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Bulletin photos by Nick Gerhardt Ben Donnelly, a sophomore who is ranked sixth at 132 pounds, advanced to a fourth consecutive state tournament with a section championship win on Saturday. Donnelly lost his opening match of the state tournament last season after taking fifth the year before.

Woodbury wrestling: Royals send five to state

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Woodbury's Ben Donnelly has had a year to reflect on his performance last year at the state tournament and now he has the chance to do something about it.

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Donnelly was one of five Royals wrestlers to advance to the Class AAA state individual tournament Saturday following a victory in the 132-pound championship at the Section 4AAA individual tournament in Woodbury.

Donnelly, a sophomore who is ranked sixth at 132 pounds, will be joined by junior Justin Herold-Plakut, who is ranked second at 152 pounds, Ty Johnson, who is ranked 10th at 120 pounds, junior Howard Jones at 160 pounds and eighth-grader Austin Braun at 113 pounds. Braun and Jones will make their first trip to the state tournament after winning the section championship at their weights.

Donnelly (36-6) wrapped up the section title Saturday with an 8-0 victory over Stillwater Area's Dillan Nelson.

Donnelly got only one match at last year's state tournament in the 138-pound weight class, a year after placing fifth at 130 pounds at the state tournament. He's making his fourth consecutive state tournament appearance and after more than placing.

"This year is kind of a redemption year for me," Donnelly said. "Last year I went one and done and that was kind of a shot. That season kind of left a bad taste in my mouth, not placing last year. My goal this year is to be a state champion, that's what I'm striving for."

Donnelly lost his opening match of the state tournament last season against Rochester Mayo's Jake Hanson, an opponent he beat the year before in the fifth-place match. Hanson won 5-3 and went on to lose 3-0 to Apple Valley's Dayton Racer, negating any chance of Donnelly coming through wrestlebacks for a chance to place.

Donnelly admitted he overlooked Hanson last season, having beaten him before, and looked forward to a matchup with Racer in the quarterfinals.

Woodbury head coach Justin Smith said placing at the state tournament is the minimum with Donnelly.

"He thinks he's got a chance to win a state title there and that's why he's sacrificing," Smith said. "It's important for the other kids to see the sacrifice he makes."

Donnelly (36-6) gets Mound Westonka freshman Drake Heath (28-13) in the first round at 132 pounds. If Donnelly wins that match he faces a likely matchup with Hastings' Luke Rowh, who is ranked second in Class AAA. Also on his side of the bracket looms top-ranked Seth Gross from Apple Valley.

Herold-Plakut is after more than placing at the state tournament as well. Herold-Plakut (39-3) pinned Minneapolis South's ninth-ranked Brett Peterson in 3 minutes, 38 seconds to lock down his fourth consecutive trip to the state meet.

After not placing in his first two trips to the state meet, Herold-Plakut finished fifth last season and after spending the season as the second-ranked wrestler at 152 pounds he expects to place higher this year. Herold-Plakut will face Owatonna's Tyler Sorenson (27-13) in the first round. Only one ranked wrestler is on Herold-Plakut's side of the bracket.

Sophomore Ty Johnson won the 120-pound weight class with a 3-1 overtime victory against Stillwater Area's Wayde Hall. Johnson had a 1-0 lead late in the third period when he got called for stalling to allow Hall to tie the match. Johnson recovered in overtime for a takedown and earned a return trip to the state meet after not placing last season.

Jones, who finished third at the section meet last season, had something to prove and did so with a dominating tournament. Jones pinned all of his opponents, including a 59 second fall against St. Paul Central's Adam Sawyer in the championship match to get his first trip to the state meet.

"I've wanted to be a section champ," Jones said. "I've worked so hard to win it. It's really exciting that I get to go to the state tournament finally."

Jones (33-7) will get Eastview's Jacob Rukavina (35-5) in the first round at 160 pounds.

Braun pinned his way to the championship match and fended off White Bear Lake's Andy Andress to make his first trip to the state meet. Braun got a reversal in the third period for a 5-3 win. Braun (31-11) will face Centennial's Mike Mischke (30-12) in the first round of the 113-pound weight class at state.

All five who won their weight classes had No. 1 seeds entering the tournament.

Woodbury sent six wrestlers to the finals in all. Matt Delaney lost to Stillwater Area's Matt Riehle 10-6 in the finals, but got another shot at a trip to state with a true second match with White Bear Lake's Elijah Muedeking. Muedeking picked up a 17-5 major decision victory over Delaney to deny him a trip to state.

Sophomore Pavel Swensen lost his first match of the section tournament but rallied with two victories in wrestlebacks to make it to the third-place match. Aryton Nelson of North St. Paul pinned Swensen in that match.

Swensen and four others finished fourth for the Royals. Anthony Doreo, John McNiff, Chason Hayslett and Josh McClain all finished fourth as well.

The Class AAA individual tournament begins Friday at 11 a.m. at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

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