The wrestlers from Apple Valley had something to prove Friday.
After missing the state tournament as a team for the first time since 1982, the Eagles had five wrestlers still alive after Friday’s first two rounds of the Class 3A individual state meet: Regan Schrempp at 113 pounds, Sebas Swiggum at 132, Brady Gross at 138, Nate Larson at 145 and Gable Steveson at heavyweight.
Apple Valley sent eight wrestlers to the individual tournament and finished 12-3 on the day.
“That was definitely different not having the team aspect,” Larson said. “But we still worked the same throughout the whole week. The coaches literally told us in practice ‘Just because we’re not in teams, we’re not giving up.’ Now, the main focus is individual titles.”
Swiggum, a junior, said the team was undeniably down after losing to Shakopee in the Section 2 finals, but those who reached state as individuals were determined to put it behind them.
“The longer we sulked over the fact that we lost, the more it was going to hurt us as individuals,” he said.
Both Swiggum and Larson said they were in peak form going into Friday’s competition.
“We definitely felt more fresh,” Swiggum said. “Wrestling three matches in the [team] championships has a toll on your body.”
Hammond earns respect
Anoka 195-pounder Richie Hammonds stands just 5-4, with a wild bob of curly black hair and a body more round than ripped. He knows his opponents often take him lightly when they see him.
“I’ve been underestimated all my life,” he said. “One kid said to his dad ‘Hold my milkshake while I go pin this kid.’ I’ve had dads and sons look at me and laugh, like this is gonna be easy. But I get the last laugh.”
On Friday he improved to 41-2 on the season with two convincing victories, both by at least 10 points.
“It’s all a mind-set,” Hammonds said. “I’m going out there and I’m going to win.”
• Steveson won both of his heavyweight matches by pin. The first one came in 25 seconds, the next in just 24. He will face Lakeville North junior Bryce Benhart in Saturday’s semifinals. Steveson defeated Benhart, a 6-8 top college football prospect in Minnesota, by pinning him in the Section 2 finals.
• Centennial’s Emily Shilson fell short in her bid to become the first girl to win a match in the state meet. She lost 6-2 to Owatonna’s Blake West in the first round of the 106-pound bracket, then later qualified for the wrestlebacks and lost to New Prague’s Nick Novak, ending her tournament.
• In addition to Steveson, who is 37-0, other undefeated wrestlers still in contention include Joey Thompson, Maple Grove (106 pounds), 44-0; Patrick McKee, St. Michael-Albertville (126), 50-0; Clay Carlson, Willmar (132), 46-0; Cael Carlson, Willmar (138), 46-0; Tyler Eischens, Anoka (152), 50-0; Peyton Robb, Owatonna (160), 46-0; Cade King, Owatonna (182), 42-0; and Trey Rogers, Hastings (195), 47-0.