ST. PAUL — Dillon Kifer’s road to a medal wasn’t easy.
That made it all that much more rewarding for the Little Falls senior, who finished his career with a fifth-place finish in Saturday’s Class 3A state individual tournament at Xcel Energy Center.
After opening with a loss to top-ranked Dayton Racer of Apple Valley, the Little Falls senior eliminated sixth-ranked Jake Hanson of Rochester Mayo and Chanhassen’s Brenden Olevson, who was ranked 10th at 132 pounds.
A loss to third-ranked Weston Droegemueller of Wayzata placed Kifer in the fifth-place match, where the seventh-ranked Flyer dispatched fifth-ranked Adam Hammer of Osseo 10-8.
“So he lost in the section final to the eventual state champion,” said Flyers head coach Mike Hendrickson. “He lost in the opening round to the top ranked guy, who wound up second, and his third loss in a week in a half was to the fourth place and third-ranked guy. He lost to the top three ranked guys in the state. His draw wasn’t the best, but he got a nice win at the end.
“It was a real emotional victory. Here was a guy who was a varsity regular for six years. He is the school’s all-time winningest wrestler with almost 200 career wins. It all came to an and it was a real emotional time for him once that match was over.”
Kifer finished his senior season with a 40-5 record.
Kifer’s teammate Frank Wilczek, who was injured and carted off the mat in the championship quarterfinals, checked out fine. He did have to forfeit his next match to finish his senior season at 37-5.
“We were concerned for him, but we were really concerned how he was going to take having to end his career like that,” Hendrickson said. “He took it well. We’re glad he was OK.”
Brainerd’s Levi Rubin lost to the second, third and fifth place wrestlers on his way to finishing sixth.
In that fifth-place match, Rubin lost a 4-0 decision to Tommy Longendyke of White Bear Lake. The match before that, he lost a 6-0 decision to Apple Valley’s Ben Sullivan, who went on to finish third.
“I think anytime you go down to state and come back with a medal you’ve done some good things,” said Brainerd co-head coach Mike Boran. “In the state tournament, every round you advance you are getting better competition and he ended with two really good, tough matches.”
Rubin began his Saturday with a 9-3 decision of LaQuan Wallace of Champlin Park.
“He wrestled a really smart match,” Boran said. “He got that first take down, and the one area that Levi has really improved this year is riding people. He was able to ride the guy out a litle bit and take some steam out of him. He then wrestled tough the rest of the way.”
The Warriors’ junior finished the year 29-11.
Class 3A results
132: Wrestlebacks: Dakota Trom (Apple Valley) pinned Dan Babineau (Brainerd) 2:38; Eric Bauer (Hastings) pinned Connor Scherping (Little Falls) 4:13
138: Wrestlebacks: Dillon Kifer (Little Falls) dec. Brenden Olevson (Chanhassen) 4-2; Weston Droegemueller (Wayzata) pinned Kifer 1:49; Fifth-place match dec. Adam Hammer (Osseo) 10-8
170: Wrestlebacks: Levi Rubin (Brainerd) dec. LaQuan Wallace (Champlin Park) 9-3; Ben Sullivan (Apple Valley) dec. Rubin 6-0; Ffith-place match: Tommy Longendyke (White Bear Lake) dec. Rubin 4-0
182: Uthman Rabiu (Henry Sibley) dec. Jace Engelmann 4-1