History in the making

FAN FRENZY — Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove wrestling fans — including a number of former Scrapper and Panther grapplers —packed the Windom Area High School gymnasium for Saturday’s Section 3A Final Four. The Panthers came out on top, besting Canby and Minneota, to advance to their first-ever state wrestling tournament, which will take place March 1-3 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jake Byrne (black shirt), Nash Mayer and the rest of the Panthers lift high their Section 3A championship trophy after their 36-22 win over the Vikings. See Pages 6 & 7 for coverage of Saturday’s Section 3A tournament.

Dramatic Buchholz pin qualifies team for state

Hollywood couldn’t have scripted the drama any better.

Needing a pin to lock up Panther wrestling’s first-ever Section 3 team title, senior Austin Buchholz came through with an inspired second-period fall.  Hundreds of exulting Panther fans erupted into a cacophony of cheers and bear hugs.

The team victory qualified the Panthers for the state Class A mat tourney, March 1-3 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.  This Friday and Saturday, Feb. 23-24, the Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove squad competes in the Section 3A individual tournament in Pipestone.

The Panthers’ Section 3A team championship rolled through two long-time Section 3 wrestling powerhouses:  Canby and Minneota.

“This is the way I wanted it,” said longtime Panther mat mentor Karl Campbell.  “Beating Canby in the semis and Minneota in the finals was a lot of fun.  Both were old District 9 rivals going way back to when I wrestled (in the 1980s).”

Saturday was the first time in 13 seasons that a Panther wrestling team had beaten Minneota. The last win over the Vikings came in a regular season dual during the 2005-06 season, which was also the last time Panther wrestlers advanced to the Section 3 finals.  Competing in Class AA that season, the Panthers upset Windom in the semi-finals and then lost a close match to Adrian in the finals.  Assistant Panther coaches Cody Arnold and Andy Nelson were seniors on that team.

TMB fell to the Vikings, 35-30, on Jan. 11 — one of only two dual meet losses this year.

Many Panther wrestling alumni—including some who’d hit the mat 50 or more years ago—helped fill the bleachers in the Windom gym and provide vociferous support for their team.

Campbell said that the wrestlers greatly appreciated their fan support.

“I do think that made a huge difference for our kids.”