Eden Prairie's Brancale denies Bengtson a 4th state wrestling title

  • Article by: BRIAN STENSAAS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 4, 2012 - 2:36 AM

Eden Prairie senior Sam Brancale panicked - but then rallied for a reverse and a resounding win.

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In the last few seconds of his Class 3A state championship match, Sam Brancale had a few final thoughts.

First, with St. Cloud Apollo's Mitch Bengtson using all 126 of his pounds to hang on for dear life of the match and his state-record 179-match win streak, Brancale panicked.

"Then instincts took over," the Eden Prairie senior said.

In one quick turn, Brancale executed a reverse with four seconds left on the clock to rally for a 2-1 victory and deny Bengtson a fourth consecutive state championship.

An emotionally spent, out-of-breath Brancale had a wad of cotton up his nose and a fresh scar scored over his left collarbone after the win.

But all he felt was pride.

"I always felt we were kind of evenly matched," said Brancale, who was defeated 1-0 by Bengtson in last year's Class 3A 119 quarterfinals. "But I can't even describe this. ... I've been thinking about this every day since last year."

Brancale won a state championship at 103 two years ago but said Saturday tops his first feat.

"So much more," he said, just as little brother Ben -- third place at 120 pounds -- ran up and offered a bear hug.

More for Morgan

Forest Lake's Ben Morgan finished his last state tournament just as he did the first one: as a champion.

The senior 132-pounder, ranked No. 1 at the weight, defeated No. 3 Mark Voss of St. Michael-Albertville 11-4 to cap a medal-filled career. Morgan won at 112 pounds as an eighth-grader and placed third each of the past three years.

"Those last couple years of denial -- to have a state championship taken away from you hurts," he said. "All that work, and you choke when it matters. It humiliates you in a way. But winning again after being denied so many times just felt so good."

A ninth for the Thorns

Tommy Thorn's championship at 113 -- his second -- gives the family from St. Michael-Albertville nine state titles. Brothers David and Michael combined for seven championships before moving on to wrestle for the Gophers.

The Sanders brothers, Eric and Zach, hold the record for family fortitude. They were each five-time state champions from 1999 to 2007 for Wabasha-Kellogg.

Hall of champions

He's got a long way to go, but Apple Valley's Mark Hall is in line to be perhaps the best ever in Minnesota. The Apple Valley eighth-grader wrapped up his second state championship with a second-period pin over Stillwater's Branden Madsen at 145 pounds. Minnesota has never had a six-time state champion.

Eagles teammate Brandon Kingsley, meanwhile, became the 12th wrestler to finish his career as a four-time champion. Kingsley defeated South Suburban Conference foe Mitch Rechtzigel of Eastview 6-3 in the 160-pound final.

Two other Apple Valley wrestlers collected golds: Maolu Woiwor (106) and Seth Gross (120).

Hall was the only Class 3A wrestler to finish the season undefeated.

The last word

Lakeville South's Tommy Petersen, the champ at 220, was asked if he could put his championship into words.

"Yeah," he said. "But probably not words I should use."

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