On Saturday, Feb. 22, the Mille Lacs Raiders wrestling team traveled to Rush City High to complete in the Section 7A Individual tournament with the top two place-winners in each weight advancing to the state tournament. The Raiders sent eleven men to complete in the tourney and six place winners on the day, highlighted by Bradley Bernu’s second-place finish, which earned him a silver medal and a spot in next week-ends State WrestlingTournament at Excel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Wrestling at 152 pounds, Bernu was the third-seeded wrestler at this weight. He began his quest for a state appearance with a decisive second-period pin over his Aitkin opponent. He followed that up with a hard-fought 6-2 victory over second-seeded Beau Burk from Ogilvie. This put Bernu in the finals against the top-seeded man from Black Duck. Bernu got behind early but fought his way back. With 35 seconds remaining, Bernu was down by three points before performing a nifty grandby roll worth two reversal points and found himself just one second away from grabbing two near-fall points before time ran out. And the senior from Isle lost a nail-biter, 7-6.
The trip to state was not yet secure for Bernu, who was forced to wrestle a true-second match. In a match against Jake Clancher of Crosby, Bernu proved to be the better of the two, and after a grueling five-minute match, Burnu had eared a 20-4 technical fall and punched his ticket to the state tournament.
The Raiders had three wrestlers place third in the section tourney, including: Daniel Miller, Ethan Benson and Eric Thompson. Thompson, injured all season, wrestled well and started the day with pins in his first two matches, which placed him in the finals against the third-seed opponent from Crosby. Thompson lost that tough match, setting him up for one last chance to advance to state, but he came a bit short. He still turned in an impressive year with a 17-3 overall record.
Benson had himself an impressive tourney, coming out strong with a pin in his first match before falling in the semis to Tate Lange or Holdingford. In the consolation bracket, Benson worked his way back into contention with a second-period pin followed by a first-period pin, but the man from Holdingford, whom he had lost to earlier, could not keep his string going which knocked Benson out of a try for second. Benson finished the season with a record of 36-6.
The surprise of the tourney for Mille Lacs came from Miller. Daniel, wrestling at 145, started the day with a quick pin just 48 seconds his first bout. Miller had the misfortune of drawing the number two ranked wrestler in the state for his second match and lost by a tech-foul.
But Daniel’s day was not over. He followed with two quick wins to hold on to third place to set up a true-second place match against a returning state entrant from Holdingford. Miller gave his Holdingford opponent a real test before bowing out, 4-0. Miller finished the season with 24 wins.
The Raiders had two other place winners: Josh Golombowski and Cam Wilkes, who each won three matches to finish fifth.