Craig Orlando wrestled seven times in three days.

All seven ended with a slap of the mat as the Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale/Parkers Prairie Raiders junior pinned every single opponent to defend his 285-pound Class 1A state title Saturday, March 2, in the Class 1A State Individual Tournament at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

"I didn't think I was going to get seven pins," Orlando said. "I just wanted to go out there and wrestle, I guess."

Saturday, Orlando posted a 2:39 pin of Braden Willis of Mille Lacs in the semifinals to set up a matchup with Adrian's Scot Edwards. The No. 3-seeded Edwards also pinned all of his opponents leading up to Orlando.

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Class 1A State Wrestling

  • Highlights: Craig Orlando defends his heavyweight title
  • Cardinals: Bjerga 2nd and Miller third

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After a cautious first period, Orlando pinned Edwards in 3:24 to finish his junior season 47-1.

"All I was doing was watching out so he didn't throw me," Orlando said. "That's how he pinned all of his other kids.

"It's a good feeling, I guess. I'll try going for three."

Owen Bjerga was a point away from his first state title.

The Staples-Motley Cardinals junior posted a rare technical fall victory in the championship semifinals over Caleb Vacura of Badger-Greenbush-Middle River to set up a title match with top-seeded Tyler Ryan of Kenyon-Wanamingo. Ryan bettered Bjerga 10-9 in the final.

"It was a little bit of a heartbreaker for him," S-M head coach Mark Carlson said. "He had a gameplan going in and he executed it about as well as he could have. It was the last five, 10 seconds and an unfortunate flurry and the kid got the takedown to win.

"Owen wrestled well. He had a great tournament, but that kid (Ryan) was a state champion as a 10th grader and was out last year with an injury. So to be beating that caliber of a kid, a possible three-time state champion kid, is quite an accomplishment."

Bjerga finished the season 47-2.

Unlike many, Spencer Miller didn't let one defeat bring him down.

The S-M senior fell to Chandler Mooney in the championship semifinals with a 2-1 overtime loss to fall into the wrestlebacks. Miller regrouped and defeated Marcus Otomo 15-4 and for the second time in the tournament defeated Kimball's Zack Holtz to place third with a 3-1 decision.

"He didn't give up a single takedown for the entire tournament," Carlson said. "He finished third, but he was one of the top wrestlers in the state at 152 and showed that with some dominating performances against some good wrestlers.

"Spencer's goal was to win the state title and for most kids, after you lose, it's pretty deflating. It's an hour and a half before you have to wrestle again and these kids almost go through a mini grieving process because they have these high goals. It's hard to come back from that, but Spencer was motivated to show everybody he was one of the best."


Championship semifinals

152: Chandler Mooney (Roseau) dec. Spencer Miller (Staples-Motley) 2-1 OT

160: Owen Bjerga (Staples-Motley) vs. Caleb Vacura (Badger-Greenbush/Middle River)

285: Craig Orlando (BHVPP) pinned Brandon Willis (Mille Lacs) 2:39



160: Tyler Ryan (Kenyon-Wanamingo) dec. Bjerga 10-9, Bjerga finishes 47-2

285: Orlando pinned Scot Edwards (Adrian) 3:24, Orlando finishes 47-1


Saturday's wrestlebacks

138: Trey Fairbanks (Deer River) dec. Luke Pelarski (Atikin) 6-4, Pelarski finishes 37-13

152: Zack Holtz (Kimball) pinned Quin Miller (Aitkin) 1:41, Quin Miler finishes 29-23; Spencer Miller maj. dec. Marcus Otomo (Dover-Eyota) 15-4; Miller dec. Holtz 3-1, Spencer Miller finishes third at 27-4

220: Kodee O'Reilly (Goodhue) dec. Taylor Eigenheer (Crosby-Ironton) 5-1, Eigenheer finishes 37-7