HASTINGS, Minn. – A throw, and one of the longest moments of head coach Tim Haneberg’s life, sent the Hastings wrestling team back to state Friday night.
The Section 3AAA championship dual between the Raiders and Woodbury Royals at Hastings High School came down to the final match at 285 pounds with Hastings senior Brady Schiller taking on Denis Tokin. Schiller threw Tokin, squeezed, and got the pin in 1 minute, 22 seconds as the crowd and Raider bench erupted. Schiller flexed for the crowd and No. 2 seed Hastings edged No. 1 Woodbury 33-29 for their fourth trip to team state in the last five years.
@hastingswrestle IS STATE BOUND! Brady Schiller pins Denis Tokin in 1 minute, 22 seconds to give the Raiders a 33-29 win over @RoyalsWrestling in the Section 3AAA Championship! pic.twitter.com/XFEOxY80UO— Alec Hamilton (@alechamsports) February 15, 2020
“My mind was blank, I was just so excited. I was just happy that we made it to state to be honest,” said Schiller about what went through his head after getting the pin.
“I just could not believe what was happening. It just reminded me of a couple years ago when we beat Eagan in the finals and Luke Chamberlain just sunk in that half (nelson) and he just had that kid pinned for so long,” Haneberg said. “And that was one of the longest moments of my life right there, I felt like that (Tokin) was pinned for so long.”
That unforgettable moment was set up the match before at 220. Hastings had taken its first lead of the dual when senior Garrett Beying beat Woodbury’s Ahmed Abdelal at 170 in a 14-13 barn burner. The Raiders led 24-23 after that match and then went up 27-23 with a 14-9 win by junior Issac Fritz at 182 over Omar Abdelal. The Royals won a decision at 195 and heading into 220 it was 27-26 Hastings.
Haneberg and his staff then made a bold decision as they switched Schiller and junior Cameron Olsen. In the previous two duals, Schiller had wrestled 220 and Olsen 285.
“Cam has been wrestling great all season long and their 220-pounder (Mason Barrows) was formerly ranked, so we really thought we could pull that one off. It was (a) 2-0 (loss), so he was right there. If we won that match, we felt really good there that it would kind of ice the dual,” Haneberg said. “Then Brady, too, that kid (Denis Tokin) hasn’t wrestled all year so we really didn’t know what to expect from that kid. So Brady went out there and credit to him, he got taken down two times and then capitalized when he had the opportunity and he really stuck that kid.”
Barrows got a reversal in the final seconds of the match, putting Woodbury up 29-27, and it appeared Haneberg’s gamble had failed. Schiller trailed when he was able to throw Tokin and kept him from going out of bounds as Schiller pinned him. Even though Haneberg felt like Tokin was pinned for a while before the ref slapped the mat and the whistle sounded, Schiller never felt comfortable.
“I feel like I never have a person until the match is over. Until the whistle is blown, that’s when I have him,” he said.
“It was unbelievable. It was unbelievable. Just pure excitement. Not just for me as a coach, but for these kids,” Haneberg said. “Those 14 kids who went out there on the mat and just battled their butts off. All the other kids in the room, who are battling every day in the room trying to make them better … this is just a complete, team atmosphere.”
The dual got off to a rough start for the Raiders as they lost four of the first five matches. Eighth grader Derek Steinke lost 12-6 at 106 and freshman Caleb Folstrom was pinned in 3:58 at 113.
Trailing 9-0, the Raiders got on the board when freshman Josh Route won by fall in 3:53 at 120. Hastings then lost the next two matches as well when freshman Aiden Erickson lost 10-4 at 126 and fellow freshman Hunter Giefer was pinned in 3:59 at 132. Hastings trailed 18-6 five matches in.
Then the Raiders then went on a run.
Senior John Kendall won at 138 with a pin in 3:41 and junior Nolan Myers followed with another pin at 145 in 3:54. Sophomore Zander Hallis lost by a 17-2 tech fall at 152, but the Raiders bounced back again when senior Mukhtar Ali won 6-4 via sudden victory at 160. After that it was Beying’s turn, which started the dual-ending drama.
Hastings cruised in their first two duals of the tournament. The Raiders defeated No. 7 seed St. Paul Central 78-3 in the first round, dropping just one match while getting eight pins. In the semifinals they faced No. 3 Park and got out to a 36-11 lead before holding on to win 39-24 over the Wolfpack.
Haneberg talked two weeks ago after the Cannon Falls Duals that the Raiders needed to do a better job of not giving up bonus points, and do a better job of converting pins when they had the opportunity. That message must have sunk in as they gave up just three pins and a tech fall across the three duals. Hastings had 17 pins on the day and four to Woodbury’s two in the section finals.
Next up is the Section 3AAA individual tournament at Park on Saturday, Feb. 22. The top two wrestlers in each weight class advance to the individual state tournament. Haneberg said their goal is to get 6-10 wrestlers to advance to individual state and that there isn’t a weight class where sending a Raider is out of the question.
Both team and individual state are at the Xcel Energy Center. Team state is Thursday, Feb. 27, and individual state is Friday and Saturday, Feb. 28-29. Hastings’ first team state match will be at 9 a.m. on Thursday. If they win, they would wrestle again at 1 p.m. and if they lose they would wrestle right away at 11 a.m.
The team tournament will be seeded 1-5 with the other three teams randomly placed against the top three seeds. The other seven teams that qualified are No. 1-ranked Shakopee (Section 2), No. 2 St. Michael-Albertville (Section 5), No. 3 Stillwater (Section 4), No. 6 Owatonna (Section 1), No. 8 Forest Lake (Section 7), Waconia (Section 6) and Bemidji (Section 8). Neither Hastings nor Woodbury were ranked.