The wrestling public, some 18,330 strong Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center, saw a different Mitch Bengtson.
Sure, it was the same wrestler in the St. Cloud Apollo singlet. But mentally, the 138-pound senior had a completely different approach.
“Mainly, it was my attitude,” Bengtson said. “I just wanted to keep going and show myself what I’m capable of and show everyone else, too.”
Bengtson won his fourth career state title by beating St. Michael-Albertville’s Cole Sladek 8-0. Going with his state titles won in 2009, ’10 and ’11, he and Simley’s Jake Short become the 13th and 14th four-time state champions in state history.
There are four five-time state champions and Bengtson came within a couple of seconds of being one of them, but he lost to Eden Prairie’s Sam Broncale in the 126-pound final last season. That loss ended a state-record 179-match winning streak that Bengtson said put a lot of pressure on him.
His attitude this season was vastly different.
“I was wrestling not to lose,” Bengtson said of the 2011-12 season. “This year, I was wrestling to dominate and make a statement.”
Did he ever. In the state semifinals, he pinned Prior Lake’s Blake Carlisle in 38 seconds. He was in control the entire way Saturday night against Sladek, who he had beaten in the St. Michael-Albertville Invitational last year, 16-4.
They will be teammates next season at North Dakota State.
Bengtson was the area’s lone state champion in Class 3A and 2A, though there were 12 wrestlers in the semifinals.
Nine lost, including Bengtson’s teammate, Grant Nehring. Nehring, a defending state champion ranked No. 1 at 145, fell 5-1 in the semifinals to Apple Valley’s Dayton Racer. He had beaten Racer in last season’s state final.
Apollo’s Bryce Kirchner also placed, taking fifth at 220.
St. Cloud Tech’s Jerrad Nieland finished fifth at 285. He took third last season. He lost in the quarterfinals Friday to Coon Rapids’ Michael Burckhardt, who wound up second. Nieland (38-8) pinned Irondale’s Eriq Smith in 1:16 for fifth.
“He wrestled good that last match,” Tech head coach Bob Boeck said. “It was a nice way to close out his career.”
As it was for Bengtson, who said he had fun this year and tried to enjoy the experience. With no state records to worry about, it was just about trying to do his best.
“I wanted to make sure I got the major and not let it be just another decision,” Bengtson said. “I just wanted to dominate the match as much as I could.”
Head coach Tim Bengtson and assistant coach Champ Hesch tried to keep Bengtson relaxed before the match.
“I just told him, ‘don’t let (Sladek) take it away from you like last year,” Hesch said. “I tell you, it was one of the toughest matches I’ve ever had to watch.”
Hesch had worked with Sladek at St. Michael-Albertville before coming to Apollo.
Bengtson said he’s going to relax and take a little time off, then gear up for the USA Greco-Roman and Freestyle wrestling season this spring. Then, it’s off to Fargo, N.D., to continue his career on a wrestling scholarship at Division I North Dakota State.
Foley’s Tyler Funk wound up second at 120 pounds to be the best finisher of the Falcons’ nine state qualifiers.
He suffered an incredibly difficult loss in the championship, falling 7-5 in three overtimes to Anthony Luft of Worthington/Round Lake-Brewster.
Funk had upset New Prague’s Griffin Parriot on Friday, 3-2. Parriot had been No. 1-ranked. He beat Chisago Lakes’ Dylan Connell 3-1 in the semifinals to get to the championship.
“I don’t know what to say,” Funk said. “It’s crazy. It’s always a goal to be here.”
Funk had won a ninth-grade state championship, but the junior gave himself a realistic goal for next year: become Foley’s first state champion since Taylor Lewandowski in 2011.
* It was a good way to wrap up the season for Albany’s Carter Holthaus. The junior 152-pounder took fifth.
“It was a good experience,” Holthaus said. “I was just a lot more comfortable here this year than last year. I know how it works now …
“There’s definitely a lot of good competition here. That’s what makes it fun.”
* St. Cloud State recruit Jarred Oftedahl of Benilde-St. Margaret’s won the Class 2A 113-pound championship. He handed Fergus Falls’ Abbot Aho his first loss of the season in the final, 8-6. Aho finishes 44-1.
Otedahl, a senior, went 47-1.