Junior Ayden Friese and Senior Bryce Schmidt both qualified for the State Tournament this past weekend at Minnewaska High School in the 5A Individual Section Tournament. Friese is making his second trip to the state tournament in the last three years after qualifying two years ago at 106 pounds. Last year was a disappointing one which ultimately ended in Friese not placing at sections. This was a let down for Friese, who had already experienced the state tournament the year prior and was expected to qualify again. He used this disappointment as motivation for this year’s section tournament as he was determined to make it back to the Xcel Energy Center.

Friese came in on the day seeded 2nd in arguably the toughest weight in the section tournament where the 10th ranked wrestler in the state at 145 pounds was the number 5 seeded wrestler in the section. Friese breezed through his first match with a decisive 11-4 decision over BBE's Taiton Linder. Friese's second match pitted him against section rival Aaron Zosel from Benson. The two had met earlier in the year with Friese winning a 7-2 decision over the previous state tournament entry.

This time the match would be much tighter and would go down to the final seconds with Friese pulling out the hard fought victory with a 2-1 decision. In the finals Friese fell to number 1 seeded wrestler, KMS's Caleb Collins 7-1. Friese was never quite able to get going his offense going against senior Collins, who controlled the match This meant Friese would have a true second match against a familiar opponent in the form of Paynesville's Daltin Christensen, meaning that - win and qualify for the state tournament, lose and go home. The section has 10 teams and only takes the top 2 placers at each weight Friese had defeated Christensen earlier in the year handily, but momentum plays a funny role in wrestling.

Christensen started out strong taking Friese down 2 times and going into the 3rd period Christensen held a 4-2 lead. Friese would decide to let Christensen go from the bottom making it 5-2 for Christensen. Friese needed something big and he got it when Christensen tried a big move, but Friese countered it and threw Christensen to his back scoring 5 big points to put him up 7-5 with just seconds left in the match. With the crowd going wild, Friese let Christensen go and was able to hold off Christensen's attacks to earn the exciting 7-6 victory and a trip to St. Paul next weekend.

Coach Tongen reported, “Ayden really wrestled well this weekend. He beat some quality opponents and showed a lot of grit coming from behind in his true second match. A lot of wrestlers would have phoned it in being down by 3 that late, but Ayden didn't. He kept attacking and pushing the pace which eventually caused his opponent to make a mistake and allowed him to capitalize on it. It takes a lot of mental toughness to be able to come back after a tough loss and beat a quality opponent like Ayden did tonight.

Most wrestlers who lose in the finals and have to wrestle a true second match lose again, because they are physically and emotionally drained from their finals match. Ayden earned the opportunity to wrestle this weekend, nothing was given to him and I am proud of him for that." Friese will be joined at the state tournament by fellow Quad County wrestler Bryce Schmidt, who took 2nd at 220 pounds.. Schmidt’s story is nothing short of amazing. He had never stepped foot on a wrestling mat until last year.

Now he will be wrestling at the highest level a high school wrestler in Minnesota can when he steps on the mat inside of the Xcel Energy Center Friday morning. Schmidt ended last season with a record of 16 wins and 21 loses and did not place at the section tournament. This year Schmidt hit another level, entering the section tournament as the #2 seed with a record of 32 wins and 6 loses. Schmidt has been on a tear this year dominating and forcing most of his opponents into a devastating cradle which often ends with the referee mercifully slapping the mat and raising Schmidt's arm in victory.

It would be no different this weekend, Schmidt started the tournament the way he had so often with a quick fall of Minnewaska's John Helander inside of 1 minute. The semi finals matched Schmidt with Long Prairie Grey Eagle/Browerville's Hans Holmquist. Schmidt came out smart and controlled the match on the feet by landing multiple takedowns and would eventually win a close, but decisive, 7-5 decision.

In the finals Schmidt would be facing his nemesis, Grant Ludwig of Paynesville Area. The two had met earlier in the year with Schmidt losing by fall late in a match he was winning. This time, Ludwig would control the match and earn a convincing 4-0 victory over Schmidt. Schmidt qualified for the state tournament when Holmquist took 3rd place, because Schmidt had defeated Holmquist earlier in the day, so there was no true second match required.

Coach Tongen reported, "Bryce's story is almost unbelievable. I have never heard of a two year wrestler qualifying for the state tournament before. Becoming a good wrestler is something that takes years of hard work and training to do, but Bryce did it in just two short years. The only bad thing I can say about Bryce is that he didn't start earlier, I think he could have been a state champion for sure if he had been out a few more years. I think was set him apart other than his athletic ability and work ethic is the fact of how coachable he is and how he soaks up anything the coaches tell him. He is a good kid and we will miss him next year."

Section 5A Individual Section Tournament Results

106 6th Place – Jayce Hernandez of Quad County

Easton McCrory (Minnewaska Area) 27-17, 8th. over Jayce Hernandez (Quad County) 11-13, Fr. (Dec 4-0)

113 5th Place – Luke Kluver of Quad County

Luke Kluver (Quad County) 23-18, Fr. over Thomas Eustice (Ortonville) 19-24, Fr. (Dec 3-1)

132 4th Place – Sam Ohliger of Quad County

Nye Becker (LPGE-Browerville Wolves) 26-22, So. over Sam Ohliger (Quad County) 13-28, So. (Fall 4:33)

145 2nd Place – Ayden Friese of Quad County

Caleb Collins (Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg) 36-4, Sr. over Ayden Friese (Quad County) 30-11, Jr. (Dec 7-1)

2nd Place Wrestleback Ayden Friese (Quad County) 30-11, Jr. over Daltin Christinsen (Paynesville Area) 25-15, So. (Dec 7-6)

152 4th Place – Jack Howard of Quad County

Weston Roberg (Paynesville Area) 27-11, So. over Jack Howard (Quad County) 23-17, So. (Fall 1:59)

220 2nd Place – Bryce Schmidt of Quad County

Grant Ludwig (Paynesville Area) 33-6, Sr. over Bryce Schmidt (Quad County) 34-7, Sr. (Dec 4-0) 2nd Place Wrestleback Bryce Schmidt (Quad County) 34-7, Sr. over Hans Holmquist (LPGE-Browerville Wolves) 28-14, Fr. (RULE)