Sophomore takes 2nd

Published 12:15 pm Monday, March 4, 2013

Triston Westerlund, the only Albert Lea wrestler to make it to the championship round, walks onto the mat Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center. Westerlund took second place in Class AAA after losing a 9-3 decision to David Johnson of Apple Valley. --Brandi Hagen/Albert Lea Tribune

Triston Westerlund, the only Albert Lea wrestler to make it to the championship round, walks onto the mat Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center. Westerlund took second place in Class AAA after losing a 9-3 decision to David Johnson of Apple Valley. –Brandi Hagen/Albert Lea Tribune

See galleries from the state tournament herehere and here.

ST. PAUL — Three of seven state qualifiers from Albert Lea took home hardware, while the rest of the Tigers came away with a positive experience from the state tournament at the Xcel Energy Center on Saturday.

“The state tournament is always a good time, and the kids should be proud of themselves for just making it up here,” Albert Lea head coach Larry Goodnature said. “The kids wrestled their best, and that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”

Sophomore Triston Westerlund led the Tigers by making it to the 182-pound championship match. He finished as the state-runner-up, despite having to face the third- and fourth-place finishers earlier in the tournament.

He cruised through the first round with a major decision over Gary Knick of St. Paul Central 15-4.

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In the quarterfinals, he pinned Ricky Briggs to hand the senior from St. Michael-Albertville his fifth loss of the season. Briggs went on to take fourth.

With a 5-4 decision over Sam Moeller of Rosemount in the semifinals, Triston secured a spot in the championship match. Moeller went on to beat Briggs in the match for third place.

In the championship, Triston had a chance to get a takedown after David Johnson of Apple Valley took a 5-1 lead, but Johnson evaded him by going out of bounds. From there, Triston earned a pair of escapes, but fell 9-3.

“He was a little tougher than I thought he would be,” Triston said. “I would have liked to get first, but second will have to do for now.”

“Triston just ran into a senior with a little more strength,” Goodnature said. “But, he made it to the finals match and did the best he could. You’re not disappointed as a coach, because to make it to state, first of all, is a big accomplishment for these kids.

“With some of our younger guys like Beau (Johnsrud) and Triston, they got good experience for next year.”

Two other Tigers placed, both seniors: Trevor Westerlund at 113 pounds and Lucas Hansen at 138 pounds.

After losing by a fall in heartbreaking fashion in the quarterfinals, Trevor Westerlund clawed his way through four consolation matches to earn third place.

“I felt Trevor had a great tournament,” Goodnature said. “He’d have beat the kid who took second, and he darn near beat the state champion.”

Goodnature was referring to Trevor’s match in the quarterfinals against Maolu Woiwor of Apple Valley, the eventual state champ. Trevor had Woiwor on the ropes late in the third period. With less than 30 seconds left, Trevor led 4-1 with a few takedowns under his belt. However, Woiwor slipped away to get a pin.

“I just gave it all I got, and he did some weird stuff and got away,” Trevor said on Friday. “I know I can still get third.”

On Saturday, that was exactly what he did, despite the long journey. If a wrestler wins each match to get to the championship, he participates in four total matches. If he loses in the quarterfinals, he has to win four matches in the consolation bracket alone to get third place.

Trevor took care of Taylor Rau of Sauk Rapids-Rice in only 24 seconds in the consolation first round. He won an 8-3 decision over Luke McCord of Forest Lake in the consolation quarterfinal. Then, he beat Brian Maas of Bemidji 4-3 in the semifinal and Brandon Moen of Owatonna 15-6 to win third place. Trevor led Moen 6-5 with 30 seconds left, but then Moen got desperate, which allowed Trevor to pad his lead and win a 15-6 major decision.

“I knew I had it won, so I just didn’t want to do anything dumb,” Trevor said. “He just tried a bunch of dumb stuff that I caught on to.”

Lucas Hansen earned sixth place with a win in the first round and two wins in the consolation bracket.

Hansen beat Nate Julkowski of Coon Rapids with a 3-0 decision in the first round of the tournament.

In the quarterfinals, Mitch Bengtson of St. Cloud Apollo, the eventual state champ, knocked Hansen down to the consolation bracket with a 13-5 decision. Bengtson pinned his other two opponents before the championship, where he shut out Cole Sladek of St. Michael-Albertville 8-0.

Hansen won his first two matches in wrestlebacks, a 9-0 win over Estevan Navarro of Willmar and an 8-0 decision over Phillip Anderson of Rogers to get to the consolation semifinals. Hansen lost his last two matches, an 8-3 decision to Owen Webster of Shakopee and a 4-1 decision to Jose Rodriguez of Henry Sibley in the match for fifth place, which gave Hansen sixth.

Also competing at the tournament for the Tigers were Beau Johnsrud at 106 pounds, Garrett Wangsness at 120 pounds, Dakota Wangsness at 126 pounds and Jacob Kunkel at 285 pounds.

Johnsrud and the Wangsness twins each won their first-round consolation matches but were eliminated in the consolation quarterfinals.

“The Wangsness brothers were one win away from placing,” Goodnature said. “They had a good tournament.”

Johnsrud, a sophomore, said his goal is to place at next year’s state tournament.

Kunkel got a tough draw at the tournament. He lost a major decision, 9-0, to Jerrad Nieland of St. Cloud Tech in the first round. Nieland earned fifth place after battling through wrestle backs, but he lost to the eventual state champion in the quarterfinal match, which eliminated Kunkel from the consolation seedings.

The Albert Lea wrestling team will lose a group of seven participants, including four state qualifiers to graduation: Garrett and Dakota Wangsness, Trevor Westerlund, Hansen and Kunkel.

“I’m definitely going to miss them,” Goodnature said. “Not only as kids who we’ve been coaching for the last four years, but we’re going to miss them as a team. They were big this year, and each of the last four years, winning a couple of Big Nine championships.

“They’re going to go on to wrestle in college, so their careers aren’t done.”