Pierz Pioneers wrestling coach Mark Jensen shouldn't think twice the next time he has a family commitment.
With his team wrestling in the finals of the Section 6, Class 1A individual tournament Saturday at Belgrade, Jensen had to leave to watch one of his daughters perform in the state dance team tournament in St. Paul.
While Jensen was away, nine Pioneers won section championships, another was runner-up. All 10 qualified for the state tournament, which opens Thursday and runs through Saturday, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
"The kids really did a good job stepping up to the plate," Jensen said. "To wrestle that well in the section is really phenomenal. Hopefully, the train will keep on rolling and we carry it into the state tournament.
"It's always a double-edge sword down there. Wrestling in the team and individual (tournaments) can be a meat grinder. Individually, I think we're in pretty good shape and will be up for the challenge."
Area state wrestling qualifiers
103 -- Hank Virnig (Pierz) 38-2 vs. Andrew Lockrem (Frazee) 21-13
112 -- Kyle Bednar (Pierz) 38-1 vs. Micah Olson (Trinity/River Ridge) 28-10
119 -- Sam Moenkedick (BHV) 23-19 vs. Adam Schlee, (Grand Meadow/LeRoy-Ostrander) 30-1
125 -- Jon Andres (Pierz) 34-6 vs. Kenny Sandt (United South Central) 29-5
130 -- Joe Hyatt (Pierz) 9-1 vs. Cody Hawkins (Wabasha-Kellogg) 30-10
135 -- Jared Oyster (BHV) 39-1 vs. Darrek Ulmen (Madelia-Truman) 29-12
Warren Gall (Pierz) 31-6 vs. Ben Arvidson (Parkers Prairie) 29-7
140 -- Craig Luberts, (Pierz) 39-1 vs. Aaron Rouser (Atwater-Cosmos/Grove City) 27-10
152 -- Kyle Girtz (Pierz) 32-5 vs. Jarret Hall (Badger-Greenbush/Middle River) 25-3
Tyler Fuller (BHV) 31-8 vs. Matt Kerzman (Paynesville) 36-5
160 -- Nathan Britz (Pierz) 24-11 vs. Phillip Hawkins (Nicollet) 20-13
171 -- Jesse Zajac (Pierz) 14-2 vs. Travis Schacherer (Dawson-Boyd) 20-7
Aaron Moenkedick (BHV) 26-16 vs. Kevin Verhelst (Canby) 26-9
189 -- Bud Willis (BHV) 24-13 vs. Jesse Schroepfer (Wabasso) 25-10
215 -- Matt Mrnak (Pierz) 27-7 vs. Brandon Gosse (Wabasha-Kellogg) 29-12
275 -- Josh Denny (BHV) 22-15 vs. Wes Werner (Norwood-Young America) 26-3
125 -- Brian Wood (C-I) 33-2 vs. Michal Barrie (Adrian) 34-7
135 -- Cory Swenson (PL/PR-B) 35-2 vs. David Carruth (Lac qui Parle Valley) 25-7
145 -- Johnathon Arness (Aitkin) 20-15 vs. Scott Schlangen (Albany) 23-1
160 --Matt Hayes (WDC) 20-7 vs. Kaleb Young (Blackduck/Cass Lake-Bena) 43-7
189 -- Dustin Uselman (WDC) 33-4 vs. John Grygelko (St. Michael-Albertville) 37-5
215 -- Matt Gastecki (WDC) 26-12 vs. Brent Eidenschink (Detroit Lakes) 37-2
275 -- Tim Richards (WDC) 31-7 vs. Josh Winselman (Adrian) 31-11
A week earlier, Pierz qualified for its third straight state team tournament, its fifth overall. At 10:15 a.m. Thursday, the top-ranked Pioneers (29-2) wrestle No. 5 Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial/Mankato Loyola in the quarterfinals.
In its last two trips to state, Pierz has wrestled the eventual champion in the quarterfinals, BOLD in 2003 and Medford in 2002.
In 1996, the Pioneers lost to eventual champion Wheaton-Herman/Norcross in the quarterfinals.
"Why would it be any different for us?" Jensen said. "We've been there four years and have never won a first-round match. Three of the four times we drew the eventual state champion. Our luck of the draw hasn't been real good, although it's a little different this year."
The difference this year is that Pierz is the state's top-ranked 1A team, which it has never been before.
"Ratings to me don't mean an awful lot," Jensen said. "It just puts a target on you."
Senior Craig Luberts is one of the targeted Pioneers. The two-time defending state champion (39-1) was champion at 135 pounds as a sophomore and at 140 last year.
"Craig has always risen to the occasion," Jensen said. "That's just the kind of kid he his.
"It doesn't get any easier for him. If he wins his first-round match he will probably face last year's state champion (Andy Quittschreiber) from Frazee in his second match. The road is never easy down there, but he has always done well and has accepted the challenge."
Of the 23 Brainerd area qualifiers in classes 2A and 1A, five have lost either once or twice.
In 1A, Pierz's Kyle Bednar (112) is 38-1, teammate Joe Hyatt (130) is 9-1 and Jared Oyster of Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale (135) is 39-1.
In 2A, Brian Wood of Crosby-Ironton (125) is 33-2 and Cory Swenson (135) of Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus is 35-2.
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