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Class 3A Wrestling: Warriors Wagner lands in third, Nagel runner up again

Brainerd's Gabe Wagner and Little Falls' Gabe Nagel competed in the Class 3A state individual wrestling tournament.

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Brainerd's Gabe Wagner (left) gets a hold of Coon Rapids' Dalan Jones during their Class 3A 145-pound state quarterfinal match Thursday, March 25, 2021, at St. Michael. Joe Brown / Forum News Service

ST. MICHAEL — The best part about Gabe Wagner’s season is he gets to come back and do it all over again.

The Brainerd Warriors junior finished 2-1 at the Class 3A state individual tournament Thursday, March 25, to place third in his first-ever state appearance.

Little Falls Flyer senior Gabe Nagel suffered the same fate as last year, finishing second to Waconia’s Max McEnelly. Nagel’s last three state tournaments went first, second, second.

“I suppose last year was maybe closer with an overtime takedown, but geez,” Flyers head coach Mike Hendrickson said. “We had our opportunities to score and we just couldn’t capitalize. Gabe said the guy was really sweaty and slipped right out of there.

“The takedown that was the decider of the match was right at the edge of the mat. It was a good call. It was a takedown, but it was one of those things where there could have been a flurry and all-of-a-sudden it’s tied. In either case, it was two absolute bulls out there. It was fun to watch.”

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Wagner opened with an 11-1 major decision over Coon Rapids’ Dalan Jones in the quarterfinal round of the 145-pound bracket. It was Jones who Wagner beat in the Super Section March 20 to get to the championship round. In the first meeting, the score was 6-5 in favor of Wagner.

“We saw it really early in the match, too,” Warriors head coach Mikkey White said. “We could see that Gabe broke him early. I think that win, and the win being a major decision, was a big confidence booster. It got him feeling pretty good.”

SUPER SECTION: Section 8-3A Wrestling: Warriors’ Wagner, Flyers’ Nagel advance
Jones went on to win the fifth-place title. Wagner’s next opponent went on to win the 145-pound bracket after pinning Wagner in 2:00.

“(Nick) Novak is tough,” White said. “To get a technical fall in the finals is huge, so yes. He’s good. He’s a different class wrestler. That’s for sure.”

The junior bounced back and scored a 5-3 decision over Chaska/Chanhassen’s Pedro Valazquez in the third-place match.

ATHLETE OF WEEK: Warriors Athlete of Week: Warriors’ Wagner wrestling in state championship round
“Wrestling tournaments are so mentally challenging,” White said. “You come out and get this good win and then you wrestle a kid like Novak and get beat. You have to come back and refocus and reset your goals and go back out there and compete. That can be a challenge sometimes and Gabe did a perfect job of just letting that semifinal be in the past.

“(Valazquez) was good. He was really good on his feet. He came out and took Gabe down right away, but that was basically the end of it on his feet. Gabe really frustrated him after that. Right near the end of the third period, Gabe was able to get a takedown and win it.”

Wagner finishes his junior season with a 35-7 record.

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“A lot of times, we’ll have kids go down to the state tournament and do well and then they are gone,” White said. “He gets to come back to our (practice) room. He’s been a leader every year he’s wrestled for us so to have the kids see that hard work he puts in day in and day out pay off, that’s huge for our team. And now he’ll be back leading by example again.”

It was No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the 182-pound championship and the rankings held true as McEnelly got up early on Nagel and held on to win his second title.

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Gabe Nagel.

Nagel had another close match in the semifinal round against No. 3 ranked Ryder Rogotzke of Stillwater.

“Gabe knew of this kid and he was kind of a funky wrestler so we wanted to be careful and cautious,” Hendrickson said. “He was able to get an early takedown and as it turned out that was what won it. Gabe could have scored more, but this other kid was a thrower, and we didn’t want to get thrown to our back and then have to play catch-up. It was a very cautious, smart match there.”

SECTION: Section 8-3A Wrestling: 7 Warriors and 7 Flyers advance
Nagel’s day opened with a 50-second pin over Bemidji’s Barrick Nelson. He finishes his final Flyer season 33-1 and leaves the program as its all-time wins and pins leader.

“He’s the best kid that has ever come out of our school, but not only that he’s maybe the nicest kid that has ever come out of our school,” Hendrickson said. “He has unbelievable leadership skills. For as good as he is and for as hard as he works he carries himself like he’s a C-squader. He has no airs about himself. He’s a coach's dream and he’s not replaceable. Hopefully, the kids he’s been around the last few years learned from him because he did it right.

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“It will be exciting to watch his career continue with (The University of Minnesota) Gophers.”

Quarterfinals
145: Gabe Wagner (Brd) maj. dec. Dalan Jones (Coon Rapids) 11-1
182: Gabe Nagel (LF) pinned Barrick Nelson (Bemidji) 0:50
Semifinals
145: Nick Novak (New Prague) pinned Wagner 2:00
182: Nagel dec. Ryder Rogotzke (Stillwater) 3-2
Third-place match
145: Wagner dec. Pedro Velazquez (Chaska/Chanhassen) 5-3
Championship
182: Max McEnelly (Waconia) dec. Nagel 3-2

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Gabe Nagel.

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Gabe Nagel.

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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