Orono made school history Saturday by winning their 1st ever Section 5AA team title against Totino-Grace (TG) 42-33. The Spartans have come a long way in the past 9 years. With just four boys on varsity in 2011 and talk of a forced merger with Mound Westonka, kids, coaches, parents, and the school’s Activities Director Bucky Mieras put together a plan to rebuild the program. Joe McPherson’s promotion to head coach in 2012 and the addition of head technician Jason Stripling to the coaching staff a year later provided the stability for the team to grow. Those four boys, all eventual state qualifiers or placers – Gavan Winkels (2012), Zach Mahan (2103), Charlie Schmid (2014), and Jackson Striggow (2015) were the nucleus to get Orono on the path to where it is today.
As the #3 seed going into the tournament, Orono earned a 1st round bye. The 2nd round against Minneapolis Patrick Henry was a good warm up with the Spartans winning 64-11. In the semifinal round, the Spartans faced off with Bloomington Kennedy (BK). Daniel Musgjerd (106) started the match off great by only giving up a tech fall and then Orono rattled off 2 huge pins by Mason Pankonin (113) and Blake Ament (120). Max Hultmann battled at 126 but fell in the 2nd period followed by a forfeit for Eli McKown at 126. Gustavo Cano Garnica (138) earned bonus points in his match and Jake Schmid (145) followed that up with another pin. BK roared back in the next four weights to take the team lead 28-34. A major decision by Dave Wilfert (195) and a 22 second fall by Danny Striggow (220) allowed Orono to regain the lead 38-34. Shea Albrecht (285) earned a 6-1 decision to lock up the victory 41-34.
Orono had a narrow path to victory against TG. The Spartans had to limit the damage in the lower weights and excel in the upper weights to win. Daniel Musgjerd (106) prevented a pin and then Mason Pankonin (113) avenged a loss earlier in the season to earn a decision 5-1. TG racked up 4 pins from 120 through 138 to extend their lead to 28-3. Jacob Schmid (145) then earned a 4-0 decision followed by Oliver Stevenson’s pivotal fall at 152. TG’s top ranked wrestler at 160, Adam Sylvester earned a pin to finish TG’s scoring effort. His team was then penalized one point for his unsportsmanlike conduct taunting the Spartan crowd. Orono then rattled off 4 pins by Noah Arneson (170), Johnny Harstad (182), Dave Wilfert (195), and Danny Striggow (220) to regain the team lead 36-33. It was all up to Shea Albrecht at 285 to seal the victory. In a fast paced bout, Albrecht was temporarily rolled onto his back but came out on top to earn a fall in the 1st period. The final score was 42-33.
Coach Joe McPherson reflected in a message to the team on Sunday, “THANK YOU all for being there yesterday and supporting these great young men. The atmosphere was electric and there is no better feeling than beating Totino on their home court with an amazing crowd cheering our boys on. It is a moment I hope you never forget because I know our boys won’t. A special team that has special parents. Thanks again and I look forward to seeing all of you this week.”
Michigan Wolverines Jackson and Bobby Striggow gave brother Danny some advice in Madison Sunday after their college dual meet, “Savor the moment but stay focused. There is still unfinished work to be done.”
Orono will host the Individual Section Tournament Saturday, February 22. The top two place winners in each weight will represent Section 5AA in the State Tournament next week. Team competition will take place on Thursday, February 27.