By JOHN MILLEA, Star Tribune
LUVERNE, MINN. " Saturday was a big day for high school wrestling across Minnesota, as section tournaments determined the 672 individuals who will compete at this week's state tournament.
For 671 of them, advancing to state is a major accomplishment. For one of them, it is history.
Elissa Reinsma, a pony-tailed 103-pound sophomore from Fulda/Murray County Central, became the first female qualifier in the 72-year history of the state tournament Saturday. She placed second in the Class 2A, Section 3 tournament at Luverne High School and will take a record of 32-8 to the state tournament, which begins Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
She will join her brother Justin, a senior 130-pounder, in St. Paul. Justin, who has finished fifth in Class 2A twice, will compete at state for the fifth time.
Elissa said she has been dreaming about the state tournament for four years, beginning when she made her first trip to cheer for Justin in St. Paul.
"I went up to watch him and said, 'That's where I want to be,''' she said Saturday.
Both Reinsmas were seeded first in the section tournament, which began Friday night. After receiving a first-round bye, Elissa won her only Friday match by a score of 9-6. On Saturday she pulled out a 2-1 semifinal victory over ninth-grader John Weeding of Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd and lost to second-seeded Adrian ninth-grader Nate Lynn 4-3 in the championship round. The top two wrestlers at each weight class advance to state.
Reinsma and Lynn have met five times this season, with Reinsma winning three times. In Saturday's match, Lynn went ahead 2-0 with a first-period takedown, a reversal by Reinsma made it 2-2 in the second period, Lynn scored a reversal for a 4-2 lead in the third period and Reinsma finished the scoring with an escape at the 40-second mark.
Lynn, who also will make his first trip to state, said, "Once you're out there you try not to think about it, and act like it's a guy you're wrestling. She's really quick and good on her feet."
Wearing a black T-shirt under her singlet and tucking her shoulder-length hair into a tight cap under her headgear, Reinsma was a model of efficient wrestling. With long arms and an aggressive style, she accomplished what she came so close to last season. She placed third in the 2008 section tournament.
Reinsma, who is ranked No. 7 in her 2A weight class by The Guillotine wrestling publication, has a pedigree in the sport. Her grandfather, Clet Blegens, is a former head wrestling coach at Slayton High School (which is now Murray County Central). He was in the stands Saturday to watch his granddaughter make history.
Elissa has a twin brother, Matt, and a younger brother, Mitch; they both play basketball.
Now in her third year as a varsity wrestler, Reinsma also plays volleyball and softball. She made what might have been the biggest decision of her athletic career in junior high. She almost went out for basketball, but chose wrestling instead.
And the rest, now, is history.