If Jessie Tijerina’s fifth-place finish at the WIAA state individual wrestling meet last season didn’t cement his status as one of the best wrestlers in the state, his performance at the Bi-State Classic in La Crosse this past weekend probably should.
Tijerina, who was vying to win Portage’s first individual championship at the highly competitive holiday tournament since heavyweight Jake Hohlstein won the second of his back-to-back titles in 2008, came up one win short of that accomplishment. After rolling off five straight victories to reach the finals at 126 pounds, Tijerina lost a 7-2 decision to Reid Ballantyne of Stillwater, Minnesota, on Saturday night.
The loss for Tijerina was his first of the season, dropping him to 16-1 on the year, but his overall performance was the highlight of the weekend for the Warriors, who finished in 16th place out of 25 teams in Division 1 at one of the largest wrestling invites in the state.
Tijerina’s road to the finals included a pair of pins and a 7-0 victory in the preliminary rounds. In the quarterfinals, Tijerina picked up a 13-2 major decision over Seth Goetzinger of Chatfield, Minnesota. In the semifinals, Tijerina went against Gale-Ettrick-Trempeauleau/Melrose-Mindoro senior Julian Purney in a battle of undefeated wrestlers. It was Tijerina who remained undefeated, as he defeated Purney 7-5.
Tijernia wasn’t the only Portage wrestler to win some matches at the two-day meet. At 132 pounds, Portage freshman Lowell Arnold went 5-3 overall on his way to finishing in 10th place.
Arnold won his first two matches with a pin and 7-3 decision before losing a 11-4 decision to Lodi’s Garrett Moll. In the consolation rounds, Arnold won three of four matches, including a 7-3 decision over Maddox O’Reilly of Goodhue, Minnesota, which landed him in the ninth-place match. In the battle for ninth, Arnold lost a 7-5 decision to Marshfield’s Ryan Dolezal.
No other Portage wrestlers placed on Saturday, but freshman Chase Beckett scored seven points for the Warriors by going 2-2 at 106 pounds. Both of Beckett’s wins were pins. Also getting a pair of wins at the meet for Portage were Sam Bleich at 170 pounds and Isiah Miller at 285 pounds.
Moll went on to earn a runner-up finish for Lodi at 132 pounds, as the Blue Devils finished in ninth place out of 25 teams in Division 2.
Moll swept through the competition in the three preliminary rounds before a 15-6 major decision victory in the quarterfinals over Mason Enderlein of Eastview, Minnesota. In the semifinals, Moll was a 4-2 winner over Stratford’s Max Schwabe, but had his run end with a 12-7 loss to Stoughton’s Braeden Whitehead in the finals.
Moll was trying to become the second Lodi wrestler to win a Bi-State title, with the other being Skyler Kurt at 285 pounds in 2015. The loss dropped Moll to 21-3 on the season.
Also placing for Lodi at the meet was Chandler Curtis, who was sixth at 113 pounds. Curtis opened with a pair of pins and a major decision victory before pinning Riverdale’s Justice Dilley in the quarterfinals. Curtis’ quest for a title ended with a 6-2 loss to Pulaski’s Owen Heinz in the semifinals. He fell in the consolation finals before losing a 9-0 major decision to Viorqua’s Josh Frye in the fifth-place match.