The state’s most dominant wrestler isn’t about rippin’ and snortin’ and fire-in-the-belly wrestling. He’s about winning, doing it consistently and moving on.
The demeanor of Kasson-Mantorville heavyweight Sam Stoll rarely changes, regardless of the situation in front of him. He wrestles when it’s time to wrestle, and few do it better.
Stoll is the No. 3-ranked heavyweight in the nation, the defending Class 2A state champ and the only U.S. wrestler to win a medal at the FILA World Cadet Championships in Bulgaria last summer.
Currently, he’s in the midst of building a national record for consecutive pins. With two more Friday, Stoll bumped his total to 61 pins in a row.
“I guess that’s pretty cool, but I don’t think records define you as a wrestler,” said Stoll in his usual even-keeled manner. “I just love to wrestle. I love the work and the coaches and the people involved.”
Stoll won his 200th career match in Kasson-Mantorville’s Class 2A team quarterfinal victory over Totino-Grace on Thursday. Through Friday, he’s at 204 career victories and counting. He hasn’t lost a match in nearly two years.
But Stoll said he is far from unbeatable and that imperfection drives him. “I lose in the wrestling room every day,” he said. “You’re never good enough to stop improving.”
Stoll signed with Iowa last fall — passing up an offer from the Gophers, a program known for developing heavyweights, for the spotlight of Iowa City’s Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Despite taking his talents south of the border (“It’s still Big Ten wrestling,” he said), Stoll said the Minnesota state tournament represents the best wrestling has to offer.
“There’s nothing like the Minnesota state meet,” he said, closely eyeing a heavyweight match on another mat. “My best memories are here.”
The tournament has not gone as well as Totino-Grace’s Kez Flomo hoped, but the junior 220-pounder knows that his struggles are only making him a better wrestler.
Flomo was disqualified from the Class 2A team quarterfinals after a disputed biting call. The disqualification not only cost the Eagles the match, but Flomo could not compete in the consolation semifinals.
Friday, he beat Princeton’s Cole Warren in the first round of individual competition but suffered a high-ankle sprain. The same injury kept him out the early part of the season and contributed to a 7-2 loss to Simley’s Jack Ryan in the quarterfinals.
“It’s been tough, but I just think that when stuff goes bad, they’re just obstacles to overcome,” he said. “That’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Buddy’s move helped
The circus surrounding Cameron Sykora and his friendship with Dayton Racer, who left Apple Valley late in the season and transferred to Wheaton, didn’t affect the Border West junior as some might have expected.
The 120-pound Sykora kept his bid for a fourth consecutive Class 1A state championship alive with a pair of victories Friday, including a 15-0 technical fall over Ryan Killeen of Spectrum in the quarterfinals.
Sykora said Racer’s transfer wasn’t a distraction at all. In fact, it turned out to be a boon.
“It’s actually helped,” said Sykora, now 33-0 this season. “Not only is Dayton a great kid, but it’s nice to have a practice partner to work with.”
It’s been a little different this year for Jackson County Central brothers Paden and Keegan Moore. For the first time since 2009, their team did not win the Class 1A team championship. The Moores — Paden is a junior 152-pounder, Keegan a sophomore at 170 — have been part of all four championships. Not taking home a first-place trophy has thrown in an extra dash of motivation.
“It’s left a little bit of a bad taste in our mouths,” said Paden, 41-3 going into today’s semifinals. “It’s made us more hungry.”
Keegan is 46-0 and also in the individual semifinals.
’13 champions fare well
Of the 13 returning state champions in Classes 1A and 2A, 12 are still alive in the hunt for another title.
Seven are in the 1A semifinals: Austin Anderly, Le Sueur-Henderson, 113 pounds; Sykora, 120; Louie Sanders, Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial, 120; Quinten Berres, Kimball, 132; Larry Bomstad, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City, 145; Nathan Rose, Sibley East, 195, and Lucas Damm, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City, 220.
The only returning champion to lose was Delano freshman Tucker Sjomeling.
He was undefeated and ranked No. 1 at 106 pounds but lost 11-9 to Kasson-Mantorville’s Keaton Schoor in the first round.
The other four defending champions in Class 2A semifinals: Anthony Luft, Worthington, 126; Lance Benick, Totino-Grace, 195; Clay Broze, Cannon Falls, 220; and Stoll.