The State Wrestling tournament came to a close early Saturday evening for the Cambridge-Isanti group showing the wear of two straight days of effort in St. Paul. All three Bluejackets worked through the brackets to earn medals, but there was a distinct bittersweet feeling to the accomplishments since several calls went against them which changed the courses inside their brackets.
Ultimately, pride was displayed on how the boys responded to adversity and how they represented the C-I program.
The final Bluejacket match at 2012 State fittingly had senior Clayton Jennissen going for the 3rd-place medal at 182 lbs. on the center mat. Facing Henry Sibley’s Uthman Rabiu, the two locked into a scoreless first period, then Jennissen got his escape early in the second period and opened a 3-0 lead with a lightening-quick head-shuck takedown. In the third, Jennissen got in behind Rabiu and muscled a lift-toss for another takedown, then he finished off the Warrior for the 5-1 victory.
It was the third-straight medal Jennissen earned at State over the past three seasons.
“It’s really cool to come back here this year. I guess I didn’t get what I ultimately wanted, but it’s better to end on a win– 3rd-place feels better right now than 2nd did last year,” said Jennissen. “It’s nice to go out on a win. It was the third time I wrestled Rabiu, and it was nice to beat him all three times this year.”
Jennissen opened the 182AAA tourney with a 5-0 decision over Roseville’s Comiskey. The quarterfinals was the pivotal match, and the Bluejacket’s drive to a State title was derailed when Apple Valley’s Daniel Woiwor advanced with a 9-8 win in triple overtime. Talking in the bowels of the Xcel Center following his son’s 3rd-place win, C-I Coach Neil Jennissen was still burning from how that match played out the previous evening.
“The match started with what looked like a Clayton takedown near the edge of the mat, but no takedown was called. Later, Clayton was leading 7-5 with about 20 seconds left, and Woiwor started a little scramble. He got in on Clayton’s legs, but he didn’t really have control– Clayton was on the switch. And so the referee mistakenly throws up a takedown, so okay, Clayton came right out and faced him, so we thought we had the one-point escape and win anyways,” replayed Coach Jennissen. “The referee wouldn’t award it. So we go to overtime, and because Woiwor scored first in the match – which was a screw call, too– he got choice in sudden death and got away for the escape.”
He continued, “You know, Clayton beat six guys that reached the State finals. Ricky Briggs (of St. Michael) was in the 182AAA finals, and Clayton’s beat him every time. (Eventual 182AAA champ) Morlock of Moorhead, Clayton’s beat him. In AA, Totino’s Benick is in the State finals, Clayton’s beaten him three times. Also in AA, Grand Rapids’ Evans– we’ve beaten him three times. In 170AAA, (Anoka’s) Begin is in the finals; Clayton’s beaten him twice. Cory Nelson of Becker is in the 152AAA finals, he’s beaten him three times. So the kid has beaten six State finalists, but he didn’t get the calls he needed to get there. What do you do? It’s a bad deal….”
In the 182 wrestlebacks Friday night, Jennissen rebounded by sticking Rocori’s Kuss in 5:21. Saturday morning, he handled Rochester John Marshall’s Williamson in a 15-4 major. In the consolation semis, Jennissen controlled Mounds View strongman Richard Carlson in a 7-3 decision to reach the 3rd-place match.
Of the six battles at State, Jennissen thought, “The Woiwor match was a favorite match-up. Even though the ref made the decision who won, it was still a great match– a lot of fun for people to watch.”
“I’m a biased dad and coach,” laughed Coach Jennissen, “but I think Clayton has clearly been one of the greatest competitors we’ve ever had. I don’t know if he was blessed with the same physical skills of guys he took on. Even wrestling up a weight class these last two years, he’s been overmatched physically many times. But technically and competitive spirit, I don’t know that anyone measures up to him, really. This last match of his career, the Henry Sibley kid is bigger and stronger, but Clayton’s wily, skilled and determined. He found a way to win a lot of matches that were in the balance.
“He just refuses to lose sometimes. I remember back when Clayton was a 7th grader in 2007, and Coon Rapids bumped up State-entrant P.J. Mack to go against him– that’s how they were going to win the dual. Clayton almost majored him! He has just been a joy to watch. This tournament, Clayton could have been upset and acted like a donkey, throwing his stuff; instead, he said, ‘Dad, I’m going to come back and get 3rd.’ He really wanted another shot at Woiwor, but that kid had his pride injured when he lost in the semis and didn’t come back.”
Jennissen finished this season with a 44-4 mark as a senior leader for the Bluejackets. He is also second all-time in career victories for the program with a 178-58 mark over six seasons.
Asked what C-I Wrestling meant to him over the years, Clayton finished, “It’s meant everything to me. I wouldn’t be the same person if it wasn’t for wrestling. I’m really glad I got to have my dad for a coach. It’s just been a lot of fun. All the guys have fun together every day. I can’t say there’s a day this year that I showed up in the room saying ‘I wish I was somewhere else.’ It’s been a lot of fun.”
Travis Holt: 5th at 160
Junior Travis Holt pursued his second-straight State medal, opening the 160 brackets with a pin against Tartan’s McGeehan. Another turn went against the Bluejackets when Lakeville North’s Anton Kalista picked up a 12-7 decision over Holt in the quarterfinals.
“What happened was Kalista got a phantom takedown to start the match because Travis had a good leg pass, and Kalista squealed. He took the full injury time, so we thought he wasn’t going to wrestle anymore,” replayed Coach Jennissen. “He comes back, Travis bullrushed him a little too hard, and Kalista launched him for a five-point throw. Kalista later got in another lucky throw situation. Travis kept battling, and Kalista stalled the whole third period. We got four stalling calls– almost stalled him out of the match. Again, we were looking at a rematch in the 5th-place match, but since Kalista didn’t get what he wanted (getting defeated in the semis and consolation semis), he bailed out of the tourney, too.”
Coach Jennissen continued, “But Travis wrestled well. In the first consolation match against (Hastings’) Rachuy, he had Travis in trouble a couple of times. But it was typical Travis Holt; he kept fighting, got in a little headlock at the end and pinned him (at 4:46). His final win against Amundson of Tech, there were pretty crazy scrambles in that match. If you get in a scramble with Holt, eventually you will lose.”
Holt defeated Amundson 5-4, but he gave up a pin to Albert Lea’s Westerlund in the consolation semis. The Bluejacket then received a forfeit from Kalista in the 5th-place match.
“I would say my first match against McGeehan was a lot of fun. It was a good match to warm up with, and I got to do a lot of certain moves that I’ve been doing all season,” said Holt of his favorite match at State.
Cody Skog: 6th at 152
Sophomore Cody Skog made State for the fourth-straight winter, going back to his days wrestling for Meadow Creek Christian. He ended up going 2-2 in the 152 brackets, needing to forfeit his final 5th-place match due to an injury suffered in the consolation semis.
Skog’s first match was a 5-3 loss to eventual runner-up Adam Jackson of Rosemount.
“Cody got ripped off in that match, too. He had the first takedown, and the ref missed it– just blew the call on what clearly was a takedown, and that turned out to be the difference in the match. You’ve got to remember, Cody already beat Jackson this year (by fall at the Dec. 3 Chisago Lakes Duals),” said Coach Jennissen. “Cody battled back well with two wins and got into a battle with Manville of Apple Valley who was ranked 1st in the State. Cody got in, got a takedown and was in control. Then Manville picked him up and slammed him– no penalty point call. We were victims of some pretty poor officiating in this tourney, unfortunately, but those things happen. Cody couldn’t really come back for his 5th-place match– his eyes were still glassy.”
“My favorite match at State was probably beating Derek Weinmann in the consolation quarters,” said Skog, who also posted a 7-1 decision over Cousins of Bloomington Kennedy. “I had to win that one to place. And I wrestled him last year at State, too, beating him in the 3rd-place match. So that was a lot of fun. The Manville match would have been a lot of fun, too, until I got hurt.”
A look toward next season
Building on the strength of the three individual medals, the Bluejackets head toward next season after a strong 26-6 mark this season.
“It should be interesting next year. We’ve got a lot of guys where it will be interesting to see where the weights go to next winter,” said Holt. “Other than that, we should be solid in the middle again, and our lower and upper guys are getting more experienced, so we should be a pretty-well balanced team.”
“I think we definitely can get back to the section finals as a team,” added Skog on the 2013 outlook. “St. Michael only loses one kid, so in all likelihood, we’re not supposed to make it to State. But if we put in some time in the off-season, our team’s right there. We’ve got good kids coming up.”
“We’ve got Travis and Cody coming back– both quality individuals. They’ll be real good leaders,” finished Coach Jennissen. “I’ve got to say the kids this year made quite a bunch of sacrifices for each other to put a good team on the mat. The fact that Clayton was willing to wrestle up at 182– he could have easily been 170 or 160. The fact that Holt was willing to go up to 160; he could have cut down to 145. These kids did some things that allowed us to put our best team on the mat because they care about each other. And that’s why we have a good tradition at C-I. Travis and Cody are the perfect two guys to carry on that tradition next year– they get it.”
– Photos and story by Greg Hunt