REGION 2B WRESTLING: TRIPLE PLAY
Marion/Freeman didn’t get the bonus of a longshot state qualifier in Salem on Saturday, but the three favorites to punch their ticket to this week’s State Wrestling Tournament in Sioux Falls got the job done.
Marion senior Daniel Cremer and Freeman Public juniors Ethan Ortman and Clayton Smith all finished in the top four to collectively advance to the season’s biggest tournament for the second year in a row. For Cremer, this will be his fourth appearance at state.
“Overall, it was pretty much what I expected,” head coach Chris Sayler said of the Region 2B Tournament hosted by McCook Central on Feb. 22, where Cremer finished second and Ortman and Smith were both third. “For the most part we wrestled well; we were just outmatched in some of those other matches.”
Cremer had no trouble in his first match, controlling his bout with Parker’s Jack Even before pinning the freshman midway through the third period. Cremer then slipped past Howard sophomore John Callies 8-6 in the semifinal round to set up the anticipated showdown with Canton junior Jaden Dominisse for the 152 lb. title. Dominisse, who brought a 40-4 record into the postseason, pinned Cremer in the second period.
For Ortman and Smith, the path to state took a few more turns.
Both won their opening match of the day to advance to the semifinal round — Ortman over Viborg-Hurley’s Grant Berens and Smith over McCook Central/Montrose’s Isaak Pulse; both wins came by quick pins.
But the Freeman juniors were each denied a chance to wrestle for the title in the next round; Ortman lost in a major decision against eventual 145 lb. champion Seth Peterson of Canton while Smith lost an overtime heartbreaker against Viborg-Hurley’s Ethan Engen.
For Smith, it looked like he would be wrestling for the 220 lb. championship after going up 5-0 on his tough senior opponent and nearly pinning him in that semifinal match. But Engen clawed back and drew within striking distance at 6-4 with the third period clock winding down, and then tied it on a takedown in the closing seconds.
Smith lost 6-8 in overtime.
But, faced with a key match where a win would be an automatic state qualifier and a loss would put them in a must-win battle for fifth and a chance at a wild card, not only did Ortman and Smith respond with wins, they went on to claim victory in the third/fourth-place match. Ortman won on a 6-3 decision and Smith with a pin at 1:30.
Marion/Freeman was also represented by Keaton Preheim at 106, Finley McConniel at 113, Weston Freier at 132, Tim Epp at 138, Chris Kessler at 160 and Dawson Ulmer at 170.
While not everybody bagged a win, a few tasted victory.
“It was nice to get a couple of those other kids some wins to finish out the year,” Sayler said. “For Dawson (Ulmer), that was his last tournament and it was good to get him a win. Weston got a win and Kessler ended up placing fifth, which gave him an opportunity to be a wild card alternate. He missed out on the seeding for that, but at least he gave himself a shot.”
The coach said again how competitive Region 2B is and how the love for wrestling runs deep through its teams and their fans.
“Between Region 2 and Region 3, those are about the biggest region tournaments you’re going to have (in terms of spectators),” Sayler said. “Even though we only have 10 teams — some of the others have 15, 16 teams — we probably get more fans. We’ve got a good following for wrestling down in this part of the state. Just the atmosphere and the number of people who come to our region is special.”
Freeman Public, which hosted the region tournament in both 2014 and 2019, will play host again in 2021, when a good group of wrestlers led by Ortman and Smith will return for another go-around. That includes Zac Sayler and Brandon Ahalt, both starters who missed this season because of hand injuries.
“It’s just a matter of stepping up now; we’re going to be looking to some other guys to be the leaders,” the coach said of his returning wrestlers. “We need guys to start moving into that role, and a lot of these kids have the capability to do it.”