Park wrestling: Linssen going to statePark sophomore 195-pound wrestler Cody Linssen qualified for the 2011-12 state tournament, finishing second in the Section 3AAA championships, held Friday and Saturday, Feb. 24 and 25, at Eastview High School.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, South Washington County Bulletin
Last year, Park was unable to send a single wrestler to the state meet for the first time in quite a while.
This year, Cody Linssen made sure that wouldn’t happen again.
The sophomore 195-pound wrestler qualified for the 2011-12 state tournament, finishing second in the Section 3AAA championships, held Friday and Saturday, Feb. 24 and 25, at Eastview High School.
Linssen, who is ranked 10th in Class AAA in his weight class, improved to 32-3 on the season at the section tournament.
“Cody came through for us and had a really nice tournament with three pins,” Park head coach Jim LaBrosse said. “He had a really good match in the final. It’s good to get him through. That was a big step, especially as a 10th grader. We were hoping to send a few others through, too, but it’s a tough tournament.”
Linssen’s only loss at sections came to Apple Valley sophomore Paul Cheney in the section final, with a narrow 9-7 defeat. Cheney is ranked fifth in the state. The loss meant Linssen would need to wrestle for a “true second” against Henry Sibley’s Jake Ihrke for a trip to state. Linssen made quick work of the fellow sophomore in the pivotal match, pinning him in 48 seconds.
On the season, Linssen’s only losses came to Cheney, who is ranked fifth, Roseville junior Trae Story, who is ranked fourth and Lakeville South junior Tom Peterson, who is ranked No. 1.
“Cody has had just a great, great season,” LaBrosse said. “The sky is the limit for him.”
This past offseason, the Minnesota State High School League realigned its section placements for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years, which brought forth a major change for the Park wrestling team as perennial power Hastings was moved out of Section 3AAA and into Section 1AAA.
With the top two teams and the top two individual wrestlers in each weight class qualifying for the state tournament, Park still must contend with the state’s top wrestling program, Apple Valley – the six-time defending Class AAA state champion – in section competition. However, without Hastings in Section 3AAA, too, it’s believed Park has a better chance to send individuals to state or to go as a team.
The past two years Apple Valley and Hastings have been the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked teams in the state. Last year the two schools combined to send a total of 22 wrestlers to state out of the 28 possible berths in Section 3AAA. Apple Valley sent 13 individuals to the state tournament and Hastings sent nine to state.
This year No. 1-ranked Apple Valley ruled the roost in Section 3AAA once again, sending 13 wrestlers to the state meet. Rosemount, which Park defeated earlier this season, sent the second most individual wrestlers with five.
“It’s a tough tournament,” LaBrosse said. “With Apple Valley, you’re seeing one of the elite programs in the country. With Hastings gone, it does open some doors. This was something to build on. The kids are excited with how well they did this year and are excited about the future.”
In all, Park had 11 place-winners at the Section 3AAA championships and finished in fourth place.
Seniors Nate Baumann and Tyler Liljedahl came closest to reaching the state tournament, but fell just short, taking third place. Baumann, who was ranked 10th in Class AAA at 182 pounds entering sections, earned third place in his weight class. Liljedahl took third place at 220 pounds. Baumann lost his crucial semifinal match to Henry Sibley’s Uthman Rabi and finished the year 31-10. Liljedahl lost a semifinal match to John Dahl of Burnsville, but worked his way through wrestle-backs and had a chance to go to state with a true-second match, but fell to Apple Valley’s Trom Peterson. Liljedahl finished the year 18-12.
“It’s nice to see our seniors finish strong,” LaBrosse said. “It would have been great to see them make the state tournament, but I think they’re happy with their performance.”
In addition: Eighth grader Collin LaBrosse took fourth place at 106 pounds, freshman Daniel Duval earned fifth place at 126 pounds, senior David Ayers earned sixth place at 132 pounds, sophomore David Giadyu finished in sixth place at 138 pounds, senior Kenny Gerhardt earned fifth place at 145 pounds, freshman Cory Flaata placed fourth at 152 pounds, senior D’Monte Farley earned fourth place at 160 pounds and senior Scott Johnston took sixth place at 170 pounds.
Collin LaBrosse finished the year 26-8, Gerhardt was 28-14, Flaata was 24-10, Giadyu was 24-11, Farley was 21-18, Ayers was 20-17 and Johnson was 21-19.
“We’re happy with those seniors that wrestled really well,” LaBrosse said. “Nate took third place and finished with over 30 wins, so I’m really proud of him. Scott Johnston, Kenny, David Ayers, D’Monte and Tyler Liljedahl all wrestled really well. They had good tournaments. I was happy to see those seniors go out on a positive note and with those younger guys like Cody, Collin, David and Cory our future is pretty bright.”
Park also had eight wrestlers earn all-section academic awards, which is earned by placing at the section meet and having a high grade-point-average. Farley, Ayers, Gerhardt, Johnson, Linssen, LaBrosse and Flaata each earned all-section academic honors.
LaBrosse said the leadership from this year’s seniors was “the best we’ve had in many, many years.”
“I think they set the tone for practice time, conditioning and how to handle themselves,” LaBrosse said. “It was just great to have leaders like that. I think that will go a long way in the future. I’m really happy about that.”
Linssen will represent Park at this year’s state tournament, held March 1 through 3, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The individual portion of the tournament begins Friday at 9 a.m. with Class AAA. It’s expected Linssen will wrestle at roughly 10 a.m. His opponent in the first round will be Sartell-Saint Stephen junior Brady Goebel, who is 33-4 on the year and ranked eighth in Class AAA.
The last wrestler to reach the state meet for Park was 2010 graduate Jared Flaata, who qualified for state twice, placing fifth at 171 pounds and earning All-State honors – which are reserved for the top six finishers in each weight class. In its 52-year history, the Park wrestling program has had 16 all-state wrestlers, five state champions and two state-entrant teams. Park’s last state champion was Steve Duval in 1986 at 155 pounds. Jim Riesselman (138 pounds) and Jim Hintz (175 pounds) were Park’s first state champions in 1964. Other state champions were Tom Riesselman, in 1966 (138 pounds) and Perry Fink in 1985 (138 pounds). As a team, Park went to the state meet twice, in 1984 and 1985 under former head coach Bill Hickman. In 1984, Park had its most-ever individual state entrants in single year with six.
“All we can do now is hope Cody can get through and earn an all-state honor,” LaBrosse said. “We believe he can do it.”