Panthers advance Gillis, Perry
The home crowd got to see St. Croix Central's Zach Gillis and Casey Perry advance out of the St. Croix Central Division 3 Regional Wrestling Meet on Saturday.
Gillis was the regional champion at Central on Saturday at 135 pounds. Perry qualified for sectionals by finishing second at 140 pounds in Central's regional meet. They will compete in the Division 3 sectional meet that will be wrestled at Osseo-Fairchild High School this Saturday.
In the sectional seeding, the two Panthers have much different opportunities. Gillis goes into the meet with a 30-7 record. His opening draw is Blair-Taylor sophomore Travis Guenther, who has an 8-12 record. If Gillis wins his opening match, he would likely meet Cadott sophomore Roy Munroe. This would be a rematch of the fifth place match at the Northern Badger Invite in December, which Gillis won.
The top three wrestlers in each sectional bracket qualify for state.
"It's about as favorable as we're going to get in that bracket," Central coach Brad Holzer said about Gillis' chances of reaching state.
Perry is unfortunately in one of the strongest brackets at the sectional meet. He's got a 31-12 record, but there are seven wrestlers in his bracket with 31 or more wins.
Perry's opening opponent will be Stratford sophomore Mark Marquardt, a regional champion with a 34-3 record.
"I think Casey can wrestle with anybody," Holzer said. "He can't let matches get away from him in the first and second period."
The two Central sectional qualifiers have very few similarities in their wrestling styles. Gillis has become a tough wrestler who is always on the attack.
"He's a soft spoken kid, but when he gets on the mat he's as physical as anybody," Holzer said. "He's matured in the aspect that you find what you are good at and stick with it."
Perry is more of a gambler. He's one of the most flexible wrestlers you'll ever see, which allows him to squirm out of situations that would be big trouble for other wrestlers.
"He's very unorthodox," Holzer said. "He's so darn flexible, it's frustrating to wrestle him if you are used to turning people for back points."
Gillis and Perry led a solid effort by the Panthers in their home regional. Gillis dominated the 135-pound class. He scored a pin in the semifinals, then won by technical fall to win his regional title.
Perry was seeded second at 140. He handily beat Matt Voeltz of Glenwood City in the semifinals, but couldn't get past Drew Knoop of Shell Lake in the finals. Perry then had to face Jordan Olson of Clear Lake in a wrestleback, which he won 10-2.
Chris Halvorson just missed making sectionals, taking third at 130 pounds. Holzer said that Halvorson can take another step forward next season by becoming a more aggressive wrestler.
"He's got to get a lot more physical. All our kids are like that. They're too nice," Holzer said.
The coaches moved freshman Matt Smith up to 152 pounds after he lost the wrestleoff to Perry at 140 pounds. The coaches knew Smith's options would be limited at 145 pounds because of Clear Lake's Brayden Wienke and Spring Valley's Willie Coyne. Smith won his first match at 152, but lost to Shell Lake's Michael Johnson in the semifinals.
The Panther freshmen all showed well on Saturday. Lauden Wood came up with one of the fastest pins in team history when he stuck a Glenwood City wrestler in 10 seconds in the fifth place match. Holzer said Marcus Malecek, Adam Lewis and Alex Halvorson also showed they have bright futures.
Holzer said one of the highlights of the day for him was seeing Ethan Hofland get his first win of the season at 145 pounds. Hofland returned to wrestling after being out of the sport four years. Hofland made his win dramatic, getting a takedown in the final three seconds to win 9-8.