by Jared Hines
Contributing Sports Writer
Rogers wrestler Zac Aanerud had to wait longer than usual for his first match during the Jan. 27 Mississippi 8 conference tournament at Big Lake High School.
Aanerud has wrestled well all year, winning 17 of his 21 matches heading into the conference tournament. He earned a first-round bye as the No. 1 seed, so while his teammates wrestled, Aanerud walked around the gym, staying loose while cheering on his Royal teammates.
Rogers wrestlers struggled on the mat in the opening round, with many wrestlers dropping into the consolation side of their respected brackets. Even after losing an opening round match at conference, wrestlers still have a chance at being named all-conference with a third-place finish. First, second, and third place finishers are named all-conference, while fourth, fifth, and sixth are named all-conference honorable mentions. Aanerud was one of four Royals wrestlers to be in the semi-final round, with all four of them earning a first-round bye. Aanerud credits the coaching staff for the success he and some of the other wrestlers have had so far this season.
“After each match and in practice the coaches will help us walk through moves, especially if someone is having an issue with a move or position,” Aanerud said. “Coach Donnay and the rest of the coaching staff are always walking around encouraging us to go as hard as we can and helping us with any issue we have in and out of the room.”
Aanerud’s first match was finally next, a tough dual against 21-10 junior Justin Zahner from Princeton. Aanerud took Zahner down just :23 seconds into the match, pinning him with 13 seconds left in the first period. On the mat, next to Aanerud’s match, St. Michael-Albertville senior Max Jensen was defeating Bryce Murphy from Big Lake 7-0. Jensen and Aanerud would meet in the finals in the 195-pound weight class.
The only other wrestler to make it to the final round for Rogers was Bret Wilson, who came into the tournament with a 20-3 record on the season. Wilson was also awarded a bye in the first round before his semifinal match with Zach Bonte of St. Francis. Wilson pinned the freshman in the second period, advancing to a final round match against Zach Dehmer of St. Michael Albertville. Dehmer was awarded a one-point escape in the third period, defeating Wilson 1-0 in the championship and handing the Rogers junior just his fourth loss of the season. Dehmer is 19-9 on the season. The two will likely see each other again later this season in the section 5AAA tournament.
In the other match between Royals wrestler Aanerud and Knights wrestler Jensen, Aanerud led 4-2 after two periods, awarded for two reversals in the period while Jensen was also awarded one. Jensen started the third period strong, riding his way to an 8-6 victory over Aanerud to take first place in the 195-pound weight class. Aanerud was happy that he was awarded all-conference, but knows he and the rest of the Royals have lots of work to do.
“Everyone is going to need to be up in the practice room everyday pushing each other to be the best that they can be and never giving up,” Aanerud said. “We need to have a positive mental attitude every time we step on the mat.”
The Royals next opportunity to redeem themselves on the mat is Feb. 2 in a dual against Princeton. The team also travels to Robbinsdale Armstrong two days later for an invitational to close out the week.