Eddie Simes knew time was running out. He needed to make a move or it might be made on him.
And that’s no way to get back to the state wrestling tournament.
So, with less than 10 seconds remaining in the 152-pound finals, Simes shot in, adjusted to a counter-move by Austin Moscho of Rocori and pulled in a takedown that lifted him to a 4-2 win Saturday at Mound-Westonka High School.
“I feel pretty good,” Simes said of earning another trip to the State Class AA Wrestling meet, which will take place Thursday through Saturday at St. Michael-Albertville High School. “It’s nice to get back there.”
Simes, 32-4, qualified for his third consecutive individual state meet on a good day for the Dassel-Cokato/Litchfield team, which already qualified for the state team tournament last week.
DC/L had seven wrestlers qualify for the state meet Saturday, including four Section 5AA-6AA champions. Joining Eddie Simes in the individual competition will be Victor Franco (113 pounds), Jerry Simes (138) and Jude Link (160), who all won titles. In addition, Tate Link (170), Beau Nelson (195) and Hayden Hoernemann earned second place in their weight classes.
This year’s postseason has been a bit different, and will continue to be, due to COVID-19. In an effort to control crowd sizes for section and state competitions, the Minnesota State High School League combined sections for both team and individual “super section” events. That meant Dassel-Cokato/Litchfield wrestlers competed in section qualifying rounds March 17 to earn the right to advance to the super section event, combining the best wrestlers from Section 5AA and 6AA to determine two wrestlers who would advance to state.
Dassel-Cokato/Litchfield advanced wrestlers in 12 of 14 weight classes to Saturday’s competition, with four of them just missing advancing to state. Alex Joedeman fell 5-2 in a true-second match at 120 pounds. Gabe Nelson (126) and Will O’Brien (182) also fell in true-second matches.
“I’m grateful for what we do have, because the alternative is nothing,” DC/L co-coach Dan Buker said heading into Saturday’s individual competition. “At the same time, you’d like to have these guys experience a trip down to the Xcel Energy Center. You take the good with the bad and make the most of your memories here. We focus on the positive side.”
For Eddie Simes part of that positive side was finding a way past Rocori’s Moscho in the 152-pound finals. The two met three days prior, in the Section prelims, where Simes beat Moscho 4-1 to earn a top seed in Saturday’s bracket. So Simes wasn’t surprised to see Moscho again in the finals.
And with the match tied 2-2 deep into the third period, Simes wanted to be the aggressor.
“I’m looking to score before he does and pull the trigger before he does, because I don’t want to have to regret getting taken down because he pulled the trigger before me,” he said. “My go-to is a single leg, but there I shot in and he defended it, but I got up super quick and got to a cradle and locked in to get the two-point takedown.”
Simes has lost in the first round in both his previous state meet appearances, but he has set a much higher goal for himself this season.
“I’m looking to place top two,” he said Saturday.
- DC/L junior Jude Link earned his 150th career win Saturday, beating Orono’s Noah Arneson in the finals at 160 pounds to reach the milestone. The victory pushed Link’s record this season to 35-0. He made quick work of Saturday’s bracket, posting a pin in 2:18 in his opening match and earned technical falls in the next two.
- Jerry Simes, a senior, improved to 27-8 with a trio of dominating wins at 138 pounds, culminating with a 13-9 win over Rocco Visci of Big Lake in the finals. Visci, also a senior, reached the finals with a pair of pins and a 17-2 record. Though he lost to Simes, Visci reached the state meet by winning a true-second match.
- Sophomore Victor Franco won the 113-pound title with three consecutive victories, which lifted his season record to 25-8. He recorded a first-round pin in just 30 seconds, then earned a 13-2 major decision before posting a 5-0 win over Cash Sixberry of Big Lake in the final. Franco improved to 26-8 on the season.