The Detroit Lakes wrestling team finished the regular season winners of 13 straight duals en route to the best state finish in program history to highlight the local winter sports scene.
The Mid-State champion Lakers entered the playoffs coming off a big 51-16 victory over Frazee on the road and continued that momentum to a first section title and state trip in 15 years.
DL hosted and put away United Clay Becker 66-5 in the opening round and dismantled Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus 55-14 to set up the section final against Thief River Falls. The Prowlers eliminated five-time 8AA champs Perham in the semis and held a lead late against the Lakers.
Detroit Lakes had been the section runner-up five times since 2013, including the past three seasons, all losses to Perham.
Garrett Nelson made his season debut in the postseason after recovering from an injury during the regular season. He got the Lakers to within one point trailing 21-20 with a major decision at 160 pounds.
Down 27-20 to the Prowlers with four matches to go, Blaine Henderson continued to build Laker momentum with a first period pin. The Prowlers’ Mason Iverson added more drama defeating Andrew Annette in a very close 1-0 decision at 195 to go back up by four points 30-26 heading to the final two matches.
Senior co-captain Jordan Skadsem pinned Kirby Kilen at 220 in 1:34 for a 32-30 Laker lead and Andreas Barnett cemented the win and Jolson Sargent in 56 seconds creating bedlam at The Hive in Perham.
“This is what we’ve been working for all season,” Weber said. “It’s more like a dream come true. We were in this position to win it two years ago and it slipped through our grasp. We didn’t want that feeling again this year so we put in the time.”
DL’s heavies were used to performing in clutch situations. In late January, Barnett used a pin in the final match to defeat Perham at home by criteria 33-32 in a state-ranked dual that had Ralph Anderson Gymnasium buzzing.
There would be more dramatics at state.
The No. 5 Lakers opened with a strong 46-23 quarterfinal victory over Dassel-Cokato/Litchfield before running into eventual state champions No. 1 Simley in a tough 55-14 semifinal loss.
In the third place battle against Foley, both teams won seven matches each, but the Lakers prevailed with a similar formula down the stretch. Nelson won at 160, Henderson at 182 setting up a major decision from Skadsem to give Barnett a chance trailing 25-20.
Barnett slammed Elijah Novak at 1:03 giving DL a one-point win as the Lakers poured out of the stands at Xcel Energy Center to surround Barnett.
DL’s third place finish was the best in school history; the Lakers had never finished better than sixth in its prior two state appearances.
The fact that the team was so successful without two-time individual state champion Isaiah Thompson, who was out all season with a knee injury, made this run easily the top story of the winter.
Ullyott to the finals, Jackson fourth
DL coach’s kids made the biggest noise during the state individual tournament.
Junior Brody Ullyott was unseeded at 138 pounds in Class AA but made an impressive run to the championship match to take on last year’s state runner-up and the No. 1 seed Cael Berg of Simley. Berg captured the title in a 9-1 major decision.
Despite being an underdog with a tough matchup in the final, Ullyott went out with his head high after an impressive three-day run.
“It feels good and it will be nice looking back later in life how our team placed for the first time and how I placed for my first time,” he said.
Cade Jackson finished his freshman season with a fourth place finish at 126 pounds after being defeated in the third place match by technical fall at 5:12.
Jackson’s opponent, No. 2 Jaxson Rohman, a Fairmont/Martin County West junior, handed Cade both of his losses of the individual tournament. The first forced Jackson to make the long trek through wrestlebacks to the third place match through the bracket with a win by fall, a sudden victory and an injury default.
Brody is the son of head coach Rob Ullyott; Cade the son of assistant Todd Jackson.
Pelican girls steal hoops spotlight
No. 4 Pelican Rapids scored the first nine points and recorded the program’s first state tournament victory behind a 28-point performance by junior Greta Tollefson to defeat Concordia Academy - Roseville 59-45 in the Class AA girls basketball consolation round.
The Vikings finished the season with a program record 30 wins against only one loss, that coming to Waseca in the quarterfinal round. One of the biggest wins of the season came at Concordia in the section final on a Maddie Guler buzzer beater to down Fergus Falls 43-41 to punch the ticket to state.
The Vikings also played with extra motivation and Faith for a special cause.
Pelican Rapids’ seniors Guler, Abby Syverson and Ryley Paulson left the program having won 56 of 59 games the past two years with a strong nucleus back for this winter’s campaign.
The team missed out on a shot at fifth place when the season concluded early due to COVID-19.
Noah’s hockey teams finish strong
First-year head boys hockey coach Ben Noah had plenty to be proud of from his JV and varsity teams in his first year at the helm.
The junior varsity team lost the first three games of the season before finishing on an 18-game unbeaten streak to polish off a 17-3-1 season.
The JV used a strong group connection on and off the ice to turn the season around quickly.
“Our lines started connecting and synching in,” junior forward Jayden Geerdes said. “Most of our success accumulated from the bench energy that was brought from the locker room and onto the ice.”
The Lakers needed a come-from-behind overtime tie in the last game at Little Falls to keep the unbeaten streak alive.
The DL varsity team ended their regular season in Little Falls also, getting a big 1-0 shutout victory over the ranked No. 10 Flyers to head to the postseason with momentum.
Alex Bren had the unassisted game-winner and goalie Jack Hines stopped all 19 Flyer shots.
That duo would factor in a first round road victory in Hallock to start the playoffs. Bren had a hat trick and Hines held the lead weathering a late Bearcat rally as Drew Schwan and Bren scored the final two goals of the game on the power play to advance to the semifinals 7-4.
DL’s season came to a quick end at the hands of section champions Warroad in Bemidji, but the Lakers found a groove late in the season finishing with 10 wins in the final dozen games.
Jackets take over 8A gymnastics
Detroit Lakes' run for a seventh straight section gymnastics title was stopped by the Perham Yellowjackets in Morris. The Lakers were unable to overcome injuries that never allowed the team to perform with a full lineup the entire season. DL beat the Jackets narrowly twice in regular season duals, but Perham was the better team at the end of the year.
Senior Jackson Hegg made her annual individual trip to state and left St. Paul in typical fashion with medals galore.
Hegg was the state champion on floor, runner-up in the all-around, on uneven parallel bars and captured bronze on balance beam.
Hegg’s floor gold was the 13th individual state championship by a Laker gymnast and her second after capturing the bars title in 2019. Hegg (2) joins Amy Crawford (3), Cora Okeson (3) and Peyton Jernberg (2) with multiple individual state titles in a career.