MILACA – Both Milaca and Foley had this dual circled on their calendars all season.
The rivalry between the two schools got even stronger Friday night when the Falcons and Wolves faced off in a Granite Ridge Conference dual in front of a packed gym at Milaca High School.
The match saw Foley beat Milaca 31-21 in a back-and-forth match.
“We’ve been planning this match for many weeks, that’s for sure,” Foley junior Spencer Elwell said.
“It was a lot of mental stuff building up to this, and we wanted to come in ready.”
Trailing 18-16 going into the 170-pound match, Elwell pinned Milaca’s Neil Hanson; that helped the Falcons take the lead for good.
“The coaches just told me to go out there and wrestle hard and that we needed the points from me,” Elwell said.
“There was a lot of talk that we were going to lose coming in. We put our hands down and said we were not going to lose, and it worked in our favor.”
John Larson (113), Austin Loehrer (120), Brandon Jackson (160), Carter Nielsen (182), Saylor Schmit (195) and Tryston Bemboom (285) also picked up wins for Foley (23-5 overall).
Larson pinned Milaca’s Garrett Hall at 113 pounds.
“Anytime you wrestle Milaca, you know things that you want to happen aren’t going to go the way that you planned,” Foley coach Scott Gorecki said. “It’s a great relationship that we have with Milaca and it’s a great tradition and rivalry that we have with them.
“We have the utmost respect for them and it’s always nice to have a tough team to play so you can get better at the end of the year.”
Jon Hall (106), Hunter Noor (126), Kyle Starr (132), Dru Kuchenbaker (138), Reece Sandberg (145), Jack Barsody (152) and Austin Weidner (195) picked up wins to lead Milaca (18-7 overall).
Kuchenbaker pinned Foley’s Simon Bryce at 138 pounds.
“Our guys psyched themselves up for this one, and I think that could have backfired on us a little bit,” Milaca co-coach Mitch Vedders said.
“It’s always a great dual between us. There are a lot of ups and a lot of downs, but Foley is a tough team and they are on a roll.”
Clay Hoeck, the other co-coach for the Wolves, said despite how wild the rivalry gets, it’s always nice to see the schools face each other.
“If you lose to a good team, that’s OK,” he said. “Foley is a tough team and we will keep improving into (the) playoffs.”
Gorecki thinks the two schools will always carry that rivalry.
“With us two, we will always try and keep that wrestling tradition alive,” he said.
TakeDown Cancer Night
It was also TakeDown Cancer Night, which is a coalition of the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association teaming up with Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund.
The parents and fans in attendance donated more than $2,000.
No. 17 in nation
Foley’s Carter Nielsen recently was ranked No. 17 in the nation at 170 pounds.
“It’s a great feeling, but it doesn’t mean anything, it’s just a number,” he said. “Anybody can beat anybody in any given night.”
Nielsen, who is ranked No. 1 in the state at 170, continued his winning ways Friday, beating Milaca’s Josh Otten on a 9-6 decision at 182 pounds.
“No. 17 and No. 1 mean nothing to me. All I focus on is improving my team and improving my teammates,” Nielsen said. “When they come off the mat, I’m the first one in their ears. I want to keep improving them while I try to improve myself. Doing both of those things, well, it’s kind of fun to me.”
Follow Mitchell Hansen on Twitter @M_Hansen13.