Zumbrota-Mazeppa was no longer the underdog when it faced Frazee on Thursday in the state wrestling meet.
In the state semifinals last season the Cougars upset No. 1-seed Frazee. But Zumbrota-Mazeppa returned all but one starter from that championship team, and it earned the top seed in the bracket this time.
Different seeding, same result as the Cougars took down the No. 2 seed Hornets 31-19 in the Class 1A team championship at Xcel Energy Center.
“It never gets old,” Cougars coach Link Steffen said. “We kind of had a target on our back. I knew there were teams this year that could beat us.”
Zumbrota-Mazeppa closed out the finals by winning four of the last five matches.
The Cougars only won two of the first six matches in the dual, but they were down just 13-12. That’s because Spencer DeFrang at 138 pounds and Michael Majerus at 106 both earned falls early.
“Last year, to be honest, was a little more exciting, because we weren’t supposed to win it,” DeFrang said. “This year we were more nervous, because we had something to lose.”
The Cougars went through adversity early in the season when they lost to Coon Rapids then finished 17th in the Christmas tournament. Two matches after that the team dropped three consecutive duals.
“We scuffled a bit in the beginning,” Steffen said about the season. “They kept trying and that shows up today.”
Zumbrota-Mazeppa defeated Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove 35-18 in the semifinals, building an early lead and never letting go. The Cougars pulled away when Mike Vath earned a major decision at 126, followed by two consecutive victories.
Frazee took down Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville 38-20. LPGE-Browerville led 20-19 but Frazee won the final four matches to pull away.
Attendance for the first session was 8,565.
Jack White is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.