Hayden VanderVoort stood up from the mat and ran into his corner, delivering a hand-stinger of a low-five, before shaking the hands of the coaches from St. Francis. He celebrated with his coaches, including a big hug, afterward. Exiting the floor, in the underbelly of the Xcel Energy Center, the Hutchinson/Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart senior wrestler was riding on adrenaline.
After being so close to reaching the championship match in 2022, VanderVoort, who finished with 44 wins this season, 86 victories over the last two seasons, had accomplished a goal.
Sure, a championship title was the ultimate goal, but in a bracket with one of the best 195-pounders in the country in Joey Nowak of New Prague, advancing to the finals felt like a championship.
“That has always been my dream. To go there and wrestle in a state championship and see how it goes,” VanderVoort said. “To do it as a senior, it comes down to this, so I’m just so happy I was able to get to the championship.”
VanderVoort was 14 seconds away from qualifying from the state championship match at 195 pounds in 2022, a late takedown spoiling the moment. This time around, he took care of business in a big way.
A second-period takedown against third-ranked Bo Flagstad of St. Francis led to a fall at 3:19 in the semifinals.
“It was huge. I felt good when I heard the slap of the mat (for the pin),” said VanderVoort, who eclipsed 150 career wins on the weekend.
Asked how he could beat Nowak in the championship, VanderVoort shrugged his shoulders, and said, “that’s a good question.” While Nowak dominated from the opening whistle, a quick 5-0 lead, eventually pinning VanderVoort in the third period, wrestling on championship night was a moment he so wanted.
VanderVoort, who suffered three losses all season, two to Nowak and another to a ranked heavyweight, dominated the pace in his opening two matches. He allowed just one takedown up until the finals, scoring wins over fifth-ranked Leighton Robb of St. Peter 8-3 and No. 10-ranked Lano Oduwaiye of Simley 10-2. Robb came all the way through the consolation side of the bracket for third place.
Third place for Schwanz
Tied at three after six minutes, Logan Schwanz dug deep, scoring the sudden-death victory in overtime, 5-3, with a takedown over fourth-ranked Isaiah Nelson of New London-Spicer. His second victory over Nelson in as many weeks.
It was the fourth time the two wrestlers had seen each other this season, all down the stretch. Nelson won the first two bouts, Schwanz won the next two, scoring a Section 3AA title and a spot in the semifinals at state.
Asked what the difference was?
“My coach and I have a game plan with that guy. (Nelson) does the same things each time, so it was sticking to the secret recipe we came up with to beat him,” Schwanz said. “When you beat someone over and over, you can see the frustration come through. They’re sick of seeing you across from them.”
Schwanz continued to stay hungry throughout his sophomore year state tournament, competing hard against top-ranked and 2022 state champion Michael Olson of Albert Lea in the semifinals, a 4-2 loss. The fifth-ranked Hutchinson wrestler scored a third-period fall over No. 6 Jake Kos of Simley in the consolation semifinals before adding a pin at 1:34 of the first period against Totino-Grace’s Jackson Refsnider to finish in third place at 113 pounds.
Schwanz, who opened the tournament with a 4-0 decision over Noah Schaefer of Zumbrota-Mazeppa, was fourth at 106 pounds as a freshman in 2022.
“This year, I feel like I had more drive, I’m hungrier. I just want it more,” Schwanz said.
Making some more history
Eighth-grader Gabbi VonBerge became the first girl wrestler in Hutchinson history to qualify for the state tournament. She continued to make history in the second year of the Minnesota State Girls Wrestling Tournament.
VonBerge scored a pair of falls, finishing with a 2-1 record in her state debut, earning the consolation championship at 107 pounds.
When a female student manager wanted to join the Hutchinson/BLHS team this season, VonBerge followed suit, and she is sure glad she did now. After placing second to state champion Charli Raymond of Simley at sections, VonBerge looked poised throughout the tournament.
“She was really strong,” said VonBerge of her opening match against second-ranked Olivia Sackor, the eventual state runner-up.
Sackor on four occasions scored back points, but VonBerge fought hard, never giving up. “She was tough. I was getting pretty tired, but I never gave up,” VonBerge said.
Her goal for the rest of the tournament? “Try not to lose.” And she didn’t.
Her fight showed all day as she scored a pin in the consolation semifinals, coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win over No. 7-ranked Isabelle Townley of Owatonna.
VonBerge completed the tournament with a first-period fall, with three seconds left on the clock, against Bemidji’s Makaya Gotchie. She hopes her experience will inspire other girls to join the team next season.
“It was pretty cool, really exciting,” VonBerge said of wrestling at the state tournament.
- In total, Hutchinson/BLHS had seven wrestlers at state, including senior Treyton Card, who despite a leg injury, was able to score a win in the state tournament. Card, the youngest son of head coach Todd Card, notched win No. 25 on the season, a 2-1 decision over St. Paul Harding’s Allen Lainfiesta.
The eighth-ranked Tiger wrestler fell 16-4 to third-place finisher and second-ranked Nolan Reiter of Big Lake and 9-2 to Milaca-Faith Christian’s Jack Schoenborn. Card concluded his career with 117 victories, eight more than his older brother, Tate.
- Sophomore Luke Hoag also went 1-2 in the tournament for Hutchinson/BLHS, scoring a 7-2 win over Cade Okeson of Detroit Lakes in the 152-pound wrestlebacks. Hoag lost to No. 1-ranked and eventual champion Colton Bornholdt of New Prague in the opening round. His tournament ended in a 13-9 bout to Ethan Duncombe of Becker.
Hoag concluded his sophomore season with a 42-9 record.
- Sophomore Max Martin did not receive a wrestleback, dropping his only match of the tournament at 120 pounds, a 6-1 decision to Mora’s Mason Nelson.
- Sophomore Raydon Bipes went 0-2 in his state debut at 126 pounds for the Tigers. A 32-match winner this season, Bipes lost to runner-up Kaden Nicolas of Becker 8-2 in the opening round, and 5-2 to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton’s Jacob Leupke.