WRESTLING: Undefeated Maas, Johnson eyeing state titles
BEMIDJI — After finishing the year with a 39-6 record and losing in the consolation quarterfinals at the state meet, Bemidji wrestler Kade Johnson needed some time away from the sport.
“I didn’t want anything to do with wrestling after last year,” Johnson said. “But I spent the summer with my uncle in Montana and I spent it lifting weights. That motivated me for this year’s wrestling season.”
Johnson’s motivation spurred a successful season which saw the senior post a 40-0 record at 182 pounds. This weekend Johnson will cap his career at the state Class 3A wrestling meet and he will be joined in St. Paul by teammate Brian Maas who shares Johnson’s unbeaten status.
Maas is 39-0 at 113 pounds and enters the meet ranked No. 1 at his weight class. Johnson is rated third at 182 pounds.
“My goal is to win the title,” Johnson said of this weekend’s job assignment. “I know that will be hard to do but as long as I’m on my game I think I’ll be just fine.”
The weight lifting during the offseason helped Johnson add strength to his wrestling repertoire and that asset has been instrumental in his unbeaten season — and, by extension, his 37 victories by pin. Johnson also was awarded a forfeit victory and posted one technical fall. The only other time an opponent went the distance with Johnson, the Lumberjack claimed a decision win.
His 37 pins are a school record, eclipsing the 34 pins posted by Chris Miller in 2005. Miller also holds the program’s single-season victory total of 44 and Johnson could tie that mark this weekend.
“This has been a dream year and I’m looking for a dream finish,” Johnson said. “Every day at practice I’ve pictured myself winning the state championship and that has prepared me for this season. I’m not happy just getting to state. My goal all year is to win it.”
The Class 3A individual tournament starts 1 p.m. Friday and Johnson will begin his quest for a state title against Jimmy Kaiser of Mounds View (18-10).
If the favored wrestlers continue to advance Johnson would face top-rated Bobby Stevenson of Apple Valley (31-1) in the semifinals.
Ranked second in the division and wrestling in the lower bracket is T.J. Ohara of Tartan (36-0).
A year ago Maas finished fifth at 113 pounds as a sophomore and during his freshman season Maas made it to state at 103 pounds and placed third.
“This year I want to make finals and bring home the gold medal,” he said.
“Being at state twice is a big advantage,” the junior added. “All of the matches I’ve lost at state have been by one point and I think I’ve learned from them. My strategy this week will be to score first and get ahead in the match. And, hopefully, the opponents will make some mistakes and I can put them on their back.”
Maas is the top-ranked wrestler at 113 pounds but his road to a possible title will not be easy. If the pairings hold, Mass would face the No. 2 wrestler, Tanner Cole of Owatonna (39-1), in the quarterfinals. And a win in that bout could mean a match against fourth-ranked Jake Bergeland of Centennial (38-3) in the semifinals.
“I like being in the tough draw,” Maas said, “because I can get them (the rated wrestlers) out of the way early. You have to beat everybody anyway so when you meet them doesn’t really matter.”
Maas has a full arsenal of weapons at his disposal but he believes that quickness may be his main tool.
“Last year I was one of the lighter kids in the 113-pound bracket but this year I’m pushing the heavy side of the weight,” Maas said. “I think that will be an advantage but my quickness is my main strength. I’m very good on my feet and I can catch the opponent off guard. And that leads to takedowns.”
And takedowns lead to victories.
“This year my goal is to win the championship and if I wrestle hard I know I can.”
Bemidji’s last state high school champion was Joe Mayberry who claimed the heavyweight title in 1999.