PIERZ – It was approaching 3 a.m. by the time Kolton Eischens’ head hit the pillow Friday night.
The boys on the Pierz wrestling team were in the mood to celebrate after clinching their fifth-straight state tournament berth by defeating Aitkin 33-26 in the Section 7A team championship match.
The Eischens family hosted the post-match celebration where the team gathered for a night of card playing and video games.
Eischens’ friend, Teddy Dehler, who wrestles either 195 pounds or 220 depending on the matchup, disputes Kolton’s recollection of the bed time.
“He might not have told you the whole truth. The sun wasn’t up yet, but it was after 3, I know that. His parents said we couldn’t be up all night,” Dehler said with a laugh.
Dehler’s win over Aitkin’s Alan Bast, who is ranked No. 10 in Class A, turned the tide in Pierz’s favor.
It was his first win over Bast after a handful of matches. It also took three overtime periods to get the victory.
“I felt there was more pressure on him, and I knew I was in better shape than he was,” Dehler said.
Eischens had a pin earlier in the night at 152 where he is ranked No. 1 in Class A. The junior has put together a 37-0 record this season and is a team captain.
He also made it to the state championship match last season as a sophomore, but he was pinned by Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City’s Larry Bomstad. Bomstad now wrestles at St. Cloud State, which is ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division II.
Not a bad resume for a guy who didn’t have a full-time spot on the team two years ago.
After being a regular for the Pioneers as a seventh- and eighth-grader, Eischens hit a growth spurt before his freshman season. He sprung up a couple of inches and gained close to 30 pounds, which put him in competition with the well-established heart of the Pioneers’ lineup.
Eischens said it was next to impossible to win a spot over anybody in that part of the order.
“It sucked knowing that I wouldn’t be able to be a part of the team for six (straight) years. But, looking back I think it helped me. I had to change my work ethic,” Eischens said.
He tried cutting weight, but it took too much of a toll on his body.
“He started looking pretty sickly,” Kolton’s mother, Robyn Eischens, said.
He returned to a comfortable weight and wrestled the majority of the season on the junior varsity while still making 14 varsity appearances. Making it to the state championship last season became that much more special.
While on the podium during the medal ceremony he took a look around and noticed he was the only recipient who was not a senior.
“That was pretty special. I got a good draw and knew I wanted to make a run to the finals. Being the only kid who wasn’t a senior made me feel like I have a shot this year,” Eischens said.
Though he wrestles nine months out of the year, Eischens still finds time to play linebacker on the football team and he patrols the outfield on the baseball team.
He thinks it’s important to play other sports because it helps make a well-rounded athlete and exposes them to different forms of competition.
Dehler says his friend doesn’t lack competitive drive.
“He’s not fun to be around when he loses. He sometimes gets frustrated and won’t talk to anybody, or he keeps arguing about how he was right. It’s always a competition with me and him,” Dehler said.
Eischens says the Pioneers are a tight group of athletes that spend a lot of time together away from the mat. It’s almost like a family.
In Eischens’ case, it is family. His brother, Teague, cousins Reese and Brett Kapsner, and Lane and Luke Girtz, all wrestle for the Pioneers.
“Last night we took a family picture and I thought ‘wow, this is half our team,’ ” Eischens said.
The jury is still out on which team the Pioneers will face in the opening round of the Class A state tournament on Feb. 26 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Pierz has gone up against Chatfield, Jackson County Central and Frazee all in the first round in recent years.
Eischens thinks the Pioneers’ prospects are looking good this time around, and he’s looking forward to trying to prove their detractors wrong.
“People said we weren’t as good as we were last year, but as a team we’re really confident,” Eischens said.
STATE TEAM RANKINGS
1. Apple Valley
2. St. Michael-Albertville
5. Coon Rapids
9. St. Francis
10. Prior Lake
12. Lakeville South
3. Albert Lea Area
4. Annandale/Maple Lake
7. New Prague
8. Scott West
4. Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial Area
9. West Central Area/Ashby/Evansville
10. Jackson County Central
11. Wabasso/Red Rock Central
AREA INDIVIDUAL RANKINGS
113 pounds: 1. Rylee Molitor, Sartell.
132 pounds: 6. Austin Brenner, St. Cloud Tech; 10. Taylor Rau, Sauk Rapids.
160 pounds: 10. Justin Jenks, Little Falls.
170 pounds: 10. Cole Schreder, St. Cloud Tech.
182 pounds: 7. Jacob Johnson, St. Cloud Tech; 10. Seth Klein, Rocori.
195 pounds: 10. Tyler Hugg, St. Cloud Tech.
106 pounds: 6. Holden Youngs, Annandale/Maple Lake; 10. Jon Hall, Milaca.
113 pounds: 7. Quinn Youngs, Annandale/Maple Lake.
120 pounds: 10. Cullen Gallagher, Annandale/Maple Lake.
126 pounds: 2. Tanner Vassar, Annandale/Maple Lake.
132 pounds: 9. Nate Carlson, Annandale/Maple Lake.
145 pounds: 2. Nick Mergen, Albany; 6. Cody Ferris, Becker; 7. Will Funk, Sauk Centre/Melrose.
152 pounds: 8. Jack Barsody, Milaca.
160 pounds: 7. Brandon Jackson, Foley.
170 pounds: 1. Carter Nielsen, Foley.
182 pounds: 6. Spencer Elwell, Foley; 8. Austin Weidner, Milaca.
190 pounds: 4. Spencer Ogden, Annandale/Maple Lake; 5. Josh Otten, Milaca.
106 pounds: 8. Shaun Rue, Paynesville; 10. Reese Kapsner, Pierz.
126 pounds: 3. Blane Tschida, Kimball.
132 pounds: 5. Zach Scott, Holdingford.
138 pounds: 1. Quinten Berres, Kimball.
152 pounds: 1. Kolton Eischens, Pierz; 6. Jacob Mages, Paynesville.
160 pounds: 4. Brad Kroll, Royalton/Upsala.
170 pounds: 3. Brett Kapsner, Pierz.
182 pounds: 6. Kyle Lange, Royalton/Upsala; 8. Anthony Wendlandt, Paynesville.
195 pounds: 2. Nathan Brinker, Holdingford.