Unlike last season, Ethan Kern will head into the individual postseason with a loss.
As a sophomore, Kern entered the 112-pound Class 1A state individual tournament 40-0. He finished second to defending state champion Zach Sanders of Wabasha-Kellogg.
This year the Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale Raider fell during the regular season to Matt Benson of Chokio-Alberta/Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley at the Eagle Valley tournament Dec. 16. The first regular-season loss in two years stripped Kern of his No. 1 ranking.
The state-savvy junior overcame the loss and defeated Benson in a 6-1 overtime decision Jan. 2 at the Osakis triangular.
Ethan Kern is 18-1 this season
"The first time I wrestled him it was back and fourth and it was the first time he had beaten me in six years," said Kern. "He got ahead and then beat me.
"The second match I tried some new things and I took away a lot of his moves, I thought. We went into overtime and he almost got me on a takedown, but I turned him and he went to his back."
Kern finished his week 4-0. He pinned Cole Erie of Osakis in 30 seconds Jan. 2. He pinned Pelican Rapids' Justin Meyer in 3:36 on Jan. 4 and decisioned Wadena-Deer Creek's Shawn Beversluis Jan. 4.
Last week's four wins improved Kern to 18-1 this season and gives the four-year varsity wrestler a 125-11 career mark.
"We try to schedule tough opponents," said Verndale coach Steve Techam. "You need those types of matches so you know how to win a match in overtime and so you know that you're in good enough condition to win in overtime.
Position: 112 pounds
Key stat: Was 4-0 last week with an upset victory over a second-ranked wrestler
"Of course, Ethan is disappointed with the loss. He wanted to go undefeated into tournament time like last year, but sometimes a loss takes the pressure off and makes you work a little harder."
Techam said Kern is deadly on his feet and solid from the bottom position. That combination and Kern's competitiveness make him tough to handle.
"If you've seen him play football he really loves to hit people even though he's only 120 pounds," said Techam. "I think playing football really helps him and gives him that competitive edge. I really believe athletes that go out for three sports are better than those that just wrestle."
After finishing third as a freshman and second in last year's state tournament, Kern has his sights set on the top spot. He knows Benson, who is also in Section 7-1A, will be in his way.
"Hopefully, I can be a state champion and continue to do better each year," Kern said. "Last year I was hoping for top three and when I got past Luke Amsden of River Valley I figured I could get to the finals.
"I would like to see Benson at the state tournament, the two best in the same section. It will be a tough section match anyway. I would like to wrestle him for a fourth time."
Other notable performances
Basketball: Micah Eveland, Pine River-Backus, had 25 points against Aitkin.
Shane Finck, Verndale, had 35 points against Laporte and 10 points and 11 rebounds against Pillager.
Dusty Parker, Little Falls, scored 22 points against Willmar.
Joe Lennon, Pillager, had 24 points against Verndale.
Dustin Monson, Pierz, had 22 points and eight rebounds against Howard Lake-Waverly and 22 points against Foley.
Mark Eno, Aitkin, had 21 points, seven assists and four steals against Ogilvie.
Jordan Riewer, Staples-Motley, had 27 points and 11 rebounds against Pelican Rapids.
Jacob Jensen, Lake Region, had 27 points against Prior Lake.
Hockey: Jascha Pettit, Wadena-Deer Creek, had three goals and an assist against Mora and three goals against Fargo Shanley.
Jared Festler, Little Falls, had four goals and two assists against Litchfield.
Wrestling: Hank Virnig, Pierz, finished 3-0 with three pins at the Little Falls quadrangular.
Jason Brill, Randy Przybilla and Steve Strack, Little Falls, all finished 3-0 with two pins at the Little Falls quadrangular.
Brad Hofstrand, Wade Adams and Lane Srock, Crosby-Ironton, won individual titles at the Ogilvie tournament.
Taylor Bendson, Trent Carlson, Jordan Bendson and Kodeiy Lind, S-M, won individual championships at the Pine to Prairie tournament.
JEREMY MILLSOP can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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