by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Elk River wrestlers A.J. Hannan and Garrett Caldon each qualified for the state tournament Saturday, extending their school’s streak to 41 straight years of having a presence at state.
Hannan, a senior at 182 pounds, and Caldon, a junior at 113 pounds, were each runners-up in the Section 7AAA tournament at Coon Rapids which includes three of the top five ranked teams in the state.
“We were a little nervous about whether we’d get anybody in this year,” said coach Paul Nelson. “These kids came through … they were each seeded second and wrestled to their seed.”
Hannan, who missed most his junior season and a month of his senior season with separate thumb injuries, but returned with a vengeance in early January, will take a 22-4 record and 18 pins into state. He pinned his first two opponents Saturday to reach the finals, then got pinned by Coon Rapids’ No. 5 ranked Tyler Berdahl.
“A.J. is a good athlete, a strong kid, and has a real good frame,” said Nelson. “Imagine what he could have done the last two years without the injuries. But he was really motivated to make state.”
Hannan said Saturday night he “set a goal my freshman year to make state, and I was able to follow through with it.” but the two mishaps cost him much productive time. He had torn ligaments in his right thumb as a junior and a broken bone in the same appendage this year, both suffered in practices. He was 8-16 as a sophomore and 3-2 as a junior before getting hurt.
About all those pins: with his lanky 6-foot-2 frame, Hannan throws opponents pretty well. He estimates he gets half his pins on throws and the other half either with the banana-split or guillotine holds.
Caldon (23-7) advanced with a pin and decision, and was leading Anoka’s No. 8 ranked Calvin Germinaro 4-0 in the finals before he got thrown to his back and lost 6-4. He had to wrestle a true-second and won it 9-6 over Brady Kuntz of Cambridge-Isanti.
“Garrett is a very solid wrestler and he’s big and strong for 113,” said Nelson. “He has had a lot of years of experience. He’s got a real good double leg takedown.”
Caldon placed fifth last year when he had been ill the week of the sectionals.
Elk River has had state qualifiers, team, individual, or both, each year since 1974. Last year, Garrett’s brother Evan was the lone qualifier.
Elk junior Bobby Schmitz (29-12) had two pins, and got pinned twice, as he placed third at 220, losing a true-second match. Placing fifth were freshman Anthony Meiser (24-18) at 106, sophomore Ben Gibas (24-13) at 120, junior Cole Moening (20-18) at 126, freshman Sam Gibas (26-16) at 145, senior Ryan Osberg (23-17) at 160.
The ranked teams in Section 7AAA are No. 2 St. Michael-Albertville, No. 4 Cambridge-Isanti and No. 5 Anoka.
State individual competition for Class 3AAA will begin Friday at 1 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.