Alex Lloyd lay on his back on a sweaty, crowded wrestling mat underneath the Xcel Energy Center seats after his Class 3A 145-pound semifinals victory Saturday, exhausted and satisfied at the same time.
This certainly wasn’t an extravagant place to lay his head. It may not even have been comfortable. Considering Lloyd’s past, however, there was no place he would rather be.
The heavily muscled Shakopee junior later won his second consecutive 145-pound state championship, worlds away from the Russian orphanage in suburban Moscow where he spent the first six years of his life and where Bill and Karen Lloyd found him and his younger brother, Jake.
“I’m very lucky, very fortunate,” Lloyd said. “If I hadn’t been adopted, I don’t know where I’d be.”
Lloyd, whose given name is Denis Alexandrovic, remembers little about life in Russia. He has no inkling who his parents were or why they chose to give him up.
“I remember three buildings at the orphanage and in between two of them was this big flower garden, surrounded by metal cages and stuff,” he recalled. “When my dad came to adopt us, I remember going on a bunch of bike rides with him.”
Bill Lloyd was a wrestling coach, so he introduced Alex to wrestling in second grade.
“For the first year, year and a half, I was very bad,” he said. “But my dad and I kept working and I loved it and just wanted to keep getting better.”
Lloyd has spent most of his American life in Shakopee, assimilating so well that most in the community have no idea about his past. He has no accent and speaks very little Russian.
“Most people don’t know I grew up in Russia,” he said. “They don’t know how great this community has been for me. I feel appreciated here.”
He acknowledges that there are some areas in which his genetic background stands out from the rest of the family.
“I’m more athletic than they are. And I’m pretty outgoing, pretty social. I don’t mind going up and talking to anyone,” he said.
Lloyd faced one of his best friends, Peyton Robb of Owatonna, in the 145-pound final on Saturday evening, pulling out a dramatic 5-4 victory with a takedown in the last 15 seconds.
Robb handed Lloyd his only loss of the season in the Minnesota Christmas Tournament. Both Robb and Lloyd have committed to wrestle at South Dakota State once their high school careers are over.
“He’s my boy,” Lloyd said. “But once we hit the mat, it’s a battle.”
Win or lose, Lloyd said what he’s accomplished on the mat is his way of repaying his parents for what they’ve done for him.
“Whenever I’m in a tough spot, I say, ‘I’ve got to get through this because they’ve been through everything for me,’ ” he said. “That shows that I care and that I’m thankful for that.”