Three Rangers went undefeated at the Section 7AAA individual wrestling tournament over the weekend to earn first-place honors and bids to state.
Sophomores Luke McCord and James Pleski and senior Austin Boniface will be representing Forest Lake at the Xcel Energy Center tomorrow in the first round of the state tournament.
McCord dominated the 113-pound weight class with major decisions in the quarterfinals and semifinals to advance to Aaron Dick of St. Michael-Albertville in the championship. McCord proved his consistency with his fourth win over the wrestler in the past two seasons.
It was a back-and-forth battle, as Dick recorded two takedowns while McCord had one takedown and an escape. Down 4-3 to begin the third, Dick chose the down position with hopes to get an escape.
But McCord turned him to his back for the near fall, securing the section title and improving his record to 31-9.
Pleski also faced a rival in the championship from St. Michael-Albertville, Tanner Mills, in the 126-pound weight class.
After pinning two opponents on his way to the section title round, Pleski won a 3-1 decision after takedown points in the second period and an escape in the third. This will be Pleski’s third trip to state. The first came as an eighth-grader at 106 pounds and the second last season in the 113-pound weight class.
In the 160-pound weight class, Boniface pinned and majored his way to the top to face Cambridge-Isanti rival Cody Skog, who defeated the Forest Lake wrestler earlier this season by injury default when Boniface suffered a concussion/neck injury scare.
“If you’re a wrestling fan, this is the kind of matchup you want,” head coach Billy Pierce said. “They both train hard in the off-season and have practiced together so you become friends. But on the mat, it’s a battle with a lot of movement and a lot of activity.”
Early in the first period, Skog scored on a takedown that caught Boniface off balance. The Ranger earned an escape, then scored two on a takedown to bring it to 3-2 going into the second period.
Boniface chose down and earned another point from an escape before going in for the power-double on Skog. Boniface kept position and turned the Bluejacket wrestler to his back for the pin with 11 seconds to go in the period.
Just missing state, but finishing strong in third was senior Jeremy McLaughlin in the 195-pound weight class. He entered as the fourth seed. The senior wrestled for a record of 3-1 at the section tournament, improving his overall record to 18-13. McLaughlin’s sole loss was to Kyle Chromy of Cambridge-Isanti, who later earned second and a state appearance.
Senior Andrew Meyers wrestled in what Pierce called the “toughest weight class in town.” The Ranger won by major decision in the first round before facing Evan Caldon of Elk River (34-7 record) and falling in a 5-1 decision. Meyers went 2-2 over the weekend to take fourth while battling a lingering ankle injury.
“I think Andrew did all the work in that match,” Pierce said. “Caldon stayed back and just waited for Andrew to make a mistake. It would have been nice to have seen him wrestle full strength at state without that ankle bothering him.”
Senior Aaron Calhoun went 2-2 for a fifth-place finish. The 220-pounder came back from a first-round loss to pin his next opponent a minute into the third period. After losing by decision to Conan Sandberg of St. Francis (32-6), Calhoun went on to pin a Bluejacket wrestler in just three minutes to earn fifth.
Ninth-grader Nic Norem and junior Kyle Winberg each went 1-2 to take sixth place at the section tournament, while sophomore Sam Finch (138 pounds), senior Cameron Niemczyk (145), sophomore Joe Rydel (170) and senior Beau Phinney (heavyweight) competed without placement at sections.
“We knew this was a rebuilding year,” Pierce said. “We got off to a rough start, but I’m proud of how my guys finished. We go up against the toughest competition in the state, and it’s important to have that challenge so they see it and know what we need to work on.”