State powers clashed Saturday in Bluejacket Duals
Section 7AAA nearly always boasts the state’s toughest wrestling bracket, and this year will be no different. Not only will this winter’s event be the deepest of any section, it may also be the toughest to predict.
The postseason outlook became further blurred at Saturday’s Cambridge-Isanti Bluejacket Duals. The fifth-ranked hosts toppled No. 3 Forest Lake in the finals, 34-22.
Despite boasting a win earlier this season over No. 4 St. Michael-Albertville, the Rangers may be looking at a fourth seed come team sectionals. Though the Knights have defeated both Cambridge-Isanti and No. 6 Coon Rapids, the Rangers have now fallen to both of those squads.
With the teams so evenly matched, Forest Lake coach Billy Pierce is not overly concerned about seeding.
“It’s anybody’s section,” he said. “You can seed them, you can rank them, you can go by results, but this year more than ever it may be about who’s ready to go that day.”
Forest Lake won three duals to advance to the finals on Saturday, but that did not make the loss to the Bluejackets sting any less. The Rangers opened the match with wins from Dean Beggs, James Pleski and Andrew Meyers, but Cambridge-Isanti’s seventh-ranked senior Tyler Tischer won a close bout with third-ranked Michael Pleski and the Bluejackets rallied from there.
In Pierce’s mind, the showdown swung on bonus points.
“Overall, we didn’t score the bonus points that we needed to in some matches, and we gave up the extra points in some other matches that we can’t afford to give up,” he said. “In a dual with any of our section teams, we’re going to have to win those close ones like that.”
Forest Lake breezed through the first three rounds, beating Mora (74-3), North Branch (60-12) and St. Cloud Apollo (55-16).
Beggs at 106, James Pleski at 113, Meyers at 120, Ben Morgan at 132 and Mike Urban at 170 each went undefeated on the day.
Tyler Isaacson went 3-1. The senior, ranked third at 138 pounds, lost a much-anticipated bout with No. 2 Grant Nehring of St. Cloud Apollo. Nehring prevailed 8-3 in overtime.
Forest Lake has a busy week of competition. The Rangers host Roseville and Cretin-Derham Hall for SEC duals tonight (Jan. 26). The team hosts an invitational on Saturday. Forest Lake will face Stillwater in the first round, and that will count as the SEC dual between those squads. Top-ranked Apple Valley is among the field for Saturday’s event.