The Aberdeen Central wrestling squad will need to take a bus to the state tournament to accommodate all its qualifiers.
Aberdeen, which finished second in the Region 3A Meet on Saturday at Golden Eagles Arena, qualified 11 wrestlers to the State A tournament Friday and Saturday at Watertown. Pierre, the defending State A champion, won the Region 3A Meet with 212 points to 185-1/2 points for the host team from Aberdeen. Huron took third with 164 points. The region contained three of the top four teams in the state: Pierre (No. 1), Huron (No. 2) and Aberdeen Central (No. 3).
In the seven-team region, the top four places in each weight class qualified for state.
“We told them that if they kept working hard, that it would count at the end of the season,” said Aberdeen coach Rocky Burkett. “They started believing.”
The Golden Eagles had 10 wrestlers in the championship match.
“We knew it was going to be tough in this small of a tournament to beat Pierre. They have a tough lineup. We needed a little more help from some other teams. You never know what can happen at the state tournament,” Burkett said.
Aberdeen Central recorded several upset wins in the early rounds of the region tourney.
“In the semifinal round, Zach Melcher had a big win. Aaron Henley beat a kid he hasn’t beaten. Cole Carlson worked his butt off today. He beat two ranked kids and kept wrestling hard. Sam (Schaunaman) had a big match and beat a kid that he lost to last week. He dominated him. Everyone did good,” said Burkett.
The Golden Eagles crowned their first champion at 120 pounds. Trevor Hieb made quick work of the match against Trey Hohn of Mitchell. He recorded a takedown just 13 seconds into the match and turned it into a pin at 44 seconds.
His brother Griffin Hieb had to go the distance for a win over Caleb Stoltenburg of Pierre at 138 pounds. The match was scoreless after one period but Hieb built a 4-1 lead in the second period on a pair of takedowns. He added two escapes and a takedown in the third period for an 8-4 win.
Mitchell Johnson controlled his title match at 145 pounds. He led 4-1 after one period over Matt Larson of Mitchell. That lead ballooned to 8-1 after the second period as Johnson used a reversal and a two-point near fall to score. He added an escape, a takedown and a two-point near fall in the third period for a 13-3 major decision.
Johnson beat the Mitchell wrestler by one point in their only meeting of the season.
“I got my offense going. That’s where I’ve been struggling all year. If I get it going, I do better,” said Johnson. “Our team really pulled it out and got some big upsets. We really came around and turned it around good at the end of the year.”
The 182-pound championship match brought the home crowd to its feet in the final period.
Aberdeen’s Cole Carlson, who defeated the fourth-ranked wrestler Tyler Kleinsasser of Huron 12-9 in a semifinal, trailed early in his title match against Kyle Sarringar of Pierre, ranked third at 182 pounds. Carlson, who was rated sixth, fell behind 8-2 after one period. Sarringar scored on a takedown and two sets of three-point near falls. Carlson still trailed 10-6 at the end of the second period before exploding for five points in the final minutes.
Carlson started the third period in the down position and escaped, and then added a takedown at the 1-1/2-minute mark. Sarringar escaped to lead 11-9. With 15 seconds left, Carlson had a takedown for an 11-all tie. Carlson scored first in overtime with a takedown and won 13-11 OT.
Carlson and Sarringar wrestled once this season and Carlson was pinned in the first period.
“ I kept on working on the things I’ve been doing. I just kept moving during the match,” said Carlson. “In the third period, I looked at the scoreboard and saw it was a close match so I kept going. The crowd kind of kept me going.”
The wrestling room at Central will still be plenty full on Monday as the squad prepares for state.
“This week’s goal was we didn’t really care where we ended up (team points),” said Burkett. “We wanted to get as many wrestlers as high a finish as we could and set ourselves up good for the state tournament. It would be nice to win this, but we want to be in position to make a run next week in Watertown.”