Just moments after Mark Hall had won his fifth state championship, pinning Evan Ronsen of St. Michael-Albertville in the second period of the 170-pound final, Hall found himself with his arms full.
Bobby Ginther, an Apple Valley team manager, had leapt into his arms, more excited than anyone in Xcel Energy Center about Hall’s record-tying victory.
Ginther is more than just a manager. Born with Down syndrome, Ginther is a one-man cheerleading team and the Eagles’ biggest fan.
“He’s always pumping us up, keeping us motivated,” Hall said. “We don’t see any disability. We call him Coach Bobby.”
For Hall, Ginther’s leap was as important as his victory. Many view Hall, who has a chance to become the first wrestler in state history to win six individual titles if he wins another in 2016, as simply a wrestling machine. That, Hall said, couldn’t be further from the truth.
“It means a lot to me that he would do that,” Hall said. “I appreciate that people see that side of me.”
Brothers in arms
This year, things turned out as they were expected to. In 2014, Apple Valley brothers Bobby and Gable Steveson expected to each win state championships. That dream was dashed when Gable, then an eighth-grader, lost in the 195-pound final after Bobby had won at 182.
“Last year was kind of a downer,” Bobby said.
On Saturday, Bobby, a senior, won his second title with a convincing victory over Lakeville North’s Tristyn Hanson at 195 pounds. Gable, a freshman, followed with a victory at 220 pounds.
“That’s why we’re here,” said Bobby, who will wrestle for the Gophers next season. “We’re regular workout partners. We fight sometimes, being brothers, but we wouldn’t be here without each other.”
McKee comes through
The spotlight wasn’t nearly as intense, but the outcome was just as satisfying for Mitchell McKee.
The St. Michael-Albertville junior won his second consecutive state championship, beating Eastview’s George Farmah 11-6 in the 126-pound final.
McKee spent the 2014 state tournament in the spotlight, winning the 120-pound championship as his father, Steve, stricken with cancer, watched. Steve died in December, but Mitchell said that his father still was his biggest motivation.
“I could concentrate more on wrestling,” he said. “I was able to be better prepared this year. My dad was with me the whole time. Every day, there was something that reminded me of him. Last year, he was here with me. This year, he was with me spiritually.”
McKee fell one pin short of the state record for pins in a season. The record is 38. He finished with 37.
“That was a goal of mine earlier,” he said. “But winning a state championship is the best thing.”
Following his footsteps
Eden Prairie’s Ben Brancale concluded his high school wrestling career the same way his brother, Sam, did in 2012: by beating the No. 1 wrestler in the state to win a state championship. Ben defeated St. Michael-Albertville’s Jake Allar 15-8 at 138 pounds for his first state title. Sam upset top-ranked Mitch Bengtson to win the 126-pound championship in 2012.
Despite weighing barely 220 pounds, Prior Lake’s Alex Hart cruised through the heavyweight bracket, beating Lakeville South’s Jon Ziedler 10-1 in the final. Hart’s three previous individual matches had ended in two pins and a technical fall.
Rosemount junior Adam Hedin completed an undefeated season (45-0) with a 4-1 victory over Austin Brenner of St. Cloud Tech in the 132-pound final.