Wrestling: Thunder’s Stepan is state runner-up

Zimmerman's Zach Stepan faced off against South St. Paul's Joey Munos in the 125-pound title match. Munos won by pin in the third period. (Photo by Tom Yelle)

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

Zimmerman wrestler Zach Stepan got pinned on Saturday night, the first time that’s happened in two years, but called it “the most fun match I’ve ever had.”

That’s because he was wrestling in the state finals. Stepan had won three times at 125 pounds in Class AA at the Xcel Energy Center to earn a slot in the Main Event against Joey Munos, an unbeaten junior from St. Paul Central.

“He had a great tournament … He’s feeling pretty good about it,” said Thunder coach Ponch Hartman after the tournament at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

The Thunder senior had an early 3-0 lead on a first-period takedown and a second-period escape, but wound up pinned in the third period by Munos, who led 7-4 before getting the stick in 5:28.

“He was really strong, and he must ¬†be pretty good if he hasn’t lost all year,” said Stepan. “When I was ahead, I couldn’t believe it, I was so pumped up.”

Munos started to show why he’s 41-0. He tripped Stepan and put him on his back for a near fall, with Stepan fighting off the pin but falling behind 5-3. In the third period, Munos got a reversal and led 7-4. Stepan had to gamble in the final minute and Munos countered his move to press him to the mat again, this time successfully.

Zach Stepan tries for a takedown against Joey Munos. (Photo by Greg Hunt)

 

“I’m not used to being on my back,” said Stepan, who spent only a couple seconds on his back all year, in the section finals. He said his last time pinned must have been his sophomore year and he couldn’t remember it.

Stepan  beat Milaca/Faith Christian sophomore Noah Gahm 5-0 in the semifijnals earlier Saturday on two takedowns and an escape. He had beaten the same kid in overtime at state last year.

 

In his third state trip and first time placing, Stepan finished 3-1 at state and 39-2 for the season, and ended his career with 132 wins.

“It feels great,” said Stepan about being runner-up.

 

His rooting gallery included his parents (he’s an only child), teammates and other ZHS friends, and “family from all over the state.”

Stepan plans to wrestle in college. His intent right now is to walk on at the U of M and try out for the Gophers. But he’ll be listening to any other offers, he said.

Weston Schwartz, Zimmerman senior 145-pounder, lost to Byron’s Dallen Rud 12-1 in wrestlebacks on Saturday and finished 0-2 at state. Freshman Hunter Smith at 119 and sophomore Mitch Robinson at 189 each lost in the first round and were done.

 

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