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Bi-State: Burns, VanMaanen to meet in semis

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Nick Burns knows of Jaden VanMaanen. He has for years.

But the Aquinas High School senior will get a close look at the Central freshman this morning in a 106-pound semifinal match at the Bi-State Classic.

At stake is a chance to wrestle on a stage in the middle of the La Crosse Center this evening and win a tournament that both have always deemed important.

“I’ve been around him a lot in youth wrestling, but he’s always been smaller than me,” Burns said with a smile. “Now, he’s up to my size, so we’ll see what happens.”

Both were impressive in Friday’s first four rounds, and each will bring a different perspective to the semifinal round, which begins at 9:30 a.m. today.

The winner wrestles for a chance to compete in the championship session at 4:35 p.m. today, and that would be a first for both.

Burns (12-2) brings with him the high school experience of a fourth-place finish in last season’s WIAA state meet.

VanMaanen (20-0) has wrestled in plenty of big youth tournaments, but this will be his biggest match in a venue he has always respected.

“It’s a lot more fun to wrestle here than to watch it,” VanMaanen said after recording a 4-3 quarterfinal victory over Two Rivers sophomore Paul Bianchi, a fifth-place Division 2 state finisher at 106 last year.

VanMaanen recorded the winning escape with about 30 seconds left and fought off Bianchi’s attempt at a takedown the rest of the way.

Burns closed out his first day with a third-period pin of Caledonia’s Kyle Cavanaugh. He also pinned his first opponent and beat the next two by a combined score of 18-8.

“I thought having good movement was important today,” Burns said. “Moving my feet well and getting takedowns helped me a lot.”

VanMaanen is part of a youth movement at Central and was one of five Red Raiders to qualify for the quarterfinal round. Three of them were freshmen.

No other local team had as many quarterfinalists. Holmen and Caledonia’s co-op program had four each. Holmen leads the way with three semifinalists.

“We talked about wanting to get these five guys to the quarters and see what happened,” said Central coach Kevin Colburn, who won a 160-pound Bi-State championship for Aquinas in 1988. “I thought it would be a challenge to do that, but I thought they had a chance.”

Three-time champion Ben Thornton (20-0, 120), junior Josh Kuhse (18-2, 113), freshman Jake Obert (16-4, 126) and freshman Connor Williams (17-3, 152) all joined VanMaanen in the quarterfinals. Thornton joins him in the semifinals.

Logan had quarterfinalists in Nick Houlihan (11-2, 120) and Calvin Wright (10-3, 220), but both continue in consolation brackets today.

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