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Lumberjacks send three wrestlers to state tournament

The Cloquet wrestling program is starting to come of age. In just their second season of varsity competition, the Jacks qualified three wrestlers for the state tournament last week. Mike Land, who finished sixth in the state last season, will be ...

The Cloquet wrestling program is starting to come of age. In just their second season of varsity competition, the Jacks qualified three wrestlers for the state tournament last week. Mike Land, who finished sixth in the state last season, will be joined this year in state action by his brother, Jordan Land, and Simon Thill.

"Having three wrestlers take first place in a section tournament is not common for wrestling programs, let alone in only their second year," said Cloquet coach Al Denman. "I think the performance of our young men speaks well of our potential as a top-level program in the not too distant future."

Mike Land qualified by dominating the field in the section meet at 140 pounds.

Land won 10-3 over an opponent from Mora in the first round and then pinned his next opponent in just 1:22. Land then met up with Kyle Wilson of Deer River who had pinned Land on Feb. 1 at the Walker Tournament.

"The Walker Tournament was Mike's first competition in five weeks after breaking his hand," explained Denman. "Mike was also sick in the Walker Tournament."

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On Saturday, however, Land dominated Wilson by outscoring him 16-6 while nearly pinning Wilson twice in the match.

"Mike's hard work maintaining his conditioning, strength and technique while injured has paid off and maybe even has been somewhat of a benefit by giving him time to rest," Denman remarked. "Mike didn't have to deal with the rigors of training, weight management and competition in the middle of the season and it may play well for him in the state tournament as he will be fresher than his competition."

Jordan Land marched through the competition in the 103-pound class, but had to face his rival Mitch Jobe of Grand Rapids in the finals.

"Their match wasn't settled until the completion of the third overtime period," commented Denman. "A six-minute wrestling match is physically and mentally brutal enough, but to add two minutes with no rest is beyond understanding to the non-wrestling community. Jordan demonstrated a tremendous level of heart and determination to take the championship."

Simon Thill is known as an aggressive 145-pound wrestler and his performance on Saturday was nothing short of dominating. Thill opened with pins over both of his first-round opponents and then dominated his opponent from Milaca 10-0 before finally pinning his opponent from North Branch in just 3:13 in the final round.

"Simon's performance was inspiring and he is an extraordinary athlete, but he has had some periodic struggles throughout the year," suggested Denman. "Simon put everything in place just at the right time for sections. This victory at sections and going to state is a result of a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication."

As to the rest of the Lumberjacks? Most of the wrestlers were able to win at least one match in the sectional tournament, but according to Denman that does not indicate that they are not competitive or will be in the future.

"We have to keep in mind that even though we have three section champions going to state we are still a developing program with relatively young [athletes] and our inexperienced wrestlers [are] going against physically more mature athletes," stated Denman. "The majority of our squad is 10th grade to eighth grade and what we will see in years to come is these athletes developing into dominating wrestlers because of the age and experience they are gathering now."

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