John's Journal
Wrestling State Championship Matches Are Set2/28/2015
Tonight’s championship matches are set at the MSHSL state wrestling tournament. Third- and fifth-place matches will begin at 4:30 p.m, followed by title matches in all three classes at 7 p.m. Here are the championship matchups…

CLASS 1A
106/ Jake Nohre, West Central, vs. Ethan Cota, Kenyon-Wanamingo
113/ Noah Bauer, Pine Island, vs. Tanner Pasvogel, Sibley East
120/ Tanner Reetz, Frazee, vs. Michael Suda, Pipestone
126/ Cameron Sykora, Border West, vs. Austin Anderly, LeSueur-Henderson
132/ Blane Tschida, Kimball, vs. Louie Sanders, Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial
138/ Ryan Keach, Dover-Eyota, vs. Quinten Berres, Kimball
145/ Jared Willaby, Windom/Mountain Lake, vs. Hank Friederichs, Chatfield
152/ Dietrich Balsbaugh, Trinity, vs. Shane Siewert, Lake City
160/ Paden Moore, Jackson County Central, vs. Brad Kroll, Royalton-Upsala
170/ Gage Thom, St. Clair/Mankato Loyola, vs. Luke Nordland, Jackson County Central
182/ Keegan Moore, Jackson County Central, vs. Jake Wentzlaff, Sibley East
195/ Garrett Pemelton, DGF, vs. Nathan Brinker, Holdingford
220/ Dillon Card, Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale, vs. Manuel Garcia, BOLD
285/ Garrett Malstrom, Frazee, vs. Logan Nibbe, Prairie Valley

CLASS 2A
106/ Kyle Cavanaugh, Caledonia, vs. Josh Tarum, St. Thomas Academy
113/ Keaton Schorr, Kasson-Mantorville, vs. Jake Gliva, Simley
120/ Garrett Aldrich, Albert Lea, vs. Tyler Wagener, Waconia
126/ Tanner Vassar, Annandale/Maple Lake, vs. Paul Fitterer, Cannon Falls
132/ David Flynn, Scott West, vs. Jackson Sweeney, Watertown-Mayer/Mayer Lutheran
138/ Treyton Austvold, New London-Spicer, vs. Seoulec Gunvalson, Benilde-St. Margaret’s
145/ Griffin Parriott, New Prague, vs. Cody Ferris, Becker
152/ Devin Fitzpatrick, Mahtomedi, vs. Brady Berge, Kasson-Mantorville
160/ Andrew Fogarty, Scott West, vs. Nick Green, Waconia
170/ Carter Nielsen, Foley, vs. Jared Florell, Totino-Grace
182/ Jackson Striggow, Orono, vs. Isaac Florell, Totino-Grace
195/ Lance Benick, Totino-Grace, vs. Carson Hagen, Worthington
220/ Jack Ryan, Simley, vs. Kevin Kneisl, Delano
285/ James Huwe, Detroit Lakes, vs. Brent Riddle, Monticello

CLASS 3A
106/ Peyton Robb, Owatonna, vs. Victor Gliva, Farmington
113/ Tyler Eischens, Anoka, vs. Rylee Molitor, Sartell-St. Stephen
120/ Jamin LeDuc, Farmington, vs. Brent Jones, Shakopee
126/ Mitchell McKee, St. Michael-Albertville, vs. George Farmah, Eastview
132/ Austin Brenner, St. Cloud Tech, vs. Adam Hedin, Rosemount
138/ Ben Brancale, Eden Prairie, vs. Jake Allar, St. Michael-Albertville
145/ James Pleski, Forest Lake, vs. Miles Patton, Rochester Mayo
152/ Brady Nelson, Rochester Mayo, vs. Lucas Jeske, St. Michael-Albertville
160/ Matt Njos, Anoka, vs. Lucas Westrich, Lakeville North
170/ Evan Ronsen, St. Michael-Albertville, vs. Mark Hall, Apple Valley
182/ Jordan Joseph, St. Michael-Albertville, vs. Luke Dodd, Eastview
195/ Tristyn Hanson, Lakeville North, vs. Bobby Steveson, Apple Valley
220/ Jake Briggs, St. Michael-Albertville, vs. Gable Steveson, Apple Valley
285/ Jon Ziedler, Lakeville South, vs. Alex Hart, Prior Lake

The Hall Of Champions Adds Title Number Five 2/28/2015
Mark Hall is probably the biggest name in Minnesota high school wrestling, and the spotlight on the Apple Valley junior will only grow in the next 12 months.

Hall won the Class 3A title at 170 pounds Saturday night, capturing his fifth state championship at Xcel Energy Center and joining an elite club. Border West senior Cameron Sykora also joined the five-crown club with a title at 126 in Class 1A; he and Hall are only the fifth and sixth wrestlers to win five.

Next season Hall (pictured in gold) will have an opportunity to break new ground and become the state’s first six-time champion. That’s probably a pretty safe bet, too, considering that he hasn’t lost a high school match since his ninth-grade year.

Hall’s gold-medal victory Saturday came with a second-period pin against St. Michael-Albertville junior Evan Ronsen. Long before title No. 5 was in sight, however, he was being asked about being a six-time champion.

“All the time. It’s endless,” he said of the topic. “First and foremost, to be in this position is a blessing for me and my family. The way I respond to those people is I have to win my fifth one before I can win my sixth one. I have to stay focused, I can only win the state title that’s in front of me; I can’t go for my sixth state title this year. I’ll wait until next year for that.”

Hall said it can be difficult to maintain a one-match-at-a-time attitude, especially away from the wrestling room and wrestling season.

“It’s really hard. It’s really important for me to keep wrestling hard and keep a good mindset, not get off track and stay motivated. It can be hard; summer comes along, spring break, stuff like that. It’s hard to stay focused. But if I can keep wrestling one match at a time, that’s the most important thing.”

--Sykora defeated Austin Anderly of LeSueur-Henderson 4-3 in the championship match, ending Anderly’s quest for a third state title.

FOUR TIMES THE GOLD

Totino-Grace senior Lance Benick ended his high school career with his fourth state title, taking home a gold medal at 195 pounds in Class 2A. He beat undefeated wrestlers in his final two matches, outscoring Wyatt Richardson of Grand Meadow 13-1 in the semifinals and Carson Hagen of Worthington 17-7 in the title round. Benick finished the season with a 42-0 record and celebrating by performing a cartwheel and back flip on the mat.

Benick said his tournament experience has changed over the years.

“My freshman and sophomore years I was a little bit nervous, but now I’m taking it all in, spending as much time here as I can and making the most of it, just trying to remember it,” said Benick, who will wrestle at Arizona State University.

Jim Richardson, Wyatt’s father and the Grand Meadow coach, said there is no easy way to prepare for or compete against Benick.

“He’s so explosive in all areas. You have to try to turn it into a Greco match, and we got out of our stance twice and it was two takedowns, it was as simple as that. And that’s why he’s the best in the country and that’s why he’s a great wrestler and a great kid.”

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--Two Class 1A seniors won their third state titles: Louie Sanders (132) of Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial and Quinten Berres (138) of Kimball. Brady Berge of Kasson-Mantorville (152) did the same in Class 2A.

--St. Michael-Albertville and Apple Valley each won three state titles in Class 3A, as did Jackson County Central did the same in Class 1A.

--Sight of the day: Lucas Westrich of Lakeville North noticed a contact lens slipping out of place during his semifinal match at 3A 152. During a stoppage, he handed the lens to one of his coaches, who placed it inside an overturned water bottle cap, poured a little water over it and set it on the floor.

--Total attendance over the three days of the tournament was 49,218.

HERE ARE THE 2015 STATE CHAMPIONS

106 State Champions
1A/ Ethan Cota, Kenyon-Wanamingo
2A/ Josh Tarum, St. Thomas Academy
3A/ Peyton Robb, Owatonna

113 State Champions
1A/ Noah Bauer, Pine Island
2A/ Keaton Schorr, Kasson-Mantorville
3A/ Rylee Molitor, Sartell-St. Stephen

120 State Champions
1A/ Tanner Reetz, Frazee
2A/ Garrett Aldrich, Albert Lea
3A/ Brent Jones, Shakopee

126 State Champions
1A/ Cameron Sykora, Border West
2A/ Paul Fitterer, Cannon Falls
3A/ Mitchell McKee, St. Michael-Albertville

132 State Champions
1A/ Louie Sanders, Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial
2A/ David Flynn, Scott West
3A/ Adam Hedin, Rosemount

138 State Champions
1A/ Quinten Berres, Kimball
2A/ Treyton Austvold, New London-Spicer
3A/ Ben Brancale, Eden Prairie

145 State Champions
1A/ Hank Friederichs, Chatfield
2A/ Griffin Parriott, New Prague
3A/ James Pleski, Forest Lake

152 State Champions
1A/ Shane Siewert, Lake City
2A/ Brady Berge, Kasson-Mantorville
3A/ Lucas Jeske, St. Michael-Albertville

160 State Champions
1A/ Paden Moore, Jackson County Central
2A/ Andrew Fogarty, Scott West
3A/ Matt Njos, Anoka

170 State Champions
1A/ Luke Norland, Jackson County Central
2A/ Carter Nielsen, Foley
3A/ Mark Hall, Apple Valley

182 State Champions
1A/ Keegan Moore, Jackson County Central
2A/ Jackson Striggow, Orono
3A/ Jordan Joseph, St. Michael-Albertville

195 State Champions
1A/ Nathan Brinker, Holdingford
2A/ Lance Benick, Totino-Grace
3A/ Bobby Steveson, Apple Valley

220 State Champions
1A/ Manuel Garcia, BOLD
2A/ Jack Ryan, Simley
3A/ Gable Steveson, Apple Valley

285 State Champions
1A/ Garrett Malstrom, Frazee
2A/ Brent Riddle, Monticello
3A/ Alex Hart, Prior Lake

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 396
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 7,785
Going For Five Titles With A Reminder From Twitter 2/27/2015
Cameron Sykora is a confident wrestler, and with plenty of reason. The senior from Border West is hoping to become Minnesota’s fifth five-time state wrestling champion, and positive thinking is part of the plan.

Sykora first qualified for state as an eighth-grader and has taken home a gold medal in every appearance. Even though he’s now a veteran, he said his attitude is exactly the same as it was five years ago.

“It’s really the same mindset,” he said. “I always believe I can beat anyone.”

He opened the 2015 state tournament Friday with a technical fall over St. Charles junior Alan Spaeth and defeated Osakis junior Brendan Coyer 10-0 in the quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center. His opponent in Saturday’s semifinals will be Kyle Hennen of Minneota; the big name on the other side of the bracket is two-time state champion Austin Anderly, a senior from LeSueur-Henderson.

“I feel good, my conditioning’s good,” Sykora said. “It’s time to peak right now. It’s time to peak.”

The previous five-time champions were Matt Nagel of Frazee (1997-2001), Eric Sanders of Wabasha-Kellogg (1999-2003), Zach Sanders of Wabasha-Kellogg (2003-2007) and Destin McCauley of Apple Valley (2006-2008, 2010-11).

Current Apple Valley junior Mark Hall could become the state’s first six-time state champ; he already is a four-time champ and will shoot for No. 5 Saturday.

Sykora’s biggest victory this season came in the January Rumble on the Red tournament in Fargo, N.D., when he defeated four-time Montana state champion Gresh Jones, who will continue his career at the University of Minnesota.

But that’s not to say that Sykora’s confidence wasn’t already on a high level. Ever since his ninth-grader year, his Twitter username has been @cam5xtimer.

“It’s something to remind me of my goal every day,” said Sykora, who will wrestle at South Dakota State. “It provides a little motivation.”

GIVING IT ALL YOU’VE GOT … TEETH INCLUDED

St. Michael-Albertville junior Mitchell McKee’s mouth was bleeding after Friday’s semifinals in Class 3A at 126 pounds. McKee had just posted a convincing 13-1 victory over Lakeville North sophomore Wade Sullivan in a matchup of defending state champs.

But he was bleeding and he was a little upset. Not so much about the blood, however. McKee was hoping to break the school record for single-season pins, and he had Sullivan on his back for the final seconds of the match. He has 36 pins this season; the school record is 38, which he can tie with pins in Saturday’s two matches.

But what about the blood?

“Last summer I had two root canals and I just smashed them on that last takedown,” McKee said. “So that kind of hurt and they started bleeding. Other than that, I feel good after two matches. I guess it’s nice to get a full match there because I haven’t had a full match since The Clash (on Jan. 3).”

McKee is ranked No. 1 in his weight class and Sullivan is No. 2 But that doesn’t mean McKee is now looking past his opponents.

“Anybody can beat anybody at the state tournament,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re No. 1, No. 5, No. 10, it doesn’t matter. I still have to keep wrestling tough, no matter what.”

--Forest Lake senior James Pleski, top-ranked at 145 in 3A, might have had the toughest route to the semifinals. He beat second-ranked Taylor Venz of Farmington in the first round and third-ranked Brock Morgan in the quarterfinals. The win over Morgan came in four overtimes.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 396
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 7,745
Getting To State Is A Triumph In Itself 2/26/2015
The state wrestling tournament is a hotbed of enthusiasm, with large crowds inhabiting Xcel Energy Center and cheering their boys through three days of intense competition. Thursday was devoted to team matches, with three rounds of duals to determine state champs; individual matches will be the flavor Friday and Saturday.

The first teams to exit the building and begin thinking about next year are those that lose in the quarterfinals and then fall again in the first round of consolation matches. Those matches can sometimes be lopsided, but the experience of wrestling in the big house in downtown St. Paul pays dividends long afterwards.

“We’ve been here four of the last six years,” said White Bear Lake coach Craig Nasvik. “It’s a great accomplishment to be here, but for a lot of our kids it was a first-time experience for them. So it’s a situation that opens up a lot of eyes when you get here, and the experience of being here says a lot.”

The Bears lost to top-seeded Apple Valley 64-6 in Thursday’s Class 3A quarterfinals, then lost to Farmington 38-20 in the consolation bracket.

“As a team your ultimate goal is to be here and be in the conversation as one of eight teams,” Nasvik said. “And when you get here, there aren’t any slouches. You’ve got eight teams that deserve the opportunity to be here. We had a lot of veterans in this group, but only one who was involved the other three times we went to state.”

Centennial was in a similar position, losing to Willmar 38-24 and Moorhead 38-26. Cougars coach John Bergeland said the experience is what matters.

“Part of being part of a team is knowing that you have a contribution to make. And that is something we try to sell all year long,” he said. “Every person matters. Every time you step on the mat you are capable of winning. You are capable of doing something that helps the team, whether that’s lose in a close match, lose small, don’t get that big fall. Everybody matters.

“If you only wrestle with your individuals who qualify, you wouldn’t be much of a team. You see that with teams who don’t get here; they might have five state place-winners but they’re not here as a team.”

And even for the teams that went two and out Thursday, next season is on a lot of minds.

“Some of them are hungry,” Bergeland said. “Once you’re at state with some of your classmates coming to watch you and you don’t get what you want; it forces them to consider whether or not they’re going to have enough fuel in the offseason to go and do something.”

Thursday’s Team Wrestling Results

CLASS 1A
Championship: Minneota 31, Zumbrota-Mazeppa 30
Third place: Jackson County Central 40, Frazee 31
Fifth place: Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial 40, West Central 17

CLASS 2A
Championship: Simley 34, Albert Lea 21
Third place: Scott West 42, Totino-Grace 31
Fifth place: Perham 30, Foley 26

CLASS 3A
Championship: Apple Valley 36, St Michael-Albertville 30
Third place: Prior Lake 46, Willmar 20
Fifth place: Moorhead 33, Farmington 29

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 396
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 7,705
A Dance Routine, Gymnastics Teams And A Wedding Proposal2/24/2015
Jeremy Torkildson was a man with a plan. All he needed was an engagement ring, some Valentine’s Day secrecy and the assistance of 10 high school gymnastics teams to pull it off.

Jeremy, an assistant gymnastics coach at Columbia Heights High School, knew he was going to propose to head coach Jolene Miske. They have been together for more than eight years, they have three children and he had been developing his proposal plan for a couple of months.

“I played it in my head a thousand times beforehand,” he said. The plan went like this…

1) Have his gymnasts practice a dance routine to the song “Marry You” by Bruno Mars.

“On Wednesdays she coaches park and rec in Columbia Heights, and I was supposed to be weight training with the girls,” Jeremy said. “Well, we were practicing the dance, of course.”

2) Shoot a video of his team doing the dance, then send the video to the other teams who would be competing in the Class A, Section 4 meet at Roseville High School on Valentine’s Day so they could practice it.

3) Cross your fingers.

It went off pretty darn well. As you can see on the YouTube video, the Columbia Heights gymnasts left the bleachers during the break before awards and began dancing on the floor. That’s not odd; gymnasts like to have fun during such breaks.

Jolene was sitting at a table near the balance beam, with a scoreboard partially blocking her view of the dancers. One by one, other teams came on the floor and joined the party. Jolene began thinking something was up.

“All of a sudden I realized, ‘There are girls dancing. Did I miss a memo?’ Then I realized what was going on and I thought, ‘Oh no, he didn’t.’

“It was perfect. When my girls know the choreography, I was like, ‘OK, they put this together. Something’s in the works.’ ”

Near the end of the song, the girls parted and Jeremy came walking through the middle of the pack. He approached Jolene, got down on one knee and – as wedding bells ring in the song – he popped the question. Kisses, hugs and cheering from the gymnasts. Perfect.

“It’s teenage girls,” Jeremy said. “Throw some music on and they can wing it. The first time we ever practiced they did the dance and I was like, ‘That was perfect.’

“We basically had a song played beforehand to give everybody a warning, and the rest of it was kind of, ‘Here we go.’ I was hiding under a table behind them and I had a little hole poked. I couldn’t miss it, I wanted to see it, too. I didn’t want to wait to see the video.”

Jolene said, “It was crazy. I was in shock because we’ve been together for eight and a half years. It was like it was never going to happen. And then here we are at sections with the two things that I completely love in my life, gymnastics and him.”

The tentative wedding date is July 16, 2016.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 372
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 7,665