Jimmy Brown overcame a great deal of adversity to earn a spot amongst the best wrestlers in the state.
And the Cambridge-Isanti senior, who finished fifth at 152 pounds in Class 3A, gave much of the credit for his success to his Bluejacket teammates.
“My teammates were a very tight group – I really enjoyed my senior year team,” said Brown, who finished this year with a 33-9 record. “After I was injured, guys would tell me, ‘I can’t wait for you to come back,’ and that really got me motivated to get better.”
Brown, who was ranked among the top wrestlers in the state during the season, tore his meniscus during a Christmas tournament and needed surgery, which put a potential state berth in jeopardy.
“It’s supposed to be a six-week recovery, but I made it back in two to three weeks,” he said. “I was really focused when I was recovering; I got good lifts in and was improving even though I couldn’t be on the mat. I think my mentality changed, because I knew I needed to find a way to keep up with other wrestlers. Injuries can set you back, but there are ways you can stay with other wrestlers.”
Brown finished second at the Class 3A Section 7 tournament hosted by Cambridge-Isanti to earn his third straight trip to the state meet, which was held at the Xcel Energy Center Friday and Saturday, Feb. 28-29. He opened the state tournament with a 12-1 major decision over Gabe Schumacher of Minnetonka before losing his second match 5-2 to Landen Johnson of Owatonna, who finished second in the meet.
Brown bounced back to pin Sebastian Zamorano of Woodbury in 2:35 before knocking off Ty Gage of Eagan 5-0. He then lost a narrow 3-1 decision to Willie Bastyr of Lakeville South, who placed third.
“I don’t think my bracket was a cake walk – there were a lot of other good wrestlers in there,” Brown said. “I think I earned my place on the podium, and I was glad how I finished.”
C-I coach Neil Jennissen said he thought Brown wrestled well throughout the tournament.
“I thought he gave [Johnson] a good match,” Jennissen said of Brown. “I felt he really deserved to be in the top four.”
In his final match, Brown claimed a 6-1 victory over Darren Roth of Bemidji to earn fifth place. The key to that match was a sequence late in the first period when Brown scored a takedown, then added two back points just before the whistle.
“It’s my last high school match, so I just wanted to have fun,” Brown said. “But I wanted to win, too. I felt I had control of the match, especially with good wrist control. Late in the first period he tried to get me with a pass-by, but I got on top of him. Then I saw the mat-tapper come out [to signal the end of the period was near], and I had him in a ball-and-chain, so I went to one of my go-to moves and got the two back points.”
It marked Brown’s third consecutive appearance in the state meet and second time on the podium after he finished fifth at 152 in 2018.
“I think any time you can say you’re amongst the best wrestlers in the state, that’s a pretty big deal,” Jennissen said. “And he did it twice. We’re really proud of him.”
Four North Branch wrestlers and one from Rush City/Braham can say something similar: They, too, rank among the better wrestlers in the state after competing at the Xcel Center in the state tournament.
For the Vikings in the Class 2A meet, junior Josh Logan lost a 4-0 decision to Ryan Borris of Alexandria, then was knocked out of the tournament when Borris lost his next match.
Sophomore Brandt Bombard lost two tough matches at 138 pounds, suffering a 4-2 loss to Brody Ullyott of Detroit Lakes and a 3-2 setback to David Platt of Hibbing. Ullyott finished second at the meet, and Platt placed fifth.
Sophomore Ashton LaBelle won his first match at 145, claiming a 10-1 major decision over Michael Loger of Totino-Grace. LaBelle was pinned by Ryan Sokol of Simley – the state champ at this weight class – and then saw his tournament end with a 5-4 loss to Logan Thorsten of Foley, a match that was decided by a tiebreaker.
And senior Austin Sonnek lost his first match at 152 to Jude Link of Dassel-Cokato-Litchfield, who placed second in the state, before losing a decision to Seth Anderson of Mound-Westonka.
In the Class A meet, Rush City/Braham’s Daniel Mielke won his first match at 160 pounds, knocking off Tyler Shea of Dover-Eyota 8-4. Mielke lost his second match to Anthony Maher of BOLD, who finished second in the tournament, before bowing out with a 7-3 loss to Ethan Waage of Badger-Greenbush-Middle River.