Wolves face Scott West at state meet

The Wolves are back!

After a one-year absence, Milaca is returning to the Class AA State Wrestling Team Tournament after edging Mora 30-24 in the Section 7AA championship match Friday night, Feb. 14, at Cloquet.

Milaca, 23-9, will be making its 11th trip to the Class AA team meet. The Wolves will be facing  Section 2AA champion Scott West in the quarterfinals Thursday, Feb. 27, at 11 a.m. at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Scott West was seeded No. 3 in the tournament.

Other first-round matches have No. 1-seeded Simley meeting Dawson-Boyd, No. 2-seeded Foley facing Pequot Lakes-Pine River-Backus and No. 4-seeded Totino Grace meeting No. 5-seeded Kasson-Mantorville. The top five teams were seeded.

The team tournaments will be completed in one day, Feb. 27, with the individual tournaments scheduled Friday, Feb. 28 and Saturday, March 1.

Milaca opened its state bid by topping Princeton 40-23 at the South Sub-Section Tournament Tuesday, Feb. 11, at Chisago Lakes.

The Wolves then handled Hibbing 52-14 in the Section 7AA semifinals Friday at Cloquet.

There wasn’t that kind of wiggle room in the title match Friday against Mora, which came into the finals with a 13-match winning streak, including a 37-20 victory over Grand Rapids in the semifinals.

Every point would prove vital against Mora if the Wolves were to return to St. Paul. Milaca had defeated Mora 43-22 in early January but the Mustangs were a different team Friday.

“We knew Mora was coming on strong and we’d be facing a very-improved team,” said Milaca co-coach Clay Hoeck.

Both teams won seven matches. The difference was that Milaca registered three pins while the Mustangs had one pin.

Eighth-grader Jon Hall at 106 pounds, junior Austin Weidner at 182 and junior Zach Peterson at 195 scored falls for the Wolves while ninth-grader Joel Sawatzky had Mora’s pin.

Senior Ray Hoffman at 120, sophomore Kyle Starr at 132, sophomore Dru Kuchenbaker at 138, junior Zach Peterson at 195 and senior Brandon Merten at heavyweight won decisions for Milaca.

Merten’s 9-5 decision over junior Brady Beier clinched the state berth.

“That was exciting and very, very tense,” said co-coach Mitch Vedders. “Mora gave us a strong challenge and we were able to hold them off.

“Our season goal has been to get back to the state tournament. Now, we want to make a good showing there.”

“I’m very proud of our team – it fought hard in every match,” said Mora Coach Tom Youngblom. “It was a great match against another good Milaca team.”