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.”
--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