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'Pack wrestling team can't get over the hump, falls to No. 19 Forest Lake

Park junior Mike Knutson earned a pin at 215 pounds to cut Forest Lake's lead to 30-27 with one match remaining in the two teams' dual meet last week. However, the 19th-ranked Rangers escaped with a nine-point win over the Wolfpack.

In what was dubbed as its best effort of the season thus far, the Park wrestling team came up a little short of a win over the second best team in the Suburban East Conference -- No. 19-ranked Forest Lake.

On Forest Lake's "Main Event" and senior night, Park took the Rangers to the wire, but were defeated 36-27 in a match that could have went either way.

"We just came up a little short again," Park head coach Jim LaBrosse said. "We almost upset them and it would have been a huge upset. We wrestled really, really well. That's the best we've wrestled all year."

In the match, Park juniors Alex Ringhnad and Mike Knutson registered back-to-back pins at 189 pounds and 215 pounds, respectively, to put Park within three points with one match remaining.

Because of Ringhand and Knutson's wins, Park (1-5 in the SEC) was down 30-27 going into the final match, however, the team was without its starting heavyweight wrestler -- Kevin Pattain -- who had a head injury.

Pattain's replacement, junior Brian Frank wrestled well according to LaBrosse, but was pinned near the end of the third period and the Rangers (6-0 in the SEC) escaped with the win.

"We were right in it to the end," LaBrosse said. "The matches we lost were close and the kids kept things together. Forest Lake is a very good team. It's disappointing losing, but we can take some things from it."

Other wins for Park came from Colin McCarty with a 9-3 win at 119 pounds, junior Jeremy Simmons with a pin at 125 pounds, Ben Gallogly with a 4-2 win at 140 pounds and senior Sam Swanson, 5-3, at 160 pounds.

Park forfeited its match against defending state champion Ben Morgan at 130 pounds, but fared well against the other Rangers state tournament-caliber wrestlers.

At 152 pounds Deron Giadyu lost 2-1 on a third-period technical violation to Forest Lake senior Charlie Janssen, who is ranked fourth in Class 3A at 145 pounds. At 135 pounds, Park senior Nick Arrigoni took on Forest Lake's Kevin Nelson, who is ranked No. 5 in 3AA at 130 pounds, and was edged out 9-4. At 171 pounds Park junior Jared Flaata took on No. 9 ranked Caleb Corrow, but lost 8-2.

Over the weekend Park took 10th out of 16 teams scoring 109 points at the South St. Paul Invitational, but was without Pattain again, and also freshmen Ryan Lund and Kenny Gerhardt -- who were taking part in the ninth-grade team's section tournament. South St. Paul won the tourney with 149 points.

At South St. Paul, Flaata and Giadyu were the lone Wolfpack wrestlers to reach the finals, but both lost tight matches. Flaata lost 8-6 to Vinny Branchaud and Giadyu was defeated 8-7 although he took his opponent, Jesse Munos, down three times.

Other top-three finishes were turned in by Simmons at 125 and Gallagoly at 140 pounds.

"We were a little disappointed in our team and some of our individual performances," LaBrosse said. "But, we need to be all together to be competitive or else it just doesn't click."

In the JV competition at South St. Paul, five Park wrestlers finished in first place. The Wolfpack's Cam Rhode finished on top of the 130-pound weight class, Alex Hansen won at 135 pounds, Peterson Pierre won at 145 pounds, Frank won at heavyweight and Mike Lehman won at 215 pounds. Each wrestler went 3-0 on the day.

Next up for Park is Mounds View on Thursday in the team's final home dual meet of the regular season. The Mustangs are ranked 20th in Class 3A.

"We've had so many close losses to good teams," LaBrosse said. "It would just be good for everybody to come back and do well."

Four freshmen reach state tourney

At the ninth-grade Section 7AAA meet four Park wrestlers qualified for the state tournament -- which is the most in coach LaBrosse's five years at the helm Park. The Wolfpack's Jordan Reeves, Tony Gagliardi, Nate Baumann and Jonathan Balagot each finished in first place at the section match to earn a trip to the state tourney, which will be held on Saturday, Feb. 7 at Champlin Park High School.

"That's good for the future," LaBrosse said. "They need that experience. We'll see what those kids can do."