Two Lumberjacks enter State meet


March 1, 2024

Contributed photo

Warren Heitala and Aiden Theisen are headed to the Minnesota state wrestling tournament after finishing second and first, respectively, at the section wrestling meet in Grand Rapids last weekend. Heitala, also at right, got his second place after a "true second" match, which allows a third-place finisher to take on the runner-up if they haven't wrestled each other yet. Theisen is making his second trip to State.

Two Lumberjack wrestlers qualified for the state boys wrestling tournament this week in St. Paul: freshman Aiden Theisen and senior Warren Heitala.

Theisen will make his second straight state tournament appearance after defeating Roman McKinney of Pine City/Hinckley Finlayson to capture the 114-pound weight class Saturday in Grand Rapids. It is the first section title in several years for Cloquet-Esko-Carlton.

Heitala won with a true second victory in the 160-pound weight class Saturday and will be making his first state appearance.

These two wrestlers are the "true definition of hard work dedication, character, and determination," said head CEC wrestling coach Al Denman. "Aiden is a pure wrestler who has the instincts and skill. With him only being a freshman, he will get better and better."

Theisen and Heitala will be in the individual competition at the state tournament, which begins Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The team portion of the state wrestling tournament began Thursday.

Theisen, who is 33-6 on the season, will face Samuel Moore of Zumbrota-Mazeppa. Moore is also a freshman, with a record of 35-12. Heitala will square off against Kaleb Lochner, another Zumbrota-Mazeppa wrestler. Both seniors, Heitala enters with a record of 25-10 and Lochner is 43-5.

"When I think of Warren as a wrestler, here's a young man who started at an early age in the program and he continues to work hard," Denman said, noting that Heitala had to overcome injuries this year. "Yet he had made the program and everyone involved in CEC wrestling very proud as he had to wrestle six matches to qualify for the state tournament."

Theisen is looking to improve from a season ago where he went 0-2 at State.

"Last year as an eighth-grader Aiden was a little overwhelmed," Denman said. "But everyone going to the state tournament for the first time is in awe."

Contributed photo

Other CEC wrestlers performed well despite having to overcome serious injuries and not having a whole season to get into wrestling shape or enough time to work on skills.

Senior Alex Comer was 2-2 at the section with one of the two losses to 121-pound champion Asher Brennen of Grand Rapids.

Senior Carter Horvat was 3-2, with a loss to Caleb Koch, who was third in the 189-pound class.

Senior Bohdon Fjeld won his first match but forfeited his next match due to injury.

Denman is optimistic about next season.

"We have a great young group of wrestlers who I think will be amazing and should contend for a section title and a possible team trip to the state tourney in the near future."


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