The Bulldogs returned from the tournament with the fourth-place team trophy and three individual medalists: Kerzman, junior Jeremy Sogge (runner-up at 125), and senior Joe Hiltner (fourth at 140).
Kerzman ended his five-year career on the Bulldog varsity with a 17-4 major decision over Minneota's Todd Opdahl in the 130-pound final on Saturday afternoon. The victory gave him a 178-21 record for his career. He holds the team records for career wins and for career winning percentage (.894).
Kerzman's second title - he won last year at 125 - was the eighth state individual championship for the wrestling team. Kerzman became the first wrestler, and first Paynesville athlete, to win two individual titles in a sport. .He also tied team records by appearing in four state tournaments individually and placing three times. He placed fourth at 119 as a ninth grader and was an entrant as a sophomore.
Sogge could tie the mark of three state individual medals next year. He placed third as a sophomore and second this year. He cruised to the finals, pinning three opponents, but fell short in the final.
Hiltner had a tough draw and placed fourth, losing only to two state champions. He lost to Mitch Kuhlman of Medford, this year's champ in the quarterfinals, and to Dustin Speltz of Lewiston-Altura, a champion a year ago, in the third-place match.
As a team, the Bulldogs opened with a 49-14 romp over Sibley East, a state tournament rookie in the quarterfinals on Thursday, but fell short against top-rated Bertha-Hewitt/ Verndale in the semifinal on Friday. Another close match went against the Bulldogs on Saturday, as Frazee beat Paynesville 32-27 for third place, thanks to a controversial decision by the referees.
The wrestling team was welcomed home on Sunday by 100 people at a hour-long celebration at the high school.
Learning to wrestle on his feet
When he started on the varsity as an eighth grader, Kerzman struggled with takedowns, preferring to wrestle on the mat. But a year ago, he concentrated on improving his skills on his feet and his newfound prowess paid off at the state tournament.
It paid off again Saturday, as Kerzman (40-1) won his second state title, leading the contingent of Bulldog tri-captains, who all earned state medals. Junior Jeremy Sogge was second at 125, and senior Joe Hiltner was fourth at 140.
On his way to Class A title at 130, Kerzman's closest match came in the semifinals against Matt Jones of Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial. Jones took second in 1998 and won a state title in 1999, but was hurt a year ago and lost by injury default in the first round of the state tournament. Except for that injury default, Jones had not lost since the state finals as a ninth grader.
Kerzman won the title at 125 last year, but didn't have to beat Jones, the favorite, to do it. And that had been on David's mind in the 12 months since then, wondering if he could have beaten Jones last year and if he would do it this year.
"I've been worried about this match all year," said Kerzman after his 15-12 victory.
The match, possibly the best of the entire tournament, was fast-paced and high-scoring, as both wrestlers battled aggressively. They traded takedowns and escapes in the first period, but Jones took the lead in the second with two takedowns.
Trailing 8-7, Kerzman took control in the third period. He let Jones escape, then took him down. One takedown tied the score at 9-9. Another gave him the lead at 11-10, but a penalty point to Jones tied the score again at 11. So Kerzman let him go again, giving him the lead for the second time, and took him down a third time - this time to his back - for the win.
"I think we just tired him out," said assistant coach Steve Fuchs. "We just said, attack the legs, attack the legs."
Kerzman agreed, crediting his coaches and the intense practice workouts for giving him an edge in the final period.
The biggest key, though, was mental. "It was all up here," he said after the match, pointing at his head. "I was a little bit scared."
"The first and second periods, I was letting him wrestle like he likes to.," he explained. "The third period I did what I like to do."
The match against Jones was considered the championship match at 130, even though it occurred in the semifinals. The victory erased all those doubts Kerzman had after winning the title a year ago without beating Jones.
Now no one will ever wonder if Kerzman can beat Matt Jones. "That's what makes it all the more sweet," Kerzman said.
That three third-period takedowns gave Kerzman the victory was pretty fitting for someone who concentrated on takedowns to get to an elite level. "He's come a long ways on his feet," said Fuchs at the Xcel Energy Center. "That's what you have to do to win down here."
Kerzman dominated Minneota's Todd Opdahl 17-4 in the final, getting his first takedown five seconds into the match and just failing to get a final takedown in the closing seconds for a technical fall.
He ended his Bulldog career with lots of team records, including most takedowns in a season (211) and in a career (545).
Kerzman, though, isn't done yet. He has been selected to wrestle in the Minnesota-Wisconsin All Star Series. Two Minnesota teams wrestle two Wisconsin teams on Friday night at 7 p.m. in River Falls, Wi., and Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.
Kerzman will be the first Paynesville wrestler to participate in the series since Brad Fenske in 1992. Virg Vagle was also selected as a coach for this year's team.
Sogge takes second
Sogge improved upon his third-place finish from a year ago. He pinned his way to the final at 125 this year, dispatching Sibley East's Ryan McCarthy in 3:08, United South Central's John Niebuhr in 0:42, and Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale's Cullen Captain in 4:44.
Sogge (40-6) had to wrestle McCarthy and Captain twice, both in the team and individual portion of the tournament, pinning McCarthy twice.
Sogge lost a rematch against Zac Roth of LCWM in the final. A year ago, Sogge beat Roth 11-9 in overtime in the wrestlebacks. But Roth, a senior, dominated their title match this year, winning by pin at 4:27.
With six victories at state, including five pins, Sogge moved into the top ten for career victories with 129.
Hiltner takes fourth
One of Hiltner's goals was to win an individual medal at state, a prospect that seemed difficult due to his draw. In his half of the bracket, Hiltner had Medford's Mitch Kuhlman and Lewiston-Altura's Dustin Speltz, a state champ in 2000, the two wrestlers who beat Chris Welle a year ago.
Hiltner lost to Kuhlman, who won the title, in the quarterfinals, but won three matches in the wrestlebacks and ended up in fourth. He was the aggressor against Speltz for most of their match, but Speltz got the only takedown and won 3-2.
In the team competition against Frazee, Hiltner beat Adam Aho 6-2. With a favorable draw that had him in the opposite side of the bracket from Kuhlman, Speltz, and Hiltner, Aho finished as the runner-up at 140.
In all, Hiltner (44-4) recorded seven wins in nine matches at state. His first victory against Sibley East gave him 100 wins for his career, making him the 22nd Paynesville wrestler to reach that milestone.
He finished his career with 106 wins and 28 losses. He also tied a school record for most wins in a single season, with 44. Scott Hoeft went 44-1 in 1992.
Five other entrants
Paynesville had five other entrants in the individual portion of the state tournament, but none placed. These entrants were Adam Christian (112), Nathan Glenz (119), Jeremy Fuchs (135), Josh Schreifels (145), and Max Meagher (160).
Christian, Fuchs and Meagher won their first match before losing in the quarterfinals and again in the wrestlebacks. Glenz lost once and was out, and Schreifels lost twice.
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