It is not new to see, or expect, STMA wrestling to be at the top of the heap when it comes to state wrestling results. As a high school, STMA has captured no less than seven state team titles. Historically the same could not be said for the STMA youth wrestling (K-6th grade). While the program has always been one of the largest programs in the state, and consistently very strong, the closest the youth team had ever been to a NYWA state team championship was eight and nine years ago, when they placed 2nd in back-to-back years. The first year it was 2nd place to Adrian and the following year it was 2nd place to Kasson-Mantorville (KM). That year was also the first of seven consecutive team championships KM had won at state, a streak that included a record of 35-0. This year STMA aimed to change history and get revenge on a loss in the state finals eight long years ago.
During the course of the 2013-2014 season, STMA had gained some statewide recognition by winning the biggest youth team tournament in the midwest, “The BRAWL”, upsetting top seed New Prague in the finals of the 32-team event. Eight weeks later the team prepared for the NYWA region qualifier for state, hosting ten teams on March 23rd in St. Michael. STMA once again showed the depth of their roster by dominating the opposition throughout the event, ultimately defeating 2013 state runner-up Waconia in the finals to capture the region championship.
The team was now headed to state as one of five region champions. Individual competition was held on Friday all day, Saturday morning and Sunday morning, with team competition held Saturday afternoon (first three rounds) and Sunday afternoon (final two rounds). Having won seven consecutive state championships, KM was seeded first overall, with STMA seeded second in the 32-team field.
In the first matchup of the afternoon Saturday, STMA was paired against Grand Meadow/LeRoy-Ostrander/Kingsland (GMLOK). GMLOK was the 7th seed out of Region 1. STMA jumped out to a quick 16-0 lead with victories by Chase Mills, Ian Schultz and Mason Mills. GMLOK then got a pin from James Jacobson, before STMA once again went on a roll with wins from Jimmy Heil, Hunter Knutson, Jonathan Mlsna (over another individual state entrant) and Isaiah Mlsna to take a 38-6 lead. GMLOK then received a forfeit from STMA at 84 pounds before STMA went on another run with three pins in a row by Carl Leuer, Hayden LeMonds and Wyatt Lidberg to take a 56-12 lead. GMLOK won the next two matches leading up to heavyweight, but then Toby Dehn put a stamp on the victory (with a pin over the 5th place finisher at individual state) to end the match 62-21 in favor of STMA.
In the second round of matches, STMA advanced with their win over GMLOK to face United (Dawson-Boyd/LQPV/Montevideo), who had defeated Greenbush 45-24 in the first round of duals. United had taken 4th place in the region 4 qualifier. STMA came out of the gates with a dominating run of eight consecutive wins, six of which were by pin. Those providing the victories were Chase Mills, Ian Schultz, Mason Mills, Eli Davis, Jimmy Heil, Jonathan Mlsna, Isaiah Mlsna and Jaeger Evans. Chase, Jonathan and Jaeger all defeated opponents who had qualified for the individual state tournament. At 84 pounds STMA had to forfeit the weight, but Carl Leuer quickly followed up with a victory over an individual state participant to propel the team to a 45-6 lead. United followed up with wins at the next two weight classes before Wyatt Lidberg pinned his opponent to bring the score to 51-13. STMA then split the final two weight classes with United, with Toby Dehn pinning his final opponent to wrap up the team dual by a score of 57-19.
The third round of the NYWA State Team Tournament is the final round of day one competition. STMA had advanced by defeating GMLOK in the first round and United in the second round. They met up with Blue Earth Area (BEA) who had defeated Northfield in the first round 35-34 and Big Lake in the second round 46-21. As the dual meet started, STMA once again started out with a big lead, winning its first six matches, to climb out to a 31-0 lead. Winning matches were Chase Mills, Ian Schultz, Mason Mills, Eli Davis, Jimmy Heil and Jonathan Mlsna. Caleb Beeler of BEA got a pin at 75 pounds to put BEA on the board with a score of 31-6. Isaiah Mlsna then got STMA back on the winning track with a 3-2 win over his opponent to bring the score to 34-6. STMA forfeited the next weight to BEA. After that, Carl Leuer and Hayden LeMonds both recorded pins for STMA to put them out to a 46-12 lead. BEA managed wins at the next three weights to close the gap to 46-24, but in the final match of the dual, Toby Dehn put a seal on the victory with a pin over his BEA opponent to close out the scoring at 52-24.
The BEA victory placed STMA in the final four undefeated teams heading into the final two matches on Sunday afternoon. Other teams winning their first three matches were Kasson-Mantorville, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City (ACGC) and Delano. Those four teams were slated for competition beginning at 12:30 on Sunday afternoon.
As Sunday afternoon approached, the STMA wrestlers were restless, but focused on their final two matches. First up was ACGC, the third seed in Region 4. The two teams had matched up earlier in the season, with ACGC winning, but STMA did not have their entire competitive lineup when they met. As the dual meet began the anticipation was about as high as could be expected. STMA went into the team tournament with a tournament high 14 individual wrestlers qualifying for and competing in the state competition. ACGC was the next highest with 11 individual wrestlers competing.
Chase Mills kicked off the first match at 45 pounds with a 12-0 victory over an opponent who was an individual state qualifier, to gain a 4-0 team lead. Next up Ian Schultz and Mason Mills both scored pins to advance the STMA Knights to a 16-0 lead. Eli Davis was the next match and he was paired up against the state champion at his weight. Eli not only held his own against the champ, but battled him the entire way to a 0-2 loss. Jimmy Heil also was in a close dual, losing by a score of 3-7. Team score was now 16-6. Jonathan Mlsna was next up and scored a late takedown to defeat his opponent 9-1, gaining four team points and bringing the team score up to 20-6. Up next was twin brother Isaiah. Isaiah was paired up against the 2nd place finisher at individual state from earlier in the day. That didn’t seem to bother Isaiah, as he went out and scored an early takedown on his way to a 2-0 upset victory.
STMA was now ahead by a score of 23-6. Next, Jaeger Evans and Bennett Pouliot both wrestled in close matches, each losing by a handful of points to bring the team score to 23-13. Carl Leuer followed them with a shutout win over his state qualifying opponent by a score of 11-0 to put the team out to a 27-13 lead. Hayden LeMonds was next up, but lost a close match to Brennen Arndt of ACGC. Owen Vike then scored a pin over his opponent to bring the team score up to 33-17. Wyatt Lidberg was pinned by his ACGC opponent in the next match, moving the team score to 33-23 with just two matches left to go. In the 130 pound match, Jackson Kephart managed to keep the score limited to a seven point loss, which was just close enough to lock up the team victory for the STMA Knights, as they led 33-26 with just the heavyweight match remaining. In the heavyweight match, Toby Dehn was matched up against the individual state champion, but Toby gave him everything he could handle, losing by the close score of 0-5. Final team score for the dual meet was STMA 33, ACGC 29. STMA had advanced to the state finals.
In the state finals STMA’s opposition was the seven-time defending champions Kasson-Mantorville. KM had amassed a 35-0 record over those seven years. They were also the top seeded team in the tournament this year. They had defeated Foley 66-12, Annandale/Maple Lake 49-22, Waseca 48-23 and Delano 36-28 to reach the finals.
As the match started, STMA again showed their dominance in the lighter weight classes. Chase Mills started out the match with a pin to take a 6-0 team lead. Ian Schultz then lost a great match to a state entrant a grade level older than he was by the score of 0-4. Next up Mason Mills and Parker Janssen both pinned their opponents, to extend the lead to 18-3. Parker’s opponent was also a state entrant one grade level below his own. Jimmy Heil added to the early dominance by pinning his opponent. The KM team was also penalized one team point due to conduct by their wrestler after the match. The team score now stood at 24-2 in favor of STMA.
Next up Jonathan Mlsna won a closely contested 2-0 match and Isaiah Mlsna won a very exciting match in overtime 4-2, on a late takedown. The combined wins moved the score to 30-2 in favor of STMA. KM’s Jacob Keller and Bennett Berge then both managed pins to close the team score to 30-14.
This is when STMA was able to put the hammer down, as they won the next three matches in a row. First was Carl Leuer defeating his opponent 2-0, followed by Hayden LeMonds defeating his opponent 6-0, an opponent who was also an individual state qualifier. This extended the score to 36-14 and put STMA in a position to lock up the state championship with a victory by Wyatt Lidberg. Wyatt then did exactly what he needed to and quickly took his opponent down and before much time had expired, pinned him to guarantee STMA of their first ever NYWA Team State Championship. The final three matches of the dual meet went to KM, as they won 8-0 at 115, received a forfeit at 130 and got a pin at heavyweight. The final score of the dual meet was 42-30.
STMA had completed not only a flawless run at the state tournament, going 5-0 on the weekend, but also won the other two significant tournaments on the year, winning regions with a 3-0 record and “the BRAWL” 32-team tournament in January with a 5-0 record. It was a stellar season for a very talented group of kids from STMA.
During the course of the team competition on Saturday and Sunday, STMA had five wrestlers go undefeated: Chase Mills at 45, Mason Mills at 55, Jonathan Mlsna at 70/75, Isaiah Mlsna at 75/80 and Carl Leuer at 88 pounds. Going 4-1 in the team competition was Ian Schultz at 50 and Jimmy Heil at 65 pounds. Finishing 3-2 on the weekend were Hayden LeMonds, Wyatt Lidberg and Toby Dehn. Others competing for the team throughout the weekend were Eli Schultz, Eli Davis, Tyler Zenga, Parker Janssen, Hunter Knutson, Jaeger Evans, Bennett Pouliot, Owen Vike, Sean Kennedy, Jackson Kephart and Owen Barthel.
In addition to the team state championship, there were some very significant individual accomplishments over the course of the weekend. First and foremost, STMA qualified 14 individual wrestlers for the state tournament. Eli Schultz won a state championship and the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler in his age group (kindergarten). Mason Mills also won a state championship in the 3rd/4th grade age group. Picking up third place honors for STMA was Carl Leuer, Ian Schultz and Chase Mills. Finishing 4th at state this year individually was Jackson Kephart and 5th was Jimmy Heil. Others qualifying for and wrestling individually at state this year were: Tyson Knutson, Jonathan Mlsna, Isaiah Mlsna, Hayden LeMonds, Wyatt Lidberg, Owen Barthel and Toby Dehn. The coaches also received Minnesota’s Youth Wrestling Coach of the Year Award at the conclusion of the tournament.
All in all it was the most successful single season STMA youth wrestling has ever experienced and one that the coaches, parents and kids will remember for years to come.