Eden Prairie streak-buster pulls it out

  • Article by: BRIAN STENSAAS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 6, 2012 - 5:35 PM
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Sam Brancale of Eden Prairie reacted to his victory over Mitch Bengtson of St. Cloud Apollo.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Startribune Staff Photo

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Sam Brancale's ears probably still are ringing. He might still be speechless.

The Eden Prairie senior was the story of last weekend's state wrestling tournament, using a dramatic last-ditch reverse on St. Cloud Apollo's Mitch Bengtson to win the Class 3A 126-pound championship. Bengtson entered the match as a three-time defending state champion, with a 179-match winning streak and with the piece of mind knowing he had defeated Bengtson a year earlier in the 119-pound quarterfinals.

Brancale entered with nothing to lose.

"I always felt we were kind of evenly matched," Brancale said.

They were Saturday.

Bengston earned a one-point escape in the second period and held it until four seconds remained in the match. That's when Brancale said he briefly panicked and let his instincts take over to record the two-point reverse.

"I've been thinking about this every day since last year," said Brancale, a Gophers recruit who won at 103 pounds as a sophomore.

Sam's brother Ben, a sophomore, took third place at 120 pounds and was among the long line of well-wishers backstage.

"Senior year, last state championship ever," Brancale said. "To go out on a note like that is truly ... I don't even know how to describe it."

Two matches earlier, St. Michael-Albertville sophomore Tommy Thorn further ingrained his family's place in Minnesota wrestling lore. Thorn won his second consecutive state title, giving the Thorns nine championships combined. Brothers David and Mike won seven titles for the Knights before moving on to wrestle for the Gophers.

Zach and Eric Sanders have the combined record for brothers. They were each five-time champions for Wabasha-Kellogg.

Eagles also tear up the pool

The Eden Prairie boys' swimming and diving team won the Class 2A team championship at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.

Aaron Greenberg led the charge, collecting four gold medals. He won the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events and was part of the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relay teams won by the Eagles. The 200 free relay team, including Maverick Hovey, Bryce Boston and Mike Solfelt, set a state record with a finishing time of 1 minute, 23.9 seconds. Hovey took home three other medals, including golds in the 100-yard butterfly and the 400 freestyle relay and runner-up in the 200-yard freestyle.

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