Assistant Coach Matt Buysse, with head Coach Joel Skillings in the background, watched as Minneota's dream of getting the wrestling team back in state went up in smoke Saturday afternoon.

Young squad's dream shattered in Section finals

•Exciting win over Jackson followed by tough loss to Tracy

It was one of those, 'THRILL OF VICTORY," and the "AGONY OF DEFEAT," afternoons.

Minneota rallied on the last two matches by the Esping boys — Jackson and TJ, to defeat Jackson County Central, 36-33 in the semifinals of the Section 3A Championships.

But the same kind of magic didn't happen against Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove. A 24-22 deficit turned into a loss when eighth grader Jackson Esping was pinned by Panther senior Austin Buckholz to secure a win.

Minneota forfeited heavyweight and the Panthers won the Section 3A title, 36-22.

"We knew this was a possibility. I thought we wrestled really well and we put it all out there," said Coach Joel Skillings.

Minneota's young squad, with three eighth graders, a ninth grader two sophomores and only two seniors in the lineup, just couldn't rally one more time.

The a lso were missing 126-pound senior Brant Buysse, who was out with an injury.

When the dust cleared, Coach Skillings said, "We know we're still building and we're only going to get better."

Against Jackson County Central, Minneota trailed 33-24 with just two matches left.

Eighth Grader Jackson Esping was up against senior Preston Mix and he after being taken down, Esping gave up strong, turned Mix over and pinned him in 47 seconds to make it 33-20.

His brother TJ then pinned freshman Tycin Bejarano in 58 seconds to give Minneota the victory and set off a loud celebration of Minneota fans.

"I was hoping he would pin him," T.J. said of his younger brother. "I knew he could. He just kept calm and didn't act like this was do or die," he said.

The younger Esping added, "I just tried not to worry when I got taken down. I was trying to get a pin for the team."

Brother T.J. added, "He (brother Jackson) kept my hopes up, and I took care of it after that."

Jackson County Central came as no surprise to the Vikings. They knew the Huskies had improved all season and would be a formidable foe.

The match was so close you couldn't get a pin between them — tied at 21-21 when the Huskies standout Jacob Tvinnereim  used 12 takedowns to tech fall Kyle Banks, 25-10. But the stubborn Banks wouldn't fall and did save the Vikings one points.

Previous to that action, trhe Vikings Jonah Gruenes, Teddy Pesch and Cole VanOverbeke all pinned their opponents. And Kade Lozinski earned a win. It was now 26-21.

Jacob Laleman at 170 came through in a big way when he got a takedown on Eli Edlin in the first period and simply hung on for a 3-1 win.

But Jackson County Central fought back and took a 29-24 lead that went to 33-24, when at 195 pounds, the Huskies Dalton Wagner, who suffered with injuries all year, earned a 22-10 win over Shawn Buysse.

Down by nine with two matches to go, the Vikings needed something big — and the Esping boys provided it.

"They'd put me in that position alot all year," said Jackson Esping ... indicating close matches often came down to the end.

After he'd pinned Mix, he simply said, "It felt good."

Brother T.J., who has missed a month of wrestling with a broken finger, says its still sore to the touch. But he put that behind him. "I kinda of let it be and decided to take care of it afterwards."

Sore finger or not, he wrapped up the match in just 58 seconds and put the Vikings into the section finals.

The Tracy match was equally as close, with Minneota down just 13-12 after the 145-pound match. Earlier, Gruenes had won his second match of day with a 3-1 decision at 113 pounds; Kade Lozinski also went 2-0 with a 4-1 win and Blake Reiss and Teddy Pesch earned wins.

The two teams traded wins, as VanOverbeke won his match 9-1 and the scored was tied at 16.

Laleman and Layne Lozinski dropped matches but Shawn Buysse saved the day with a pin in 1:52 to pull the Vikings within 24-22 with — again — those two Esping matches to go.

But this time Jackson Esping couldn't beat the senior Buckholz and the match was over.

"I am so proud of them," said Coach Skillings. "If you'd have told me these guys would end up with 18 wins this season, I'm not sure I would have believed it. But they overcame alot and they made the best they could out of it," the coach added.

Minneota 36, Jackson County Central 33

106-Payton Handevidt (JCC) pin Eric Carrasco, 3:13.

113-Jonah Gruenes (M) pin Caleb Vancura, 3:46

120-Kade Lozinski (M) dec. Mathew Mohning, 8-3.

126-Ethan  Hendrickson (JCC) pin James Gednalske,:24.

132: Aaron Munoz (JCC) pin Blake Reiss, 2:44.

138-Teddy Pesch (M) pin Coltan Bents, 1:51.

145-Zach Poelaert (JCC) dec. Austin Kloos, 12-6.

152-Cole VanOverbeke (M) pin Cole Kapplinger, :48.

160-Jacob Tvinnereim (JCC) tech fall Kyle Banks, 25-10 5:24.

170-Josh Laleman (M) dec. Eli Edlin, 3-1.

182-Sam Dunker (JCC) dec. Layne Lozinski, 11-4.

195: Dalton Wagner (JCC) maj. dec. Shawn Buysse, 22-11.

220-Jackson  Esping (M) pin Preston Mix, :47.

285-TJ Esping (M) pin Tycin Bejarano, 1:02.

Tracy-Milroy-Balaton-Westbrook-Walnut-Grove 36, Minneota 22

106-Ayden Horner (TMBW) dec. Eric Carrasco, 12-10.

113-Jonah Gruenes (M) dec. Caden Johnson, 4-1.

120-Kade Lozinski (M) dec. Levi Ellingson (TMBW), 4-2.

126-Dereck Ellingson (TMBW) pin Truman Wambeke, 1:11.

132-Blake Reiss (M) dec,  Luis  Perez, 9-3)

138-Teddy Pesch (M) dec. Tyler Vandendriessche, 6-0.

145-Anthony Axford (TMBW) maj. dec. Austin Kloos, 14-5.

152-Austin Axford (TMBW) dec. Kyle Banks, 11-6.

160-Cole VanOverbeke (M) maj. dec. Nash Mayer, 9-1.

170-Trevor Eisfeld (TMBW) maj. dec. Josh Laleman, 13-5.

182-Jace Paplow (TMBW) maj. dec. Layne Lozinski,12-3.

195-Shawn Buysse (M) pin Travis Willhitte, 2:00.

220-Tyler Timm (TMBW) pin Jackson Esping, 3:17.

285-Sam Bauer (TMBW) won on forfeit.

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