No. 1 Eagles rally against scrappy Ranger matmen

Apple Valley wins FL Duals

Clint Riese
Sports Editor

At least we made them earn it. That can be Forest Lake’s mantra following a 44-22 loss to top-ranked Apple Valley in the finals of the Forest Lake Duals on Saturday.

The Eagles kept four ranked grapplers on the sidelines during the first six bouts as the Rangers pulled out to a 19-8 lead.

Then Apple Valley rolled out six consecutive ranked competitors – including four ranked No. 1 – and took control of the match.

If only for a moment, Ranger fans enjoyed the sight of being up by double-digits on Apple Valley. James Pleski got Forest Lake on the board with a 2-0 decision at 113. Andrew Meyers followed and limited top-ranked Seth Gross to a technical fall.

A major decision by Ben Morgan at 132 was sandwiched by pins from Michael Pleski and Tyler Isaacson, giving the Rangers their biggest advantage.

Cody Paggen then limited top-ranked Mark Hall to a decision at 145.

“It was great for him,” said coach Billy Pierce. “He battled in positions to avoid being scored on and it was just a nice effort on his part.”

Austin Boniface avoided getting pinned by top-ranked Mason Manville at 152, but Apple Valley proved to be too dominant and reeled off four pins and a major decision in the next five matches.

Beau Phinney closed the meet on a good note for the Rangers with a 9-6 victory in the heavyweight match.

Forest Lake beat Ellsworth (WI) in a tiebreaker in the second round. The teams tied 27-27 with the visitors scoring the final 18 points. Officials originally awarded the win to Ellsworth on the ninth tie-break criteria, but Pierce noticed a counting error on the eighth criteria which allowed the Rangers to advance. In doing so, they avenged a loss to Ellsworth that kept them out of the finals at last year’s event.

Both Pleskis, Meyers, Morgan, Isaacson, Boniface and Mike Urban won their bouts against the Panthers. Morgan’s 8-0 major decision came against a top-ranked foe.

The Rangers opened the day with a 54-9 rout of Stillwater in a match that also counted in the Suburban East Conference standings. Forest Lake won all but three bouts, with pins coming from Morgan, Isaacson, Boniface, Ryder Paggen, Kyle Winberg, Jeremy McLaughlin and Aaron Calhoun.

Pierce left the meet impressed with his team’s effort but aware that it still needs to improve in the few weeks before the section tournament.

“We’ve really been working with our guys to not give up big points…and work on third-period wrestling,” he said. “For us to get to the state tournament, that’s where we need to improve.”

SEC Action

The Rangers coasted to SEC wins over Roseville and Cretin-Derham Hall in a home triangular last Thursday. Neither opponent fielded a full lineup. Forest Lake topped Cretin 78-3 and Roseville 55-16.

Now 8-0 in conference play, the seventh-ranked Rangers travel to No. 2 Hastings tonight (Feb. 2) with the SEC title on the line. Forest Lake will also compete at the Pine Island Invite on Saturday