Woodbury wrestling: Royals ousted from state tourney after two defeatsIn its first-ever state tournament appearance, the Woodbury wrestling team learned there aren’t any easy opponents.
By: Patrick Johnson, sports editor, Woodbury Bulletin
In its first-ever state tournament appearance, the Woodbury wrestling team learned there aren’t any easy opponents.
The Royals weren’t able to pull off an upset as they were outmuscled by third-ranked Prior Lake, 49-15, in the opening round and ninth-ranked Moorhead, 51-21, in the consolation semifinals.
“We worked really hard this year and we never gave up,” Woodbury senior Josh McClain said. “Everyone pushed each other as hard as they could. It’s really exciting to be here and I’m happy we made it.”
Woodbury head coach Justin Smith said he was disappointed the team didn’t get its first-ever state tournament win, but was pleased with how his team competed.
“Obviously at the state tournament there are tough teams, but against Moorhead we did think – if we won the flip and some things went the right way for us – we could get after them and then who knows what could happen in the fifth-place match,” Smith said.
McClain said it was a good accomplishment to make it to state, but was disappointed the Royals weren’t able to bring home any hardware.
“We were hoping to place,” McClain said. “We had nothing in our minds but placing. We definitely had it in us. I know we had the ability to beat them.”
In the opener, Prior Lake – the third seed in the Class AAA tournament - opened up a 17-0 lead on the Royals in the first-round match. Woodbury sophomore Ben Donnelly got the Royals on the scoreboard with a 2-1 decision at 132 pounds to make it 17-3. Then, after a pair of Prior Lake wins, junior Chason Hayslett won 6-4 at 152-pounds and junior Justin Herold-Plakut won 3-2 in sudden-death overtime at 160 pounds to cut Woodbury’s deficit to 28-9. However, Prior Lake won the next three matches – two by pin – to go up 43-9. At 220 pounds, Woodbury junior Anthony Doreo gave the Royals their final victory of the match with a pin to make it 43-15.
Woodbury made it a much-closer match than the last time the two teams faced each other. Prior Lake beat the Royals 66-6 at the end of January.
“We definitely wrestled better than we did the first time we saw them,” Smith said. “It was nice to see that we came out with more intensity and the guys fought off their backs and didn’t give up pins like we did the first time.”
Against Moorhead, the Spuds’ strong upper-weight wrestlers did Woodbury in. Tied 21-21 Moorhead won the final five matches – all with pins – to run away with the victory.
“They’re solid,” Smith said of Moorhead’s upper weights. “They have seniors up there that are no-doubt cream-of-the-crop. They’re pretty good. We lost the flip. That was going to dictate a couple different weights and it made a difference.”
After a loss at 106 pounds, Woodbury eighth grader Austin Braun won with a pin with 33 seconds remaining in the third period in his 113-pound match to tie the score 6-6. Woodbury sophomore Ty Johnson then won with a pin with 1 minute, 22 seconds left in his 120-pound match to put Woodbury ahead 12-6. Tied 12-12, Donnelly moved up to 138 pounds and pinned his opponent with four seconds left in the first period to make it 18-12 in favor of Woodbury. Moorhead won the next two matches to go up 21-18. However, Herold-Plakut evened the score 21-21, after moving up to 160 pounds, with a 7-1 decision. But, it was all Moorhead after that.
“Hopefully we can build on this experience – not only at the high school level, but at the middle school and youth levels – and they can see that with some hard work really cool things can happen,” Smith said.
Woodbury brings back the majority of its wrestlers next year, however, the Royals must now say good-bye to four seniors from its roster: McClain, 106-pounder Vang Young, 126-pounder Colin Reed and 145-pounders Kevin Beseman and Blake VonArx.
“It’s nice to bring them as a team and to have this type of experience, but now, next year, hopefully the kids’ goal is to get back here,” Smith said. “It can’t be our goal as coaches, it has to be their goal. They have to make those goals. It comes down to what they want and what they are willing to do to achieve it.”