area wrestlers who represented Independent School District 728 at the state tournament were Wil Yasseri and Bret Wilson, both from Rogers.
Yasseri entered the state tournament 18-9, representing the Royals as the youngest wrestler in school history to make the state tournament. His first matchup was against Trayton Anderson of Farmington, a sophomore who was 27-6 as the tournament began.
“State is always the best part of the season,” Rogers head coach Chris Donnay said. “It’s just awesome hanging out as a group and highlighting all the hard work these guys put in.”
Anderson got the best of Yasseri, defeating him by major decision en route to a second-place finish in the tournament in the 113 3A weight class. With Anderson’s second round win, Yasseri was given another match, this time against Adam Mickelson of Apple Valley.
“Having a place winner for the third year in a row and having our youngest wrestler ever competing this year is the icing on the cake,” Donnay said.
Yasseri dropped his match 14-4 to Mickelson, ending his eighth-grade season with an overall record of 18-11.
For junior Bret Wilson, the state tournament was nothing new for him. This was his third trip to the theret, but he was determined to finish on the podium this year. He made quick work in his first-round match against Casey Schlickenmeyer of Cambridge-Isanti, pinning him in the second period. His second-round match would be much tougher, a meeting with Cael Carlson of Willmar.
Carlson started the match with a takedown late in the first period and with just seven seconds to spare, Wilson escaped to trail 2-1 after the first period. The rest of the match was controlled by Carlson, as he was rewarded points for a takedown and three-point nearfall, as well as a third-period reversal. Carlson won 9-1, also taking second place in the 126 3A weight class. Wilson moved to the consolation side of the bracket, with work left to do to reach his goal of standing on the podium during Saturday night awards.
Wilson controlled the next two matches and showed why he was ranked at his weight class for the second half of the season by John Nalan of “The Guillotine.” Wilson defeated Josh Oathoudt of Faribault 11-1, and in his next match pinned Jesse Sattler of Hopkins in just 49 seconds. He had now reached the podium, the only question left would be where on the podium he would be standing.
“Bret has worked so hard for so long,” Donnay said. “He deserves this. His goal was to be on the podium this year and he accomplished it.”
Wilson dropped his last two matches, both by close decisions. In the fifth-place match, he lost 3-1, giving him a sixth-place finish and finishing his season with a 34-7 record.
Wilson started the season with 99 wins, ending his junior campaign with 133 victories, third on Rogers’ all-time list. He is currently two wins behind Andrew Piehl and seven behind Philip Anderson. He is expected to be on the top of that list early into his senior season. Coach Donnay was ecstatic about Yasseri and Wilson’s run, but wants to continue getting more guys down the state tournament every season.
“The three week run we had after Christmas was amazing and this group of kids made it so fun this year,” Donnay said. “Next year, we just have to get them (Yasseri and Wilson) and a couple more down here.”