March 4, 2015 at 12:54 p.m.

Connell caps career with third place finish at state

Connell caps career with third place finish at state
Connell caps career with third place finish at state

At last weekend’s state high school wrestling tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Wildcat senior Dylan Connell came within seconds of getting a chance to wrestle for the AA state championship at 132 pounds.  But the referee awarded a controversial stalling point with 18 seconds left in Connell’s semifinal match against junior Jackson Sweeney of Watertown-Mayer/Mayer Lutheran to tie their match at 3-3, and Sweeney went on to win 6-3 in overtime.  Connell ended up finishing third, making this the third year in a row he has placed at the state tournament.  Connell becomes just the second Wildcat wrestler to place more than twice at the state tournament, trailing only Dan Dellwo, who placed four times in the mid-1990s. 

Sophomore Teddy Pierce (120) and junior Kyle Schoenecker (160) also wrestled at this year’s state tourney, but neither one placed.

Connell faced senior Patrick Kennedy of Kasson-Mantorville in his opening match.  Early in the first period, Connell grabbed Kennedy’s left leg, stood him up, pushed his head down and completed the takedown for a 2-0 lead at 35 seconds.  In the second period, Connell was awarded a point for a violation by Kennedy midway through the period and led 3-0 after two.  Kennedy started on the bottom in the third period and escaped at 4:32. 

Kennedy was awarded another point when Connell was penalized for a head scissors, cutting Connell’s lead to 3-2.  With 6 seconds left, Kennedy got Connell into a compromising position and nearly took him down.  But Connell kept his arm around Kennedy’s right leg until the match ended, staving off the takedown and escaping with a 3-2 win.

In the quarterfinals, Connell went up against junior Trent Milless of Zimmerman.  Connell had a takedown just 12 seconds into the first period.  He had an escape, a takedown and a three point near fall in the second period to build his lead to 8-0 and finished a dominant performance with an 11-3 major decision.

Against Sweeney in the semifinals, Connell was the aggressor in the first period.  He took down Sweeney at 1:06 for a 2-0 lead.  Connell started on the bottom in the second period.  At 2:52 the referee awarded Sweeney a penalty point to cut Connell’s lead to 2-1.  Connell worked an escape with 12 seconds left in the period and led 3-1 after two periods.  Sweeney started on the bottom in the third period and escaped at 4:18.  Connell received a warning for stalling at 5:00.  And with 18 seconds left, urged on by screaming Watertown fans, the referee awarded Sweeney a point for stalling by Connell, tying the match at 3-3.  Neither wrestler scored in the first overtime.  Connell started down in the second overtime and did not manage to escape.  Sweeney started down in the third overtime and scored a reversal at 7:39 to go up 5-3.  Inexplicably, Connell was penalized another stalling point with a few seconds left and Sweeney had a 6-3 win.

Wildcat head coach Shawn Frederixon did not agree with the referee’s opinion that Connell had stalled in the third period.  Frederixon said “Our guy had his back to the center and wasn’t avoiding wrestling.  That’s one of those where you just don’t understand the referee’s thought process.  It’s like the referee made up his mind ahead of time he was going to call it and he did.  The other kid didn’t score a single shot that was worthwhile.  At the end of the third period Dylan had a good shot and he had three or four in overtime.  The other kid didn’t do anything but block him.”

In his first wrestleback match, Connell went up against junior Jack Bourgeois of Monticello.  They were tied 3-3 late in the third period when Connell scored a reversal to go up 5-3 and went on to win the match.  In the final match of Connell’s high school career, he faced junior Ryan Epps of Cannon Falls for third place.  Connell scored a late takedown and beat Epps 5-4 to claim third place, his highest finish at the state tournament.  “Dylan did all the work to get the lead,” said Frederixon “and the other kid realized it and finally started to wrestle.  Dylan turned it on and scored another takedown.  In this one, the referee just let them wrestle.  It was frustrating for Dylan.  I am proud he responded the way he did. He could easily have lost his final two matches, but instead found a way to beat the number two and number four guys in the state.  He definitely belongs at the top with all of them.”

In his second appearance at the state tournament, Pierce dominated his opening round opponent, sophomore Jefferson Paladines of Columbia Heights.  He built an 8-2 lead with two takedowns in each of the first two periods.  In the third period, Pierce started on the bottom, scored a reversal at 4:06 and pinned Paladines with a cradle move at 4:25.  In the quarterfinals, against sophomore Garrett Aldrich of Albert Lea, Pierce was taken down just 23 seconds into the match.  He escaped a few seconds later and trailed 2-1 at the end of the first period.  Pierce started on the bottom in the second period.  He escaped early, but was taken down again right away and now trailed 4-2.  He was pinned at 2:51, knocking him out of the championship bracket and into the wrestlebacks.

Pierce faced junior Aaron Hingst of Simley in the first round of wrestlebacks and dominated the match, winning 10-2.  But Pierce lost to sophomore Ben Nelson of Perham 4-2 in the next match, knocking him out of trophy contention.  Frederixon said “Teddy won two matches.  In the match he ended up losing, the one that knocked him out of the championship bracket, he was the aggressor trying for the takedown to get ahead.  Teddy initiated everything.  They didn’t call other kid for stalling and we weren’t asking for it.  We were just asking for the referees to be consistent.  Teddy had a good tourney.  He’s disappointed he didn’t place, but that’s just going to drive him for next year.”

Junior Kyle Schoenecker (160) made his fifth straight appearance at the state tournament, squaring off against senior Basil Muhammed of Columbia Heights.  Muhammed took down Schoenecker at 45 seconds and was awarded a three point near fall at 1:09.  

Muhammed let Schoenecker escape a few seconds later and led 5-1 after one period.  Muhammed slowed things down after that, managing a takedown in the second period and a reversal in the third period for a 9-1 win over Schoenecker.  

“Kyle got put on his back right away,” said Frederixon.  “He was down by four at the end of the first period.  The other kid was smart.  He got defensive and didn’t let Kyle set anything up.  He threw off Kyle’s game plan.”  

Since Muhammed lost his next match, Schoenecker did not get a chance to participate in the wrestlebacks.

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