Defying the odds: Pipestone Area grapplers Nate Bobendrier and Brayden Burmeister cap the 2021-22 season with varied success at MSHSL Class A state wrestling championships

Pipestone Area senior Nate Bobendrier celebrates his victory over Cade Christianson to advance to the consolation quarterfinals of the MSHSL Class A state wrestling tournament Friday night at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. K. Kyle

Unless you win it all, the postseason often becomes a season of bittersweetness. In the case of Pipestone Area grapplers Nate Bobendrier and Brayden Burmeister, the season-ending MSHSL Class A state wrestling tournament Friday and Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul proved just that.

Competing in his final high school campaign and starting near the bottom of the 138-pound bracket, Bobendrier defied the odds in earning four matches at the ‘X’ and making it to Championship Saturday before ultimately ending his career with a 7-0 consolation quarterfinal loss to Jackson County Central’s Thomas Freking.

“That was not the match-up I wanted, obviously, but you have to wrestle the matches given to you,” said the senior, who concluded his 2021-22 season with a record of 35-14. “I went in, knew I hadn’t beaten him yet (this season) and tried a few new things. I was working my stuff and it was working for a little while, but he’s just a better technical wrestler than I am.”

Bobendrier indeed worked well in the ‘neutral’ first period, and he and Freking, who beat the Arrow grappler by pinfall at the Section 3A tournament, Feb. 26 in Wabasso, moved into the second period scoreless. The Huskie junior chose the bottom position to open the second period and promptly scored an escape to take a 1-0 lead. Bobendrier nearly flipped the deficit after a lengthy single-leg tie-up, but it was Freking who ultimately scored the takedown for a 3-0 lead. In control, Freking scored a three-point nearfall to carry a 5-0 lead into the final period.

“After that takedown, it was an uphill battle,” Bobendrier said. “He’s good on top, been wrestling for a lot of years, so I knew what to expect.”

Pipestone Area wrestling coaches Brian Bos (near) and Gary Haupert bark instructions to senior grappler Nate Bobendrier during his 138-pound wrestleback match Friday night at the MSHSL Class A state tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. K. Kyle

And knowing he’d need to keep Freking down, Bobendrier chose the up position in the third. In the end, however, Freking wrapped up the match with a reversal and a 7-0 victory that not only advanced him to the consolation semifinals, but also served as the final note of Bobendrier’s swan-song match.

Still, Bobendrier was pleased with his performance at the ‘X,’ one that few predicted.

 “I came up here not in the rankings, so I was kind of under the radar,” he said. “No one really knew who I was so I focused on taking it one match at a time. I won that first one, and that was awesome, and I tried to keep that momentum and motivation going … a lot of fun.”

“I think he wrestled a better match against him than he did at sections, but we knew it was always going to be a tough match,” Pipestone Area head coach Brian Bos added. “We knew we had to wrestle our best match and sometimes even your best isn’t good enough to beat a kid. Obviously, the kid is a state place-winner on a state championship team; so, we had to find an extra gear today and just couldn’t quite find it.”

Bobendrier wrestled three matches on Friday to get to Championship Saturday, including a 6-3 opening-round victory over eighth-ranked (Guillotine, Feb. 10) Drew Lange of Holdingford. Mesmerizingly focused from the initial whistle, Bobendrier took it to the Husker grappler – scoring a takedown in each of the three periods to advance to the championship quarterfinals later in the evening. There, Bobendrier faced second-ranked Austin Kiecker, a BOLD sophomore, and gave him a good tussle. Despite only scoring a lone point on a penalty, Bobendrier was never out of the match, which ended in a 7-1 defeat for the Arrows senior.

ipestone Area senior Nate Bobendrier moves toward a reversal against Westfield Razorback grappler Cade Christianson in a 138-pound wrestleback match Friday night at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. K. Kyle

The loss put Bobendrier on the bubble, needing a wrestleback victory over Westfield Razorback junior Cade Christianson to continue his dream of becoming the Arrows’ latest state place-winner. Again, supremely poised, Bobendrier scored a takedown in each of the first two periods, before giving up a reversal in the third, to claim a 4-2 victory and … advance.

“Last night’s victory was huge and it gave me a chance to come back today,” Bobendrier said Saturday morning. “Even though I lost today, that match gave me a chance. It’s cool to be wrestling on Saturday.”

Unfortunately for the hard-nosed, lanky 138-pounder, his tournament and career ended that morning. Coach Bos was quick to put Bobendrier’s efforts into perspective, speaking directly.

“‘If I would have told you two years ago you’d be in this situation, you’d have said no way,’” he told Bobendrier. “I wish he could have reaped a little bit more of the reward of all his hard work. He earned some, but a little more would have been great.

“I told him he gave his mom and dad a heckuva of a ride the last couple of weeks, something they’d been looking forward to for a long time, so he fulfilled a lot of dreams and achieved a lot. Nate will look back on this fondly in the future and his name will be on the (wrestling room) wall, our state-qualifier board, forever.”

And that respect and admiration was returned by Bobendrier through a dry throat and teary eyes.

“I want to thank all the coaches I’ve had throughout the years, from when I was a little kid through Coach Bos, now,” he said. “I hope the little kids looked up to me as someone they want to take after. I put in my best effort all the time and hope I leave a lasting impression on a lot of people. Thank you to all my practice partners and everyone who has made an impact on my life. I hope everyone remembers I gave it my all and tried my best.”

For the Arrows’ 113-pound state qualifier, just being at the ‘X’ was sweet. Yet, his weekend ultimately proved bitter as well. 

Burmeister, too, was not expected to leave carnage in his wake – qualifying as the runner-up in the Section 3A tournament. Additionally, his challenge pitted him against second-ranked Zach Remer (44-3) of Mille Lacs in the opening round of the 113-pound bracket. 

Pipestone Area sophomore wrestler Brayden Burmeister goes head-to-head with second-ranked Zach Remer of Mille Lacs in the first period of the 113-pound MSHSL Class A state tournament opener Friday morning at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. RIGHT: Burmesiter looks to escape Remer’s grasp in the third period. K. Kyle

Although he was active throughout Friday morning’s tilt, Burmeister (35-8) couldn’t break through for a single point against the Raider freshman – suffering a 13-0 loss. The upside to the loss was another Remer victory, over Goodhue’s Ryan Bortz (36-6), would offer Burmeister a wrestleback and another opportunity to advance through the bracket.

However, as Burmesiter succinctly explained, Remer didn’t rise to the occasion.

“The Zach Remer I wrestled in the first round wasn’t the same Zach Remer who wrestled in the second round; he went from being an offensive wrestler to a defensive wrestler and there wasn’t anything I could do about it,” he said. 

“It was 0-0 until late in the third period; we didn’t expect that, I guess, thinking maybe he’d (Remer) wrestle a little bit better,” Bos added. “You have to get to the point where you don’t have to rely on someone else doing the work for you – gotta take care of your own business so you don’t have to worry about that. That’s what he’ll be working toward from this day forward until next year at this time.

“Hopefully, he’s just hungry enough to get back here, win a few matches and get himself up on the podium in the next couple of years. That’s what we’ll be looking forward to.”

Initially quite disappointed to exit the ‘X’ after one match and not scoring a point, the Arrow sophomore smiled and tried to look on the bright side of the event.

Pipestone Area senior wrestler Nate Bobendrier fends off Holdingford’s Drew Lange during his 138-pound opener at the MSHSL Class A state wrestling tournament Friday morning at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Bobendrier beat Lange 6-3. K. Kyle

“It’s a great feeling to be here and I’m glad I got to experience it, like the others on the (wrestling room) wall,” he said. “I am Bos’s 50th state qualifier, which is pretty cool, but it stinks my season had to end this way.

“I think working harder during the summer and in the off-season might have helped me here, so that will be something I focus on this year … this summer. I expect I’ll put on a few pounds of muscle, which means I’ll go up a weight class or two – definitely a little weight training involved. I’ll also work on conditioning; conditioning is pretty important, and I’ll try to get to some camps too.”

And Coach Bos is hoping all his returning grapplers will traverse a similar route, while he looks to either find or bring back wrestlers in the heavier weight class – with hopes of making a strong team run next winter.

“We need some big guys; we’ll be pretty salty all the way up to 182 pounds, but from 195-to-285 it would be nice to get some of those guys to come back out and contribute,” Bos said. “You challenge yourself in other things throughout the year why not wrestling … asking for just four months out of your life. I go to graduation parties and hear, ‘oh coach, I wish I had …;’ I know, don’t tell me that because I know. You’re the one who is going to regret it, not me. A couple of weeks into the season, I have to focus on that and can’t go out recruiting anymore and have to work with what we have.

“We were 12-10 without some of those heavier weights most of the year, hosted a section match and won a couple of tournaments – placed high in a bunch of others. The makings of a good team are there; so, hopefully, we can get that taken care of.”