Albert Lea’s Aldrich has shot at title after Day 1 of state wrestling tourney

Published 1:29pm Saturday, March 1, 2014

ST. PAUL — After a perfect first round, one Albert Lea wrestler qualified for the semifinals Friday at the Class AA state wrestling tournament at the Xcel Center.

All four state qualifiers for the Tigers were section champs, so they started the tournament against section runner-ups and went 4-0.

“The first match in any tournament — especially the state tournament — I feel is one of the toughest matches they’ve got to wrestle,” said Albert Lea head coach Larry Goodnature. “They’ve got to get the nerves out of the way, and I felt we wrestled really well.”

Garrett Aldrich started Albert Lea’s streak at 106 pounds by beating Michael Menth of Totino Grace with a 12-4 major decision.

The next three Tigers pinned their opponents in the first round.

At 138 pounds, Devin Nelson took down Austin Hjelle of Thief River Falls. Nelson led 3-2 in the second period before pinning Hjelle in 3 minutes and 10 seconds.

Dereck Samudio followed suit at 152 pounds with a win by fall over Nate Tesch of Glencoe-Lester Prairie in 4 minutes and 14 seconds.

“It is nice coming up here and not wrestling the guys you’ve wrestled before,” Samudio said. “They don’t know what you’re going to do, so that’s nice. I just turned into it and caught him.”

Triston Westerlund cruised past his opening match at 195 by pinning James King of Minnehaha/DeLaSalle in 1 minute and 34 seconds.

Westerlund said he hadn’t wrestled King before because Albert Lea was in Class AAA last season, but he was able to get position.

“I was able to get under his arms a little and get him on his back,” he said. “It’s going to be a little tougher because the guys are a little

bigger, but I think I can do some damage.”

Before state, Westerlund only wrestled 19 matches this year after rehabbing from an injury.

“The knee wasn’t much of an issue in the match,” he said. “Hopefully, it’ll be good throughout the tournament.”

In the quarterfinals, Aldrich was the only Albert Lea wrestler who didn’t fall into the consolation bracket.

After beating Kasson-Mantorville’s Keaton Shorr twice while he was ranked higher in the state polls, Aldrich, ranked No. 5, continued his trend of upsets.

He beat Simley’s Jake Gliva, ranked No. 4, with a 4-2 decision to move onto the semifinals. Of the four wrestlers who still have a chance at the title, only two are ranked.

No. 1-ranked Tucker Sjomeling of Delano lost in the first round to Schorr with an 11-9 decision after entering the tournament with a 41-0 record. No. 2-ranked Anthony Phillipson lost in the first round to A.J. Bethea of Hibbing — the wrestler Aldrich will face in the semis.

No. 3-ranked Cole Jones is still in the running, and he will take on unranked Braydon Ortloff of Detroit Lakes in the semis.

Nelson lost by fall in the quarterfinals but rebounded in the first round of the consolation bracket by beating Zach Zpychalla of Simley with a 6-2 decision.

Samudio had a tough draw in round two as he faced Max Short of Simley. Short was ranked No. 1 in the state and had a 41-3 record. Samudio also fought back in the first round of wrestlebacks by shutting out Aaron Moscho of Milaca/Faith Christian with a 5-0 decision.

Westerlund, who finished as the Class AAA state runner-up at 182 pounds last year, lost with an 8-7 decision to unranked Kory Brown of Fairmont/Martin County West. Westerlund started his fight through wrestlebacks by pinning Arturo Stefanoni of Sauk Center/Melrose Area in less than 3 minutes.

Read about Aldrich’s fight for a title and Nelson, Samudio and Westerlund’s fight for third place in Monday’s Tribune.

“The goal is to walk out of this place with four medals,” Goodnature said. “We got that first round out of the way, and we just need to keep grinding.”