Dawson McGee at the State Wrestling Meet with coaches Gary Walworth (left) and Colby Marich.

Chalk it up to COVID-19 restrictions or a bad draw as Dawson McGee faced off with the best 113-pound wrestler in the state in his first match at the State Tournament held Saturday in St. Michael-Albertville.

McGee and the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley-Nevis coaching staff was hoping the Nevis sophomore would build on last year’s experience at State, but McGee lost both matches this year.

In his first 113-pound match, McGee faced Hudson Burnett of Pipestone Area and lost 15-4. Burnett would go on to win his next two matches and the Class A State Title.

Up next was Gavin Albers of Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, who beat McGee 8-2. Albers went on to take fifth place, besting Zach Ikola of Deer River, who was the Section 7A 113-pound champ the week before.

It was the second year in a row that McGee made it to State. Last year he lost his opening match 4-2 and was out when that opponent lost his next match.

After winning his final three matches to take true-second at the Section 7A and 8A State Preliminaries March 20, McGee appeared to be peaking.

“We kind of lost the battle on our feet in both matches. Neither opponent had a lot of riding time, and Burnett did have some back points, but Dawson just couldn’t get any take downs,” Coach Colby Marich said. “We’re disappointed in the result, but not with getting down there.”

Marich said McGee has already set some goals for next season that include going out for cross-country, and focusing on what he can do over the next several months to return to State for the third straight year.

“It’s great that Dawson has set some goals, and I’m happy he’s focused on what he needs to do to get better,” the coach added.

COVID-19 guidelines made it a lack-luster and frustrating tournament for a lot of the competitors. Sparring partners and managers were not allowed to accompany teams. Wrestlers and coaching staffs were not allowed to watch any other matches, there were no awards ceremonies or photos taken on the podium, and only a limited number of reporters and photographers were allowed to attend. Many state newspapers were denied credentials for the State Tournament.

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