MATMEN MAKE STATE-MENTS
It's every wrestler's dream to stand on the top step of the awards platform after winning a state championship. Considering the many wrestlers in the state, it's a major accomplishment to reach any step on the platform.
The four Minneota wrestlers reaching the "Final Eight" Class State Individual Wrestling Championships on Saturday all earned a spot on the platform by winning at least one match.
"All four of our wrestlers had an outstanding tournament," said coach Matt Myrvik. "Getting all four to place and compete the way they did on Saturday was how you want to see them end their season."
Jonah Gruenes placed third at 152 pounds. Teammate Zack Fier was fourth at 145 pounds, Eric Carrasco fifth at 120 pounds, and Jackson Esping fifth at 220 pounds.
Gruenes (35-3), a junior in his second state appearance, opened the Elite Eight showdown at St. Michael-Albertville High School with a 7-2 win over Jordan Lohse of West Central Area-Ashby-Brandon-Evansville, then lost 5-0 to No. 2-seeded Landon Gode of Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville. In the third-place match, Gruenes prevailed 5-2 over Rece Voigt of GMLOS.
"Jonah was seeded sixth in the tournament and our coaches felt he should have been higher," said Myrvik. "But the good thing is he proved he should have been higher by defeating the number three and four seeded wrestlers."
Fier (31-6), a sophomore in his second straight state competition, pinned Garrett Underberg of Badger-Greenbush-Middle River in 3:36 in his quarterfinal match. In the semifinals, Fier fell 9-2 to top-seeded Blaine Fischer of Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa. Fier then lost a close overtime match to Gavin Gust of Dover-Eyota in the third-place match.
"Zack was in on a deep shot but just could not finish it," said Myrvik about the third-place match. "He really stepped up to another level from last season and we look at good things to come as he is only a sophomore."
Carrasco (31-5), a senior competing at state for the fourth time, lost his opening match to Eli Larson of Border West 8-5, then came back in the consolation bracket and notched a pin over Kaleb Lochner of Zumbrota-Mazeppa in 5:24. In the fifth-place match, Carrasco finished his wrestling career on a winning note, topping Lane Fink of Canby, 9-3.
"Eric dropped a tough opening round match which saw him with a 5-1 lead going into the period," Myrvik said. "As a coach it is tough because he has been so steady and reliable but just has never been able to break through at the state tournament. Eric was able to rebound and get himself on the podium for the first time in his career winning his next two matches.
Carrasco was the lone senior on this year's Minneota team that won 24 matches.
"We, as coaches, are so proud of how far Eric came in his career," Myrvik expressed. "He is a kid that did not win a lot in youth wrestling, but he kept working hard and developed into one of the best in Minneota history. As a senior, he knew that this is probably his last time he will ever compete in wrestling, and what a great way to go out."
Esping (31-6), a junior competing in his first state tournament, was pinned in his quarterfinal match, then won by forfeit to advance to the fifth-place match. Esping then his fifth-place match over Colton Lindquist of West Central-Ashby-Brandon-Evansville, 5-3.
"Jackson has really developed this last month with staying true to what he is good at," said Myrvik. "He has been working hard in practice and continues to improve his confidence on the mat. Jackson wrestled one of the best wrestlers in the state in the first round. He finished the season winning his last match and proving he belongs with the top guys in his weight class."
Eric Carrasco - 120 pounds: lost 8-5 decision to Eli Larson, Border West ... pinned Kaleb Lochner, Zumbrota-Mazeppa, 5:24 ... won 9-3 decision over Lane Fink, Canby ... 5th place
Zack Fier - 145 pounds: pinned Garrett Undeberg, Badger-Greenbush-Middle River, 3:36 ... lost 9-2 decision to Blaine Fischer, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa ... lost 7-5 overtime decision to Gavin Gust, Dover-Eyota ... 4th place
Jonah Gruenes - 152 pounds: won 7-2 decision over Jordan Lohse, West Central Area-Ashby-Brandon-Evansville ... lost 5-0 decision to Landon Gode, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville ... won 5-2 decision over Rece Voigt, GMLOS ... 3rd place
Jackson Esping - 220 pounds: was pinned by Dominik Vacura, Badger-Greenbush-Middle River ... won by medical forfeit over AJ Karver, Chatfield ... won 5-03 decision over Colton Lindquist, West Central Area-Ashby-Brandon-Evansville.