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Three Gator seniors punch their tickets to state


Gator senior wrestlers Nathan Waage (285), Caleb Vacura (182), and Ethan Waage (170) earned trips to the state wrestling tournament after each claiming section titles at their respective weight classes at the Section 8A Individual Wrestling Tournament on February 26 from Crookston High School. The state wrestling tournament takes place March 3-5 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. For complete Gator Wrestling coverage and the Gator Wrestling state sponsor page, look inside this week’s issue.

Gator senior Nathan Waage clenches his fist in emotion after pinning United North Central’s Marcus Peterson in the third period of the Section 8A 285-pound title match, earning the last of three Gator state tournament berths that day, but his first career individual state tournament berth. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Nathan Waage works for position versus United North Central’s Marcus Peterson in the 285-pound championship match, one Waage won by third period pin from Crookston High School on February 26. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Caleb Vacura works for back points on Crookston’s Hunter Knutson in the Section 8A 182-pound championship match, one Vacura won by a 16-0 technical fall in the third period from Crookston High School on February 26. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Ethan Waage works for the pin and eventually gets its 29 seconds into the first period over Frazee’s Daniel Graham in the Section 8A 170-pound championship match from Crookston High School on February 26. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

One of three Gator seniors Nathan Waage clenched his fist before raising his arm following a pin in his last match at Crookston High School. This was not a regular match for Waage.

Gator seniors Nathan Waage (285), Ethan Waage (170) and Caleb Vacura (182) led this year’s Gator team— all ranked for much of the season and each now with over 30 wins on the season. When the action concluded at the Section 8A Individual Wrestling Tournament on February 26 in Crookston, all three left with section titles and state tournament tickets— accounting for all three Gator state boys qualifiers.

The top seed at his weight, Ethan Waage earned a first round bye before earning a semifinal pin with one second remaining in the first period. This win advanced Waage to the championship versus a familiar opponent, in Frazee’s Daniel Graham.

The last time these two met, Waage earned a 9-0 major decision win back on January 11. This time, Waage made quicker work of Graham, catching and pinning Graham 29 seconds into the match to secure his third state tournament berth— looking for his first state medal.

Also the top seed at his weight, Caleb Vacura earned a first round bye and a 54-second pin to advance to the championship versus Crookston’s Hunter Knutson.

Vacura controlled the action from start to finish in a 16-0 technical fall with 41 seconds left in the third period. With this win, Vacura earned his fourth state tournament berth. At this year’s state tournament, he will be looking for his third state medal, having placed sixth as a freshman and fourth as a junior.

“Their main goal is to win state and to place in state and this is just a step in the process,” Gator Head Coach Isaac Novacek said of Ethan Waage’s and Vacura’s days. “It’s good to see them go out there and dominate, keep firing on all cylinders going into the state tournament.”

As for Nathan Waage, also the top seed at his weight, he earned a first round bye before recording a semifinal pin with 40 seconds left in the second period to advance to the championship match. In this title match, Waage faced a familiar opponent, in United North Central’s Marcus Peterson.

Waage earned a third period pin over Peterson earlier this season on February 8. In this title meeting, Waage fell into a 2-1 deficit after two periods, but reversed Peterson and pinned him in a cradle 43 seconds into the final period. With this win, Waage earned his first state tournament berth, meaning he heads to state looking for his first state medal.

“I’m excited for him. Kind of as expected, he was supposed to win. He’s pinned all his kids (in the section), so congrats to him,” Coach Novacek said. “He did what he was supposed to do, and I know he’s got bigger goals than just win sections too.”

Now these three Gator seniors join teammate Sarah Pulk— all with the chance to achieve higher goals at the state wrestling tournament from the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, March 3-5. Individual boys action begins on March 4 and individual girls action begins on March 5. Coach Novacek’s message to his seniors is not to leave anything on the mat.

“Every time you put on shoes now it could be your last time,” Coach Novacek said. “There is no one tomorrow, so you better not leave no regrets.”

First round Gator state tournament match-ups are as follows:
170: Ethan Waage (31-5) vs. Kean Hicks (31-6) of Blue Earth Area
182: Caleb Vacura (38-3) vs. Isaac Schmidt (43-5) of St. Agnes
285: Nathan Waage (32-8) vs. Terrell Renne (32-12) of Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City
Girls 165: Sarah Pulk vs. Ella Pagel of North-field

For the complete section tournament story, read the March 2 issue of The Tribune in print or online. Watch for state tournament updates on The Tribune Facebook page. For complete Gator Wrestling state tournament coverage, read the March 9 issue of The Tribune.

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