Breen plays his part in Wagner’s three-peatWAGNER — One quarter of an inch. That’s exactly how far Wagner senior Mitch Breen said his shoulder was from getting pinned Saturday in the 140-pound state championship match in Sioux Falls. One quarter of an inch would have given Canton six points, bumping their point total to 139.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
WAGNER — One quarter of an inch.
That’s exactly how far Wagner senior Mitch Breen said his shoulder was from getting pinned Saturday in the 140-pound state championship match in Sioux Falls.
One quarter of an inch would have given Canton six points, bumping their point total to 139.
One quarter of an inch takes away the four points Breen got with his 7-5 win, dropping Wagner’s team score to 137.
One quarter of an inch takes away the Red Raiders’ three-peat.
“It’s crazy to think about,” Breen said. “It was one quarter of an inch. … I felt it hit once, but I knew if I got pinned there was no way our team could win the title.”
After taking a 3-2 lead into the second period, Breen was caught with his funky hips sliding a little too far out of position. With Canton’s Parker Swanson in complete control and in position to pin Breen, flashbacks of the 2009 state tournament buzzed through Wagner coach Ernie Valentine’s head.
As a junior, Breen was pinned in the 135-pound weight class by Tri-Valley’s Garret Heiberger.
“I was hoping he had the guts to get back out and get on top,” Valentine said. “I knew he had matured a lot since last year, and he proved us right and proved he was tough enough to gut it out and get one for the team.”
Instead, his reversal with about 10 seconds left in the second tied the match at 5, setting up two near-fall points in the third to win his first-ever state championship, 7-5.
For helping his team and scooting out of the thinnest of margins en route to a state championship, Breen has been named The Daily Republic’s player of the week. The award is a weekly award voted on by the newspaper’s sports staff.
“It’s simple; if he gets pinned, Canton wins,” Valentine said. “It changes everything.”
Before Saturday’s semifinal round, Valentine sat down and had a one-on-one, heart-to-heart talk with his senior wrestler, who had been a manager on the team since the third grade.
The two discussed the previous day’s 3-1 quarterfinal win and his importance in going after the team’s third straight championship.
“We were talking about how he’s been in this for 12 years and he had 12 minutes of wrestling left,” Valentine said. “He didn’t have a very good match in the quarters and he knew it. He wasn’t happy with the way he wrestled, and we thought he had more to give than that. We were just making sure he was ready to go that day.”
Added Breen: “I pretty much took it all to heart. I’ve been a manager and I’ve been in that practice room in the high school since the third grade. He told me it was my time and that I worked too hard and too long not to win.”
Apparently, it worked.
By staying out of the pin and earning the decision, Breen gave Wagner four team points to set up teammate Robert Kokesh’s pin.
The Red Raiders finished with 141 points to Canton’s 133.
Besides Alex Kocer’s 130-pound match, which Breen said helped fuel him into his championship match, Valentine said Breen’s hips helped him win his final career wrestling match.
“I have no idea where he got those from, but you can’t change a guy’s style,” Valentine said. “We’ve been trying to get him to wrestle with a little more control since he was a manager, but sometimes you can’t change it.”
At the state tournament, he also had a technical fall in the first round, the 3-1 win in the quarters and a 10-0 major decision in the semifinals.
Next year, though, he’ll be playing football.
Breen — who was a running back on Wagner’s football team that lost in the semifinals last fall — signed with the University of Sioux Falls earlier this year. Next year with the Cougars, Breen will focus solely on football.
His last wrestling match ever, he said, was Saturday’s state championship.
“It ended perfectly,” he said.