Eight Gator wrestlers traveled to Cass Lake-Bena High School on March 20 for the State Individual Preliminaries between Section 7A and Section 8A, with a chance to the Class A State Individual Tournament on the line. These wrestlers qualified for this event by virtue of finishing in the top four at the Section 8A Individual Tournament.
By day’s end, four of these Gators would punch their tickets to the individual state tournament, including Garrett Undeberg (145), Ethan Waage (160), Caleb Vacura (182), and Dominik Vacura (285). The Vacura brothers finished first at their respective weight classes and Undeberg and Waage earned second place finishes.
This number of state qualifiers for the Gators marked the most of any Section 8A team, and fell second only to Royalton-Upsala, the Section 7A team champion and representative of Section 7A and Section 8A at the Class A State Team Tournament, who finished with five individual state qualifiers.
“We wrestled tough. I knew it was going to be a tough day. I mean, they were calling this (event in Cass Lake) technically the state tournament, so there isn’t going be any easy matches,” Gator Head Coach Isaac Novacek said. “And to get four through to the final eight (of the state tournament), I mean that’s something that we haven’t done for quite a few years. I mean, (it was a) pretty good showing.”
As for the other four Gator State Individual Preliminaries participants, Jaxon Janousek (120) would finish fourth with a 2-2 finish and Bode DeZelar (126) went 0-2. Seniors Tony Olson (132) and Dawson Beito (285) both saw their Gator careers officially come to an end, going 1-2 at the tournament.
During his career, Olson clinched one individual state berth, finished with over 130 career victories, and recorded a 23-7 record in his final season. In his senior season, Beito finished with a 24-6 record.
Now, the four Gator wrestlers will head to the Class A State Individual Tournament that begins at 2 pm on Saturday, March 27 from St. Michael-Albertville High School.
The first round matches for the Gators are as follows:
145: Garrett Undeberg (22-8) vs. Minneota’s Zach Fier (28-4)
160: Ethan Waage (22-5) vs. Kimball Area’s Zack Holtz (19-0)
182: Caleb Vacura (26-4) vs. Crosby-Ironton’s Michael Fitzpatrick (30-5)
220: Dominik Vacura (30-0) vs. Minneota’s Jackson Esping (27-5)
To capture state medals, the Gator wrestlers have to win at least one match.
“After seeing the brackets, (I think) they all got a shot, but… you got to be mistake free. And there isn’t going to be no easy matches,” Coach Novacek said. “So, leave it all on the mat, which I can say every kid that has been beat out, they have left it on the mat. No one has left anything out in the tank. And, if we can do that, I think we come home with four medals.”
To see the complete story, the Gator Wrestling sponsor page, and your complete Gator Wrestling postseason coverage, read the March 24 issue of The Tribune in print or online at page1publications.com.