ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Lumberjacks send two wrestlers to state competition

CLOQUET--To win his Section 7AA individual wrestling semifinal match against Chisago Lakes Area's Aaron Sistrunk last Friday in Virginia, Cloquet's Conner Denman went to the lower-left ankle for a decisive takedown.

1551998+wrestling Borchardt, Denman 2C B1.jpg.jpg
Esko junior Mitchell Borchardt (left) and Cloquet sophomore Conner Denman will participate in this weekend's Minnesota Class AA state wrestling meet at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. For Borchardt, at 138 pounds, and Denman, at 145, it is both their first time at State. The pair are the first state qualifiers since 2009 for the Cloquet-Esko program. Tyler Korby /news@pinejournal.com

CLOQUET-To win his Section 7AA individual wrestling semifinal match against Chisago Lakes Area’s Aaron Sistrunk last Friday in Virginia, Cloquet’s Conner Denman went to the lower-left ankle for a decisive takedown.

But it was the Lumberjack sophomore’s right arm that was raised in victory, and afterward that was his favorite move of the night.

It was then Denman knew he had advanced to this weekend’s Class AA state wrestling meet at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul for the first time in his career, just like Esko junior and good friend Mitchell Borchardt. The two veteran wrestlers are the first to get to State for the Cloquet-Esko program in six seasons.

The 5-foot-9, 145-pound Denman, who eventually lost in the section final, won by decision over Sistrunk when he darted for his opponent’s ankle - his favorite attack - in the last 10 seconds. When we won, he could only smile in shock afterward, while hugging his father, and coach, Al, tightly.

“I tried going to bed early, but just knowing I got a State trip, I couldn’t fall asleep,” said Denman about Saturday night. “My heart was pumping all night. It was a happy feeling.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Runner-up Borchardt earned the same joyful feeling when he too, won a three-period decision over Princeton’s Timothy Bialka in the 138-pound semifinal. Like Denman, Borchardt won his dual in the waning seconds, but used a reverse-roll technique to also advance to his inaugural state meet. His father, Dale, an assistant coach, was also on site.

“I was in shock for a long time afterward,” Borchardt said. “It was a great feeling. It was like ‘I finally made it.’”

For a cooperative program created in 2004 that began varsity in 2006, wrestling is still in the infant stages for the Lumberjacks, which have now sent five wrestlers to the sport’s pinnacle venue. Jordan Land was the last in 2009, while in 2008 he also advanced, along with his older brother, Mike, and Simon Thill - both of whom are now assistants.

The coolest thing about the two newest state qualifiers is their similarities. They are daily wrestling partners. Tuesday at practice, they warmed-up with a common “takedown” routine.

“It gets kind of monotonous,” Borchardt cracked. “We know exactly what each other is going to do, all of the time.”

“To have a practice partner is really big,” Dale added.

In terms of size, Denman is just an inch taller and a tad heavier. He is 31-8 this season and Borchardt sits 31-9.

Those could only better this weekend, on the bright stage.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Every kid in their sport wants to go to the show,” Al Denman said. “They all want to feel the anxiety on that floor.”

“I’ve been looking forward to that tunnel,” added Conner.

Related Topics: WRESTLING
What To Read Next
Peterson’s unassisted goal lifts Springfield to the NAHL home win.
Thoreson’s third-period goal is the difference as Posch is tough in net for Minnesota.
Kevin Marx Noren's third-period goal decided it.
A replay review confirmed the puck entered the net with :00.3 seconds remaining.