ROCHESTER — Individual wrestling tournaments in Minnesota looked a little bit different this year. There’s the obvious spectator limitations and mask-wearing of coaches, officials and wrestlers not competing on the mat. Then there are the less visible tournament changes on the back end. With no true section championship this year, the top four wrestlers in each weight class for each section advanced to the state prelims. In Class A, those were held Saturday at Century High School in Rochester for Sections 1 and 4. And for Goodhue and Zumbrota-Mazeppa it meant that 16 wrestlers had a shot at advancing to the individual state tournament next weekend.

PHOTOS: Class A individual wrestling state prelims

Both teams made good on their chances too with five wrestlers moving on to the next round — four from Z-M and one from Goodhue. Of that group of five, two — Ethan Kovars and Maddox O’Reilly — never lost a match.

Kovars, a 195-pounder for Z-M, started his day off with a 7-0 decision and followed up with a 10-1 major decision. In the first-place match it took him all the way to the third period to put the match away, but eventually he did and defeated Kimball Area’s Carter Holtz, 6-2.

“He maintained his positioning the whole day, he never really got much trouble at all and he just has a real solid stance,” Z-M head wrestling coach Link Steffen said. “The other thing with Ethan is he never panics. Even if he gets behind in a match he keeps wrestling his style. He believes in what he does and he keeps working it until it works.”

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Ethan Kovars (195 pounds) wrestles for Zumbrota-Mazeppa at the Section 1A-4A individual state prelims March 20, 2021 at Century High School in Rochester. Jake Pfeifer / Republican Eagle
Ethan Kovars (195 pounds) wrestles for Zumbrota-Mazeppa at the Section 1A-4A individual state prelims March 20, 2021 at Century High School in Rochester. Jake Pfeifer / Republican Eagle

Kovars’ record now sits at 31-1 on the season.

O’Reilly was the lone Wildcat to advance to the next stage of the state tournament but he did so in convincing fashion. O’Reilly won the first match with ease, winning by fall seconds before the first period ended. He then needed extra time to earn the sudden victory in his semifinals match but finished on a high note with a clutch third period in his finals match to earn the 3-0 decision.

O’Reilly’s first-place finish put his record at 25-4 heading into next weekend.

The other three Z-M wrestlers to advance to the next stage all did so by earning second place on Saturday. Jack Krier (106), Kaleb Lochner (120) and Beau Jurrens (145) all had a shot at punching their ticket to state by winning the first-place match but all three were defeated.

None of them backed down though as Krier won his true second-place match against Dover-Eyota’s Damon Bye with a 7-0 decision, while Lochner and Jurrens won by no contest.

Jack Krier (106 pounds) wrestles for Zumbrota-Mazeppa at the Section 1A-4A individual state prelims March 20, 2021 at Century High School in Rochester. Jake Pfeifer / Republican Eagle
Jack Krier (106 pounds) wrestles for Zumbrota-Mazeppa at the Section 1A-4A individual state prelims March 20, 2021 at Century High School in Rochester. Jake Pfeifer / Republican Eagle

Krier’s individual record sits at 31-4, while Lochner is 26-8 and Jurrens is 19-12 after the prelims.

“Jack beat Bye earlier in the year, but when you’re coming off a loss and that other kid’s coming off a few wins in a row, that’s always a hard position to wrestle and that’s the exact position Jack was in,” Steffen said. “Jack went out, refocused himself, came back in and he looked like a new kid to me and he went on to win 7-0, so he refocused.

“Kaleb and Beau are just extremely tough competitors, and again they stay in good position as well,” Steffen added. “They’ve wrestled well these last couple weeks and are taking calculated shots when there are openings.”

The only wrestler between Z-M and Goodhue to fall one match short of state was Lucas Bortz, the Wildcats’ 113-pounder, who took third place. Bortz won his opening match with a 14-2 major decision but then was derailed by losing in the semifinals. In wrestlebacks, Bortz won his next two matches but conceded the second-place match by no contest to David Gregory of Trinity School at River Ridge, who had defeated him earlier in the day.

There were no fifth- or sixth-place matches in the state prelims so the remainder of the Z-M and Goodhue wrestlers finished the day without placement.

Rounding out the rest of the pack for Z-M were: Ben Murray (126), Tanner Mancilman (160) and Ryan Lexvold (170) losing in the consolation semifinals, and Zayne Novek (113) and Tucker Buck (220) losing in the first round of wrestlebacks.

For Goodhue, Ryan Bortz (120), Cody Lohman (220) and Blake Carlson (285) were defeated in the consolation semifinals, while Makae O’Reilly (145) and Carsyn O’Reilly (182) lost in the opening round of wrestlebacks.

The Class A individual state tournament will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 27 at St. Michael-Albertville High School.

Lake City sends four to individual state tournament

While the Class A wrestlers were duking it out in Rochester, Lake City and the rest of Sections 1AA and 4AA were prepping for battle in Cannon Falls. Lake City sent five wrestlers to the state prelims on Saturday and had a success rate of 80% on advancing them to the state tournament.

While Jonathan Harvey (145) was the lone Tiger to claim first place, Luke Skifton (132), Joe Kozlowski (152) and Max Balow (285) all took second place and punched their ticket to state.

Harvey had a clean sweep of matches, winning his first match by fall in under one minute and following that up with a 9-0 major decision and a win by disqualification in the finals.

Skifton and Kozlowski were both on the cusp of winning outright but both lost the first-place matches before turning around and winning the second-place bout. Skifton took second after defeating Dominic Mann of Kasson-Mantorville by a 6-4 decision, while Kozlowski took second by no contest after defeating Cael Marx with a 7-4 decision earlier in the day.

Lake City junior Max Balow pinned North Branch junior Jackson Marcussen during the individual state prelims March 20, 2021 at Cannon Falls High School. Matt Lambert / Cannon Falls Beacon
Lake City junior Max Balow pinned North Branch junior Jackson Marcussen during the individual state prelims March 20, 2021 at Cannon Falls High School. Matt Lambert / Cannon Falls Beacon

Balow took a longer path to claim second as he won his quarterfinals match before losing in the semifinals. He then needed to win three-straight matches to take second, which he did convincingly. Balow won his first wrestleback match by a 7-1 decision and then won the third- and second-place matches by fall.

Dominic Goilhl-Krier (160) was the other Tiger competing on Saturday and lost in his second wrestleback match to end his day. Goihl-Krier lost his opening match by fall but recovered nicely with a win by fall in his first wrestleback. He lost in the consolation semifinals by a 5-2 decision.

The Class AA individual state tournament will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, March 26 at St. Michael-Albertville High School.