By Tom Murphy
Warriors wrestlers Austin Goergen placed second and Casey Stemper was fifth at the Minnesota State High School Wrestling Tournament on Friday and Saturday in St. Paul. For Goergen, it was his third trip to the state and the first time he had not won the Class AA 285 pound title in those trips. Stemper, making his first trip to the state, finished his senior year with the fifth place medal.
Three more wrestlers competed for the Warriors at the state meet. Willie Krage at 112, Austin Fitzgerald at 132, and Connor McCormick at 182 did not place.
Goergen lost 8-3 to last year’s 220 pound AA champion, Michael Kroells of Scott West. “We were beaten on speed,” said coach Dan Goergen. “We proved we could go six minutes with him and that we would give him a run for his money,” coach Goergen said.
Goergen reached the finals with a first period fall and a 17-0 technical fall before gaining a 7-0 decision to reach the highly publicized finals. “Austin was facing the same style of wrestler. It was a matter of picking up the tempo. It would have been good if the two had met earlier in the season. But, Kroells did not go up to 285 until the end of the season.”
Goergen’s career put him up with the other great wrestlers in the Caledonia/Houston/Spring Grove program’s history. The win at the state would have meant he was the first heavyweight wrestler to win three titles in Minnesota history, according to a story in last week’s Rochester Post-Bulletin.
It meant a season record of 39-2 for Goergen. “Austin won with class and he lost with class,” coach Goergen said. “He made our communities, our programs and his coaches proud.”
Stemper’s first trip to the state brought him a fifth place medal. He worked his way in the wrestlebacks in the section to earn the trip to the state. He opened with a 4-1 decision and followed that with a 9-5 victory after being down in the early part of the match. He met the eventual state champion from Simley who entered the tournament unbeaten.
“Casey couldn’t get reloaded after that match and then faced Plainview-Elgin-Millville’s Garret Miller and lost 7-0,” coach Goergen said. “Casey did wrestle a strong match to finish fifth by winning 5-3. He wrestled a strong tournament. He got the feeling he belonged but he also learned how much more work it takes to get to the podium. I thought he was very much in control.” The senior finished with a record of 36-14.
Krage wrestled his usual style, which had brought him through the season to the state tournament at 112. “I told everyone if their goal was to get to the state, everything that happens up here is a bonus,” coach Goergen said. Krage met the eventual third place winner from Foley in the first round and lost. It prevented him from any wrestleback opportunities when his first round opponent lost. It was a tough bracket as the champion, third place winners, and the fifth place winner were lumped together.
“Willie did not leave anything on the mat. He has no regrets about his efforts,” coach Goergen said. He finished the season at 31-15.
Fitzgerald came to the squad late and found himself in the state tournament after rolling through the section tournament. He opened with a 3-0 victory but then lost to the eventual fourth place medalist. “Austin believed in himself,” coach Goergen said. “I don’t know if any of us thought he would come out this year,” he said. “Austin had lots of support from his teammates who let him know how important he was to the team.”
In the wrestlebacks, he was beaten 7-1. “I don’t think anyone on this squad shut down. They gave it their all,” coach Goergen said. Fitzgerald finished with a 12-8 record.
McCormick had what his coach thought was the ‘best kid in the bracket’ in the first round and won 1-0. He met the eventual champion in the next round and lost 13-6. “I thought Connor threw everything he had at the guy.”
In the wrestlebacks, he won the first round 5-2 and then lost to the eventual third place winner 4-2. “After being so nervous at the start of the night, Connor tried to pace himself,” coach Goergen said. “He fell just one match short of the placing round. He gave more than I ever asked.” McCormick finished with a season record of 36-9.
Section 1AA well represented
Section 1 was well represented at the state in Class AA. Of the top six in the 14 weight classes, Section 1 had 11 place winners from among the eight sections. Kasson-Mantorville had three champions. The Komets finished fourth in the team event.
The five man squad was welcomed home on Sunday at the high school. The event also recognized the 100-plus win seasons of Krage and McCormick. “They are both very deserving” coach Goergen said. “They are two humble athletes.”
The seniors on the squad went to Rochester Monday night for the section wrestling banquet.
On Saturday, the Little Warrior Open will be held at Caledonia High School with the K-8 wrestlers starting at 10 a.m. Last year, over 180 wrestlers participated.
On Friday some of the seniors will compete in the Iowa-Minnesota border battle at Cresco, Iowa.
There is a tentative border battle between Wisconsin and Minnesota set for Saturday night in Caledonia at the high school. While there will not be any problem with getting Minnesota wrestlers to compete, it has been a struggle to get Wisconsin participants,” coach Goergen said.