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State Wrestling: Bjerga and Orlando finish their careers as state champions

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Owen Bjerga of Staples-Motley celebrates being named Class 1A state champion at 160-pounds Saturday, Feb. 29, at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Bill Johnson / Picture Day Pro!

Staples-Motley senior Owen Bjerga and Verndale senior Craig Orlando claimed wrestling titles in the Class 1A Individual State Finals Saturday, Feb. 29, at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Bjerga at 160 pounds pinned Max Ehrich of Blue Earth in 1:58 in the semifinals to reach the finals. He then pinned Anthony Maher of BOLD in 1:55 to claim the title.

The state championship is extra special for Bjerga, who was the No. 1 seed for the 160 Class 1A bracket, since last season he finished second in heartbreaking fashion.

“It has not quite set in yet,” Bjerga said. “It felt pretty good to do it like that. It’s hard to explain the feeling. For all the years of hard work to pay off. It’s pretty cool.

“It was awesome. After I got my hand raised and looking up into the crowd and seeing all the fans cheering and my buddies had their bellies painted with congratulations and all sorts of stuff. It was one of the best feelings ever.”

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Orlando came in with two state titles at 285 pounds. Seeded No. 1 in the 285 Class 1A bracket, Orlando pinned both of his opponents to reach the semifinals.

In the semifinals, he won by a 1-0 decision over Dylan Nick of Westfield. Orlando pinned Scot Edwards of Adrian in 3:07 in the finals to finish the season 50-0 and as a three-time state champion.

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Craig Orlando pinned his opponent in the Class 1A 285-pound finals Saturday, Feb. 29, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul to become a three-time state champion at 285. Bill Johnson / Picture Day Pro!

In the wrestlebacks, Aitkin’s Marshall Larson notched three wins to get third place in the 106 bracket. Larson won by major decision to start his day, then won by 6-1 decision to reach the third-place match.

In the third-place match, Larson won by 3-2 decision over Braden Thorn and finished his season with a 50-6 record.

At 126 pounds, Crosby-Ironton’s John Paul Fitzpatrick took third. He pinned his first opponent of the day and then followed it up with a 1-0 decision to reach the third-place match.

Fitzpatrick pinned Brady Holien of Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City to claim third and finish his season 40-13.

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Class 1A Results
Semifinals
160: Owen Bjerga (SM) pinned Max Ehrich (Blue Earth) 1:58
285: Craig Orlando (BHVPP) dec. Dylan Nick (Westfield) 1-0
Finals
160: Bjerga (SM) pinned Anthony Maher (BOLD) 1:55, Bjerga finishes 45-1
285: Orlando (BHVPP) pinned Scot Edwards (Adrian) 3:07, Orlando finishes 50-0
Wrestlebacks
106: Marshall Larson (Ait) maj. dec. Brayan Anaya (Adrian) 11-3; Larson dec. Caleb Boese (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winstead) 6-1
126: John Paul Fitzpatrick (CI) pinned Zack Fier (Minneota) 2:52; Fitzpatrick dec. Levi Ellingson (Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/W-WG) 1-0
160: Sawyer Schwartz pinned Mason Schroeder (BHVPP) 2:27, Schroeder 32-20
182: Gideon Ervasti (BHVPP) pinned Austin Mundt (Deer River) 3:41; Mason Smid (Blackduck/Cass Lake-Bena) pinned Ervasti 0:53, Ervasti finishes 38-5
285: Cian Buehler (Ottertail Central) pinned Kyle Blazek (CI) 0:14, Blazek finishes 34-9
Third Place
106: Larson (Ait) dec. Braden Thorn (Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville) 3-2, Larson finishes 50-6
126: Fitzpatrick (CI) pinned Brady Holien (Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City) 2:44, Fitzpatrick finishes 40-13
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