OSSEO — Hogan Chouinard’s inaugural trip to the sectional meet was all too brief.
The Glenwood City junior and the Hilltoppers’ lone competitor in last Saturday’s 2015 WIAA Division 3 Individual Sectional Wrestling Tournament lost by pin in his opening match at 220 pounds to end his and the Toppers’ mat seasons.
The loss, however, did not diminish Chouinard’s achievements this season, which included a 28-14 record and second and fourth place finishes at the regional and Big Rivers/Dunn-St. Croix Conference meets, respectively.
“Hogan had a very good season,” Glenwood City head coach Shane Strong said. “He didn’t come out for wrestling until his freshman season and we have seen continuous improvement every year. The coaches and I were very proud of him.”
Chouinard and his coaches knew that he had to be wary of his first-round sectional opponent – Austin Knopps of Whitehall.
Strong said that while watching tape of Knopps, he noted that the Whitehall sophomore relied on a particular move to pin most of his opponents throughout the season. Strong said that Chouinard prepared the entire week to stay clear of positions that would offer Knopps the chance to use that move.
But even the best laid plans do not always work.
Despite doing his best, Chouinard was quickly caught in Knopps’ move midway through the second period and pinned at 3:10. Chouinard never got a chance to redeem himself as he was eliminated after Knopps lost to eventual champion Ben Stone of Cumberland in the next round.
Knopps scored a takedown and a 2-0 lead in the first period. But Chouinard was able to escape before the period ended. The Whitehall wrestler added an escape of his own to open the second but Chouinard came back with a takedown to knot the match.
That is when things went upside down.
Before Chouinard knew what was happening, Knopps had reversed him to his back and scored the pin.
Just that quickly, the 2014-15 wrestling season was over for both Chouinard and the Hilltoppers.
“I believe Hogan will get even better because he is willing to put the work in,” added Strong.
But in order to improve as individuals and a team, Strong said that the Hilltoppers must get stronger.
“Right now our main focus is improving our strength overall as a team,” said Strong. “It was very evident this year that we were not physically strong enough to compete at a high level.”
The mission this off season for Chouinard and his teammates will be to continue to improve on the mat and gain strength off of it.