Badgers crown first ever State Champ
In a fascinating end to a memorable career, Redwood-River Valley senior Sam Baier captured the program’s first ever state individual wrestling title Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
The Springfield native - who will be attending Augustana University in the fall on a baseball scholarship - went 4-0 over the weekend to claim the Class AA 160 pound title.
Entering the tournament, it appeared the field at 160 would most likely be wrestling for second place, as Kasson-Mantorville junior standout Brady Berge entered the meet as the number one seed having won 146 consecutive matches.
Berge - a three-time state champion already - hadn’t allowed a single offensive point this season and had allowed just a single takedown in two years.
In his semifinal match against Redwood Falls native and Luverne wrestler Solomon Nielsen, he was leading 7-1 when he suffered a broken fibula and was forced to default.
Suddenly the door was wide open for Baier (42-3) to take advantage of the unfortunate injury and claim the Badgers first ever state title.
He opened the tournament against Simley’s Elliot Kirchert and would gut out a 3-2 decision to move into the quarterfinals.
There, he would face sixth-seeded Parker Hale of Grand Meadow (GMLOKS) and would win 6-4 to reach the semifinals (Hale would go on to finish third).
“Hale was a dangerous wrestler who was very aggressive and liked to throw,” Coach Matt Tiffany said, “Sam did a great job of slowing the match down and stopping any of his throw attempts.”
In the semis, Baier would gain some measure of revenge as he would pin second-seeded Connor Hoff of Litchfield in the second period.
Earlier this season Hoff had beaten Baier 3-2.
“Sam really had a great plan going into that match and executed to perfection,” Tiffany said, “As soon as he went up 4-1, Hoff opened up and that allowed Sam to put him on his back and get the pin.”
It was at this point, Baier realized he would be facing fellow Section 3AA foe Nielsen (41-4) in the finals instead of Berge.
Baier defeated Nielsen 3-2 in the Section championship match and also had won 7-6 during the regular season.
“We knew he had a great opportunity but beating a solid wrestler three times in one season is not an easy task,” Tiffany said.
Baier would open the first period with a takedown to go up 2-0 and would lead 2-1 after the first two minutes.
In the second period, Baier chose down and would earn an escape and another takedown to go up 5-1 after two periods.
In the third, Nielsen would get an escape but Baier would hold him off the rest of the match to win 5-2.
“I think the most impressive thing about Sam was his ability to perform at his best when it meant the most,” Tiffany said.
He finishes his career with 154 wins.
Teammate Brady Goblirsch (35-6) also capped off a strong career by going 2-2 at 170 pounds.
He opened with a first period fall over Jake Ubert of Fertile-Beltrami but would lose 10-1 to top-seed Jared Florell of Totino-Grace in the quarterfinals and also suffered a knee injury.
He gutted it out, and in the wrestlebacks defeated Tyler Tober of Mora 2-0 but would then drop a tough 3-1 decision to Andy Bigelow of Kasson-Mantorville that would’ve put him in the medal round.
“I was extremely impressed by his mental toughness and ability to refocus after getting injured,” Tiffany said, “He did everything he could and left it all out on the mat and that’s all we can ask for.”
Wabasso/RRC had three wrestlers participate in the individual tourney.
Cody Coulter (39-5) went 2-2 at Heavyweight but would not place, Jared Welch (35-8) went 1-2 at 220 and Jared Schroepfer (19-9) was 0-1 at 138.