Three Scott West wrestlers closed out the 2020 wrestling season for the Panthers at the Minnesota State Tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul this past weekend.
The Panther contingent was led by senior Jace Demmers as the returning State place winner entered the tournament as the #1 seed at 160 lbs. with a 37-2 record.
After breezing through the first two rounds and advancing to the State semifinals with a 10-0 win over Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton’s Carter Schmidt and a second period pin over Milaca’s Ian Hanson, Demmers faced Fairmont-Martin County West wrestler Miles Fitzgerald in a Rumble on the Red Championship rematch that the Scott West wrestler had won 4-3 in Fargo in late December.
Although Demmers secured the opening takedown to take a 2-0 lead and possibly should have been awarded a set of back points, Fitzgerald came back with a reversal and a locked hands point to take a 3-2 first period lead. The Red Bull wrestler chose the down position to start the second period and in the ensuing flurry of action that led to a scramble position where Fitzgerald somehow found a way to lock up the Panther wrestler and take him to his back in what appeared to be like a cradle-spladle that resulted in a rather bizarre pin fall call to end the match by mat official Spencer Beech.
“I am not sure what the mat official was looking at, but Jace was far from being pinned in that position,” Scott West Wrestling Coach Darren Ripley said. “Yes, he would have been trailing in points on the scoreboard but there was still a lot of match to be wrestled, and we have all seen Jace make a comeback or two during his time as a Scott West wrestler.”
After bouncing back from the semifinal pin fall call loss to Fitzgerald, the Scott West wrestler advanced to the third place match with a hard fought 2-1 win over Foley’s Connor Thorsten as he scored a third period reversal to get the win. However, that third place match did not start well for Demmers as he was taken to his back by Totino-Grace’s Adam Sylvester, Minnesota Christmas Tournament Champion, for a five point move and trailed 7-1 after the first period. It was 11-6 in favor of Sylvester at the end of the second period and the Demmers rally continued in the third period as he scored a takedown on the tiring Totino-Grace wrestler, and after releasing the Eagle to his feet one more time, Demmers powered through him with a fireman’s carry that put Sylvester to his back, where the Panther wrestler held him for nearly the rest of the match and a 13-12 win. The win gave Demmers his second straight 3rd place State finish as he ended his senior season with a 41-3 record.
“It was a great way for Jace to end his outstanding career as a Scott West Panther,” suggested Coach Ripley. “The comeback win exemplified the type of wrestler that Jace is as he is always willing to scrap it out until the end and it also offers up a prime example on why mat officials need to be sure on their pin fall calls because there are six minutes of wrestling to be done and a lot of things can happen - like comebacks!”
A lot of things can still happen for Scott West sophomore lightweight Zach Tracy as the Panther wrestler came into his first Minnesota State Tournament as the #2 seed with a 34-7 record at 106 lbs.
After advancing to the State quarterfinal round with a quick first period pin over Mound Westonka’s Jack Nelson, Tracy found himself in a hard fought scrap with Pine Island’s Luke Williams. Although Williams scored the first period opening takedown to take a 2-0 lead, Tracy used a first and second period escape to go along with a third period ride out to take the match into overtime tied at 2-2. With neither wrestler able to score any points during the first three overtime periods, Williams was able to win the match as he clung to the Scott West wrestler late during the thirty second ride out and fourth overtime period.
“It was a frustrating match loss to watch as Zach was not real sharp and/or aggressive on his feet and gave up the opening takedown when he let the Pine Island wrestler get the angle corner on his finish,” commented Coach Ripley. “It also appeared that he had a couple of opportunities to score from bottom during the overtimes but was just unable to separate and get his escape point.”
The overtime loss to Williams moved Tracy to the State consolation bracket where the young Scott West wrestler responded with four straight wins that included a 5-0 third place Panther Payback rematch win over Pine Island’s Williams.
The first of those four Tracy consolation bracket wins was an 8-0 major decision over Dassel-Cokato-Litchfield’s Andrew Joedeman. On Saturday morning, Tracy secured his State place winning status as he used three takedowns in each of the three periods to dominate Thief River Falls wrestler Kale Geiser 7-0 to advance to the consolation semifinals.
“As we like to say from time to time, a loss does not have to define you but how you respond to it does,” suggested Coach Ripley. “It was good to see Zach make such a definitive response after a tough loss.”
The Tracy definitive response continued during the consolation semifinals as the Panther wrestler used a second period takedown and some good hard riding to score a third straight 4-0 shutout win over Big Lake’s Nolan Reiter, which advanced Tracy to the third place match and the rematch with Williams from Pine Island.
After a scoreless first period, Tracy took control of the match with a second period escape and go-behind takedown that gave him a 3-0 lead as he went on to close out his season with a fourth straight shutout and a 5-0 State 3rd place Panther Payback win.
The four consolation bracket wins by a combined 24-0 score gave Tracy his first State 3rd place finish and allowed the Panther wrestler to finish his sophomore season with a 39-8 record.
“Zach really used some solid fundamental wrestling on his way back to third place as he did not allow a point in four matches,” cited Coach Ripley.
There were a lot of points scored in Luke Fogarty’s two matches at the Minnesota State Tournament as the 24-10 and unseeded junior dropped a pair of matches against a couple of State place winners.
Fogarty’s first loss at 145 lbs. was a 17-6 setback to Thief River Fall’s Jake Davis in the opening round as Davis went on to place sixth in the bracket. Things did not get any easier in the consolation wrestleback round for the Panther wrestler as he drew Princeton’s Zach Wells, who worked his way to an 18-3 technical all win as the Princeton wrestler was on his way to a third place finish. The two State Tournament losses ended Fograty’s season as a first time State Qualifier with a 24-12 record.
“Luke had a really good season of wrestling and did a great job qualifying for the State Tournament in a very deep bracket,” reported Coach Ripley. “It should give him something to build off for this summer as he gets ready for his senior season next year.”
Three Decades of Wrestling
Scott West has now completed thirty years of wrestling and although this year’s number of just three State Qualifiers was the lowest number since 1993 when the Panthers also had three non-placing State Qualifiers with Pat McNamara at 112, John Weldon at 130 and Lonnie Pauly at 152, the co-op program has built up some impressive numbers over its three decades of wrestling.
Minnesota Wrestling Historian Glenn Heinecke has the Scott West Team Panther overall dual meet record at 588 wins against 108 losses and 2 ties, which is good enough for an .845 winning percentage. That overall team dual meet winning percentage has helped allow Scott West win 18 Section Team Championships where the Panthers have advanced to the Minnesota State Team Tournament and been the State Team Runner-ups four times in 2005, 2011, 2012 and 2014, while placing 3rd six times. On the Minnesota State Individual spectrum, Scott West has now accumulated big numbers as well, with the Panthers having advanced 171 State Qualifiers with 98 State Place winners including 20 State Champions.
The numbers don’t end just at the State level because Scott West has had 22 All-American performances at the collegiate level from its high school standouts, and that number could increase in the upcoming weeks as former Panther standouts David Flynn at Augsburg and Ben Kelvington at Augustana have qualified for their NCAA Division 3 and 2 National Tournaments, respectively. Also, Andrew Fogarty at North Dakota State will be looking to qualify for the NCAA Division 1 National Tournament at the upcoming Big 12 Tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma.