The Rush City-Braham wrestling team completed its sweep of the Great River Conference, claiming the league’s tournament title in a meet Braham hosted on Friday, Feb. 7. The previous week saw the squad complete the dual-meet portion of the league schedule with an undefeated record.
The only blemish on the march to the title was that the league meet had some nervous moments late. Rush City-Braham did not clinch the crown until the final match of the tournament, edging Mille Lacs Raiders 207-202.
“We made it a little closer than it had to be,” Rush City-Braham co-coach Jake Shockman admitted. “We lost some key matchups in the final round that would have cemented that we were the best team. … But our big guys picked up at the end. And that made the end of the night great.”
Rush City-Braham had cruised into the finals, amassing what appeared to be an insurmountable lead in the team race and sending seven wrestlers into the championship matches.
“Don’t take anything away from our guys,” Shockman said. “The first round is tough, because there are a lot of byes, and that doesn’t give you any momentum going into the second round. But our guys fought through that. And in the second round, we won a lot of matches to stack up a lot of points going into the finals. If we had not wrestled that well going into the final round, the ending would have been a little different.”
The final round wasn’t pretty, though, as Rush City-Braham lost its first nine matches in a row, including four in the championship round – and two directly to its top challenger, the Mille Lacs Raiders.
Even the victory that snapped that run, by senior Daniel Mielke at 170, was anti-climactic because he won with an injury default.
“It was good to win, but we didn’t get any momentum from it,” Shockman said. “You shake hands after you win, but nobody gets revved up. If Daniel could have pinned his guy, everyone gets excited and that gets the ball rolling.”
Junior Masyn Londgren gave Rush City-Braham some much-needed momentum when he pinned Dalton Helmbrecht of Pine City/Hinckley-Finlayson at 1:15 to win the title at 195.
“Masyn really came through when we needed it,” Shockman said. “He has turned it on at the latter part of the season, and he capped it off with a conference championship. I couldn’t be prouder, because he’s one of the hardest workers in the room.”
Still, the tournament rested on the shoulders of sophomore Austin Sterling at 285. Sterling needed to get a win by a pin in his championship match against Joshua Golombowski of Mille Lacs Raiders.
“The other guy’s job was to play defense against Austin,” Shockman explained. “The idea was to not get pinned. He wrestled a smart match, but Austin had the aggression he needed to attack and wrestled well.”
It took some time, but Sterling eventually put Golombowski on his back and flattened him at 3:30 to clinch the title.
“I knew there was some pressure on me,” Sterling admitted. “Around mid-match I started worrying a little bit. … He was trying to limit my moves, but I just let the match play out. I had to stay aggressive. I tried to put the pressure on him, and that worked.”
The result was the first-ever conference crown in wrestling for Rush City and the first Braham wrestling title since 1999. And that strong finish wiped away all the nervous feelings, replacing them with a feeling of satisfaction.
“Any time you do something for the first time in 20 years, it’s a pretty big deal,” Sterling said.
Shockman agreed, adding, “To have the two trophies for the regular season and for the tournament – I couldn’t be happier.”