The best thing about being a Paul Bunyan champion for Kyle Eschenbacher was doing it in front of his parents.

The Brainerd Warriors 132-pound junior outlasted top-seeded Dusty Wilke of Grand Rapids for a 3-0 decision and the Bunyan title. His win along with three runner-up finishes and two thirds helped Brainerd to third place in its own Invite Saturday, Dec. 14.

“This was a pretty big goal of mine because last year I took second,” Eschenbacher said. “It’s even better because my parents are in the stands.”

Eschenbacher opened Saturday with a come-from-behind overtime victory in the semifinals and then worked his gameplan in his championship match.

“He’s been wrestling really well,” Brainerd head coach Mikky White said. “He’s made some huge improvements from last year. He’s never really out of position right now and that’s really what is helping him out. He’s just being relentless.”

Eschenbacher was down three points with little time remaining in his semifinal victory. But an escape followed by two back points helped send the match into overtime where he recorded a pin at 6:23.

“What happened in that semifinal match was kind of what our whole team has shown this whole week,” White said. “Nobody put their head down and everybody wrestled until the very last second. That was exactly what happened in that match. He wrestled to the last second and gave himself an opportunity to keep wrestling and then won the match.”

Atlie Danielson was denied his third Bunyan one match later at 138 pounds. Bemidji’s Thade Osborn was simply too long for the senior, who suffered a 5-2 decision.

“Atlie just kept getting into that same position, that front head position, over and over and over,” White said. “Atlie usually scores that, but this Bemidji kid was able to shut it down. I’m still proud of him. He’s been wrestling hard so far this year.

“We’ll figure it out and we’ll change our strategy for next time.”

Senior Cade Barrett posted a runner-up finish at 220 pounds. He fell 6-4 to top-seeded and unbeaten Luke Tweeton of Frazee in the championship match.

Brainerd’s Isaiah Jillson ran into top-ranked Trevor Radunz of Pierz. Radunz picked up the 58-second pin on the freshman to win the title.

Isaiah Germann and Forrest Gibson collected third-place finishes for Brainerd, which collected 158.5 points. Foley won the team title with 223.5 points and Bemidji was second at 196.

“I’m really happy with my team,” White said. “I’m really impressed. I had a lot of guys who I didn’t really know how they would perform on a varsity mat and they have far exceeded my expectations. I’m really impressed with how well these young guys have done and it’s feeding through the entire team.”

Few wrestlers at Brainerd were as impressive as Little Falls’ Gabe Nagel. The defending Class 3A Champion hasn’t lost in two years and hasn’t even been taken down in two years.

He cruised through the 170-pound bracket with a 1:03 pin, 1:41 pin, 4:31 pin and 1:32 pin.

“He’s dominated everybody,” Flyers head coach Mike Hendrickson said. “His semifinal match was his 150th career win so that’s pretty cool. He’s pinned everybody he’s wrestled this year. It’s going to be a tough dog that beats him this year.”

Nagel, who verbally committed to the University of Minnesota, wasn’t the only Flyer with a title. Sophomore Austin Litke finally made weight and collected a 106-pound title for the eighth-place Flyers.

“He looked really solid,” Hendrickson said. “He was the elder statesman at 106. He was the only sophomore. All the other wrestlers were younger than him and this is his first time down. He’s always been a little guy and has finally gotten to where he’s a 106 pounder. That was good for him. He’s a strong kid. We’ve been working on cradles and both Austin and Gabe got cradle pins so that was kind of cool.”

Simon Pantzke added a fifth-place finish for Little Falls.

The undermanned Pioneers collected a third from Tanner Young at 182 pounds and a sixth from Brandon Schlegel at 195 pounds to finish 13th.

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.

For more photos, go to https://bit.ly/2rOLMKl.

Team scores: 1-Foley 223.5, 2-Bemidji 196, 3-Brainerd 158.5, 4-Frazee 136.5, 5-Grand Rapids 120.5, 6-St. Cloud Tech 119.5, 7-Buffalo 91, 8-Little Falls 89, 9-Mound Westonka 85.5, 10-Royalton-Upsala 83.5, 11-Moorhead 60, 12-Cloquet-Esko-Carlton 52, 13-Pierz 50.5, 14-Chisago Lakes 42, 15-White Bear Lake 34
106: 1-Austin Litke (LF) 3-0, 3-Isaiah Germann (Brd) 3-1, 8-Easton Miller (Brd) 2-3, Derek Stangl (Prz) 0-2
113: 7-Elijah Germann (Brd) 2-2, 8-Ashton Schwinn (LF) 0-3, Jacob LeBlanc (Prz) 0-2
120: 1-Trevor Radunz (Prz) 3-0, 2-Isaiah Jillson (Brd) 2-1, 6-Joey Wilczek (LF) 1-3, Bryce Udy (LF) 0-2
126: 8-Lathan Jillson (Brd) 2-3, Wyatt Baum (LF) 1-2, Bailey Cox (Brd) 0-2
132: 1-Kyle Eschenbacher (Brd) 4-0, Brandon Funk (Prz) 0-2, Calvin Sherwood (LF) 0-2
138: 2-Atlie Danielson (Brd) 3-1
145: 5-Gabe Wagner (Brd) 3-2
152: 5-Simon Pantzke (LF) 2-2, 8-Jadon Petrie (Brd) 2-3, Ross Boser (Prz) 0-2
160: Riley Hoskins (Prz) 1-2, Dylan Wgeishofski (Brd) 0-2, Aiden St. Onge (LF) 1-2
170: 1-Gabe Nagel (LF) 4-0, Damien Bentho (Brd) 1-2, Nathaniel Kludt (LF) 0-2, Mason Zajac (Prz) 0-2
182: 3-Tanner Young (Prz) 3-1. Peyton Caril (LF) 0-2, Austin Newgord (Brd) 0-2,
195: 3-Forrest Gibson (Brd) 3-1, 6-Brandon Schlegel (Prz) 1-3
220: 2-Cade Barrett (Brd) 3-1, Eli VanRisseghem (LF) 1-2
285: Cole Larkin (Brd) 0-2

Paul Bunyan Invite

Team highlights: Warriors finish third

Individual highlights: Brainerd’s Kyle Eschenbacher, Pierz’s Trevor Radunz and Little Falls’ Austin Litke and Gabe Nagel won Bunyan titles

Next: Brainerd at Sartell Triangular 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19; Pierz at Ogilvie Triangular 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17; Little Falls at Princeton Quadrangular 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20