State Wrestling: Nagel, Orlando and Bjerga highlight area wrestlers in state individuals

Brainerd Warrior wrestlers heading to the state wrestling tournament this weekend are Isiah Jillson (left), Cade Barrett and Atlie Danielson. The wrestlers were practicing Tuesday, Feb. 25, at the Brainerd High School in anticipation of the tournament. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Three No. 1 ranked wrestlers highlight the 22 area wrestlers headed down to the state individual wrestling tournament Friday, Feb. 28, and Saturday, Feb. 29, at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

“The first round is a huge round,” Brainerd head coach Mikkey White said. “It’s not a true double elimination tournament. If you lose in the first round and the guy you lost to loses in the second round, you are out of the tournament. So you like to win that first round to assure that second round.”

Brainerd sends three wrestlers to the Class 3A state individual tournament -- Isaiah Jillson at 120 pounds, Atlie Danielson at 138 pounds and Cade Barrett at 225 pounds.

White hopes none of them get caught up in the lights and stick to what worked for them to get to state.

Barrett comes in with a 26-5 record.


“He deserves to be down there,” White said. “Looking at his bracket we think he can do some good things. We just need him to continue what he is doing and be patient with his offense.”

Danielson owns a 35-7 record and Jillson owns a 29-14 record. Both of them have a challenge with where they were placed in the bracket.

“Both of them are facing some pretty good wrestlers,” White said. “But that does not count them out. Atlie has some stuff he can do that can beat some kids. He can slow people down who are ranked higher than him.”

Even though Jillson is a freshman, White expected him to make it to state. White felt Jillson should’ve been section champion despite being seeded fifth.

“He’s had a strong season and I thought he was going to win that tournament,” White said. “For him to be a ninth-grader and get that state tournament experience is going to spring him forward for next year.”

Little Falls junior wrestler Gabe Nagel returns to state at 170 pounds. He is the defending champion at 160 pounds and owns a 38-0 record to be the No. 1 seed in the Class 3A 170-pound tournament.

“He’s had a very good season again,” Little Falls head coach Mike Hendrickson said. “I think his closest match has been two 10-0 major decisions. Other than that he has tech. falled everybody or pinned everybody.”

The biggest test for Nagel might be the second-seed wrestler Max McEnelly, who is a freshman from Waconia. Hendrickson is excited for that match should it come.


“From what I’ve heard he is quite the wrestler and phenom,” Hendrickson said of McEnelly. “If things play out, we will have that kid in the finals, however, we have to take it one match at a time.”

Sophomore Austin Likte will compete in the Class 3A 106 pound bracket for Little Falls. The 10th-ranked wrestler enters with a 34-3 record and is the 12-seed in the tournament.

At Class 1A, the Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale/Parkers Prairie Raiders sends six individuals to state to go along with their participation as a team.

Craig Orlando highlights the BHVPP squad. He is the two-time defending Class 1A champion at 285 pounds. The senior heavyweight owns a 43-0 record.

“When he makes his mind up to do something it’s going to happen,” BHVPP head coach Bill Wagner said. “Watching him wrestle you can see when he gets like ‘I’m going to bring someone down’ and that’s exactly what happens. A lot of times he will play it safe in some tight matches, but other times he’s just like ‘alright I’m done with this’ and you see him turn.”

Two other notable wrestlers at state for BHVPP are Gideon Ervasti and David Revering. Ervasti owns a 33-3 record at 182. The sophomore is the 10th-ranked wrestler in Class 1A at that weight. Ranked 10th at 106, Revering owns a 37-7 record.

Mason Schroeder (27-18) at 160, Jason Koehn (31-11) at 138 and Deagan Captain (37-8) at 113 round out the Raiders’ individuals.

Staples-Motley senior Owen Bjerga looks to claim the 160-pound title in Class 1A after his heartbreaking defeat in the final last year. Bjerga holds a 41-1 record and is the top-ranked and No. 1 seed in the tournament.


Aitkin sent two individuals for Class 1A -- Jack Grell (20-17) at 138 and the sixth-ranked wrestler in Class 1A at 106 Marshall Larson (45-5).

Freshman Simon Sydner (36-10) represents Wadena-Deer Creek at 120 pounds in the Class 1A tournament.

Crosby-Ironton sends three wrestlers to the Class 1A state tournament -- John Paul Fitzpatrick (36-12) at 126, Michael Fitzpatrick (31-14) at 170 and Kyle Blazek (33-7) at 285. Blazek drew a tough opening round match against Orlando.

For Class 2A, the Pequot Lake/Pine River-Backus Road Crew has two wrestlers -- Caleb Ruhl (34-14) at 120 and Connor Tulenchik (44-4) at 145. Tulenchik is the eighth-ranked wrestler in Class 2A at 145.

Pierz Pioneers’ Tanner Young at 182 pounds owns a 34-3 record and is coming off a Section 8-2A championship.

“Tanner is just going to go out and wrestle his match,” Pierz head coach Skip Toops said. “He’s done that all year long. He’s been focused on himself and what he needs to do. He doesn’t look too far ahead. We really like his first-round match.”

Young notched the four-seed in the 182 bracket and is the fourth-ranked wrestler in Class 2A at his weight.

Pierz sophomore Trevor Radunz (38-7) is 10th-ranked at 120 pounds and rounds out the area field for state participants. He comes off a section runner up and is the fifth seed in the tournament.


“We like his first round matchup,” Toops said. “Trevor is tough in all facets and where he is really tough is on the mat where he can really grab someone. He’ll go out there and he’ll battle and the four seed is pretty tough so he better win the first match.”

State Individual Tournament

Class 3A: Brd-Isaiah Jillson, Atlie Danielson, Cade Barrett. LF-Gabe Nagel, Austin Likte.

Class 2A: Prz-Tanner Young, Trevor Radunz. PL/PRB-Caleb Ruhl, Connor Tulenchik.

Class 1A: BHVPP-Craig Orlando, Gideon Ervasti, David Revering, Deagan Captain, Mason Schroeder, Jason Koehn. C-I-John Paul Fitzpatrick, Michael Fitzpatrick, Kyle Blazek. Ait-Marshall Larson, Jack Grell. S-M-Owen Bjerga. W-DC-Simon Synder.

When: 9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 28 and 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 29

Where: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul.


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