John's Journal
Park Rapids' Ashton Clark: Perseverance, Dedication, Commitment3/2/2019
Saturday night was special at Xcel Energy Center. The final matches of the high school wrestling season, in which individual state champions are crowned, are always held in a joyous, raucous setting, with gold medals being awarded in front of cheering crowds.

High school wrestling careers sometimes end quietly, too.

Ashton Clark, a senior from Park Rapids, was hoping to go out on top. He placed second in Class 2A as a sophomore and junior and came to the 2019 state tournament in the 120-pound class with dreams of a first-place finish. That dream was dashed when he lost an opening-round match on Friday morning in the most dramatic way possible.

As the match was winding down, Clark held a 4-0 lead over Spencer Ruedy of Mankato East. With less than 10 seconds remaining, Ruedy scored a reversal and a three-point near fall to win the match 5-4. Clark, in his fifth trip to state, was done.

But the story, the story that really matters, the story that says so much about the young man, is how he made it back to state when it seemed impossible.

Ashton (pictured in the top position in this photo) suffered a broken leg on Jan. 5 while wrestling in the championship match at a tournament in Ogilvie. He won that match, despite a broken bone just above the ankle. Doctors told him his wrestling season was over.

He wasn't hearing it.

"I didn't really want to think about it," he said. "I tried to think about other things."

Things like rehabbing his injury. Things like staying in condition. Things like doing everything in his power to be ready for the Section 8 individual section tournament.

He had a couple of important people in his corner. Matt Clark is the Park Rapids wrestling coach and Angel Clark is the school's athletic trainer. They also are Ashton's parents.

"If you would have asked me a month ago, I would have been very, very surprised (to see Ashton at state)," said Matt. "But knowing everything he did, there are not many kids who would do that or could do that. He's a strong young kid."

His leg and foot were never put in a cast; Ashton had a walking boot and crutches at first. He ditched the crutches after a while and was able to remove the boot at times. Angel helped her son by first using the RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. "We talked about how we were going to do everything perfectly," she said. "I've looked at fractures like this and they don't come back like that."

Three weeks after the injury, a doctor looked at a fresh X-ray and was astounded. "He said, 'Oh my God. Wow, this looks super good,' " Angel recalled. "We were like, 'Oh thank God.' Then he turned to Ashton and said, 'What kind of chance do you have to make it to state?' We said, 'Well, this would be his fifth time.' "

The Clarks asked a custodian at the school to remove the left pedal from a stationary bike so Ashton could ride it for conditioning. He did work in the swimming pool.

"That's discipline," Angel said. "A part of me thinks that Ashton was coming back and he knew it. He's so, so disciplined."

The news kept getting better as the section tournament got closer.

"The first time we went to the doctor he said there wasn't much of a chance," Ashton said. "The second time he said we were a week or two ahead of schedule, and to keep doing what we were doing. The third time he said it was going to be ready."

He finished his high school wrestling career with a record of 161-22. What matters much more than how it ended, however, is what he accomplished along the way, and how he finished. With perseverance, dedication and commitment.

--Simley senior Daniel Kerkvliet won the Class 2A state title at heavyweight Saturday night, becoming the 20th wrestler in Minnesota history with four championships.

Wrestling State Champions

Class 1A

106/ Drayden Morton, Sibley East

113/ Charley Elwood, Medford

120/ Jeron Matson, Kenyon-Wanamingo

126/ Brett Willaby, Windom-Mountain Lake

132/ Jackson Hale, Grand Meadow/LeRoy-Ostrander/Southland

138/ Mark Buringa, St. Charles

145/ Kyle Cavanaugh, Caledonia/Houston

152/ Seth Brossard, Kenyon-Wanamingo

160/ Tyler Ryan, Kenyon-Wanamingo

170/ Tyson Meyer, Minnewaska

182/ Jaden Kindopp, Canby

195/ Michael Nelson, Dover-Eyota

220/ Dominik Vacura, Badger/Greenbush-Middle River

285/ Craig Orlando, Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale/Parkers Prairie

Class 2A

106/ Mason Gelhoff, Waseca

113/ Joey Thompson, Totino-Grace

120/ Chase DeBlaere, Simley

126/ Jake Svihel, Totino-Grace

132/ Ryan Sokol, Simley

138/ Tyler Shackle, Scott West

145/ Carlos Ruffo, Kasson-Mantorville

152/ Tim Stapleton, Waconia

160/ Bennett Berge, Kasson-Mantorville

170/ Isaiah Thompson, Detroit Lakes

182/ Patrick Kennedy, Kasson-Mantorville

195/ Ty Moser, Perham

220/ Danny Striggow, Orono

285/ Daniel Kerkvliet, Simley

Class 3A

106/ Pierson Manville, Shakopee

113/ Paxton Creese, Shakopee

120/ Derrick Cardinal, Forest Lake

126/ Reid Ballantyne, Stillwater

132/ Trayton Anderson, Northfield

138/ Sebas Swiggum, Apple Valley

145/ Cael Carlson, Willmar

152/ Willie Bastyr, Lakeville South

160/ Gabe Nagel, Little Falls

170/ Riley Habisch, Buffalo

182/ Zach Glazier, Albert Lea

195/ Calvin Sund, Prior Lake

220/ Ezayah Oropeza, Rosemount

285/ Bryce Benhart, Lakeville North

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Tuffy From Grand Rapids: 56 Years Of State Wrestling3/1/2019
Hardly anybody calls Tuffy Hoard by his given name. The longtime Grand Rapids assistant wrestling coach's real name is Laverne, which is a fine name. But ever since his cousins started calling him Tuffy when he was just a little sprout in Grand Rapids nearly seven decades ago, he has been known as Tuffy.

When the late Skip Nalan, Grand Rapids' Hall of Fame wrestling coach, first laid eyes on Hoard he asked, "Who is that little guy?" The answer: "That's Tuffy."

The name was fitting. Hoard was small, weighing only 75 pounds when he wrestled in the 95-pound division as a ninth-grader in 1963. He was only 90 pounds when he graduated in 1966. But boy, could he wrestle.

Tuffy was the first four-time Region 7 champ, meaning he wrestled at state four times. He finished third at state as a junior and second as a senior.

"When you don't finish first it bugs you," he said this week. "You always remember that one."

The 1963 state tournament was held in St. Peter, the 1964 event in Mankato and in 1965 and 1966 at Williams Arena. The current location, of course, is Xcel Energy Center and Tuffy, 70, is back at state this week, 56 years after his first appearance. Along with Grand Rapids head coach Mike Schauer and fellow assistants Jackson Schauer and Roy Peterson, the Thunderhawks were represented on the mat in Class 2A by three wrestlers: Connor Wakefield at 113 pounds, Kellen Schauer at 145 and Brendin Morian at 152.

Wakefield and Morian were eliminated with opening-round losses Friday but Schauer is one of the favorites, coming to state with a record of 51-0. He pinned Jan Soto-Henderson of Minneapolis Patrick Henry in Friday's opening round and defeated Sean Howk of New Ulm 2-1 in the quarterfinals. Schauer will meet Tucker Gifferson of Hutchinson in Saturday's semifinals, hoping to advance to the championship round Saturday night.

During Tuffy's four years wrestling at state in a single-class tournament, the team champions were Hopkins, Mankato, Cooper and Albert Lea. Grand Rapids has sent teams to state 13 times with 2A runner-up finishes in 1977 and 1987. The Thunderhawks were at the team state tournament in 2017 and 2018 before losing to Mora in this year's Section 7 finals.

"I'm not positive but I believe every year since wrestling started here in 1952 we've probably had individuals in the state tournament every year," Hoard said. "The team has gone for quite a few years, we're always in the running."

After graduating from Grand Rapids High School, Tuffy was drafted and served in Vietnam. Afterwards he returned to his hometown and has never left, working as a carpenter and in construction.

Wrestling was always part of his life, it seems.

"I got the opportunity to help coach and started out at the grade school," he said, "then junior high, then high school, boy probably in the early to middle '80s."

When Grand Rapids activities director Anne Campbell asked Tuffy to sit still last week for a photo (seen above) and a Tweet commemorating his long ties with the state tournament, he said OK but he wouldn't smile because, he told her, "wrestlers don't smile." (Here's a secret: Tuffy smiles a lot.)

"Oh my gosh," Campbell said. "He is the legend of Grand Rapids wrestling. He's been here forever and the kids love him. "He's just unbelievable. He cares about the kids and they love him, they work hard for him. He's a huge asset to our program."

Tournaments Tidbits

Eighteen returning state champions qualified for the 2019 tournament and all 18 advanced through Friday's first two rounds of competition. Semifinals will be held during Saturday's first session, which begins at 9:30 a.m. The final session, featuring fifth-place, third-place and championship matches, will begin at 4 p.m.

Class 1A returning champions

120/ Jeron Matson, Kenyon-Wanamingo
145/ Kyle Cavanaugh, Caledonia/Houston
182/ Jaden Kindopp, Canby
285/ Craig Orlando, Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale/Parkers Prairie

Class 2A returning champions
113/ Joey Thompson, Totino-Grace
113/ Maxwell Petersen, Byron
120/ Jaxson Rohman, Fairmont/Martin Co. West
126/ Mitchel Petersen, Byron
160/ Bennett Berge, Kasson-Mantorville
160/ Cade Mueller, Waconia
170/ Isaiah Thompson, Detroit Lakes
182/ Patrick Kennedy, Kasson-Mantorville
285/ Daniel Kerkvliet, Simley

Class 3A returning champs
120/ Derrick Cardinal, Forest Lake
126/ Reid Ballantyne, Stiillwater
145/ Cael Carlson, Willmar
182/ Zach Glazier, Albert Lea
182/ Cade King, Owatonna

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Team State Wrestling Champions Crowned2/28/2019
Team State Wrestling Tournament

Class 1A

Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove 49, Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale/Parkers Prairie 14
Kenyon-Wanamingo 52, Aitkin 18
Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville 30, Goodhue 24
Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City 42, Badger/Greenbush-Middle River 22

Kenyon-Wanamingo 40, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove 20
Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville 31, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City 22

Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale/Parkers Prairie 47, Aitkin 27
Goodhue 32, Badger/Greenbush-Middle River 21

Fifth-place: Goodhue 38, Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale/Parkers Prairie 23
Third-place: Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove 38, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City 26
Championship: Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville 35, Kenyon-Wanamingo 27

Class 2A
Simley 67, Mahtomedi 9
Waconia 48, Totino-Grace 16
Perham 51, Mora 10
Marshall 34, Foley 25

Simley 47, Waconia 15
Marshall 27, Perham 25

Totino-Grace 35, Mahtomedi 28
Mora 25, Foley 21

Fifth-place: Mora 40, Totino-Grace 30
Third-place: Perham 27, Waconia 24
Championship: Simley 60, Marshall 7

Class 3A
Stillwater 42, East Ridge 17
St. Michael-Albertville 72, Eden Prairie 6
Shakopee 48, Northfield 15
Bemidji 39, Forest Lake 29

Stillwater 29, St. Michael-Albertville 20
Shakopee 40, Bemidji 24

East Ridge 59, Eden Prairie 0
Northfield 32, Forest Lake 31

Fifth-place: Northfield 40, East Ridge 25
Third-place: St. Michael-Albertville 38, Bemidji 24
Championship: Shakopee 35, Stillwater 22
Class 3A Wrestling Rankings2/24/2019
From The Guillotine.

1. Shakopee (2)
2. Stillwater Area (4)
3. St. Michael-Albertville (5)
4. Apple Valley (2)
5. Forest Lake (7)
6. Bemidji (8)
7. Northfield (1)
8. Owatonna (1)
9. New Prague (2)
10. Willmar (8)
11. East Ridge (3)
12. Mounds View (4)
Lean and Mean
Anoka (7), Coon Rapids (7), Hastings (3), Albert Lea Area (1), Blaine (7), Cambridge-Isanti (7), Brainerd/Pillager (8), Sartell-St. Stephen (8)
Class 2A Wrestling Rankings2/24/2019
From The Guillotine.

1. Perham (8)
2. Simley (1)
3. Kasson-Mantorville (1)
4. Waconia (2)
5. Marshall (3)
6. Fairmont/Martin County West (3)
7. Scott West (2)
8. Foley (6)
9. Hutchinson (2)
10. Totino-Grace (5)
11. Mahtomedi (4)
12. Mora (7)
Lean and Mean
Annandale/Maple Lake (6), Becker (6), Big Lake (6), Delano (2), Detroit Lakes (8), Pierz (8), Plainview-Elgin-Millville (1), Princeton (7), Thief River Falls (8), Tri-City United (2), Watertown-Mayer/Mayer Lutheran (2), Dassel-Cokato (6)