If, two years ago, someone had asked Anthony Jones if he would have expected to be wrestling in the Class 2A state meet, his likely response would have been bewilderment. If that same question had been posed last fall, he would have said absolutely.
That’s how far the Minneapolis Henry heavyweight has come in a short period of time.
Jones, a senior, never had considered becoming a wrestler until fall of his junior year.
“It was after our last football game and someone said I should be a wrestler,” Jones said. “I never thought about it before.”
Growing up on Minneapolis’ North Side, Jones has battled many of the problems that plague inner-city youth. It’s been because of sports, both football and wrestling, that he’s found a safe haven from those problems.
“The first time I wrestled in a meet, I hated it. I lost all five matches and I wanted to quit,” Jones said. “But my coach told me I had potential and should stick with it.”
His coach, Mark Simmonds, grew up in northeast Minneapolis and wrestled for Edison before going on to become a two-time All-America wrestler at Augsburg and an alternate for Team USA in the Beijing Olympics. He is accustomed to the difficulties of the city and saw possibilities in Jones. Simmonds is Jones’ practice partner and helped turn him into a force to be reckoned with.
“He wants to learn,” Simmonds said. “He’s one of those kids that will do whatever you tell him to do and he’d keep doing it until he hurts himself. I told him he could get this far.”
Jones defeated Stewartville’s Kyle Lipke in the first round, improving his record to 31-1, but lost to Monticello’s Brent Riddle 3-2 in Friday’s Class 2A quarterfinals. Jones acknowledged that he’s on the right track.
“Just making the tournament is a great feeling,” he said.
Border West senior Cameron Sykora just wanted to place during his first state tournament in eighth grade. He exceeded the lofty goal, winning the Class 1A title at 103 pounds.
Now he’s two matches away from winning his fifth consecutive title.
Sykora defeated St. Charles junior Alan Spaeth and Osakis junior Brendon Coyer on Friday to advance to the Class 1A semifinals at 126 pounds.
“I believe I’m one of the hardest workers in the country. I feel like that work is going to pay off,” said Sykora, who has won the Class 1A title at 106, 113 and 120 pounds over the past three years.
Sykora (38-0) will face Minneota junior Kyle Hennen (27-5) during the semifinal match on Saturday and could possibly face LeSuer-Henderson senior Austin Anderly, who won the state title at 113 pounds last year, in the finals.
“Breathe it, drink it, eat it; I love the competition,” said Anderly of possibly facing Sykora. “I’m one of the best competitors in Minnesota. Let’s go.”
Other returning champs to advance are Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial’s Louis Sanders (132), Kimball’s Quinten Berres (138), Chatfield’s Hank Friedrichs (145) and Jackson County Central’s Keegan Moore (182).
A happy senior
Simley senior Jack Ryan experienced a gut-wrenching blowout loss to Mankato West in the Class 5A football championship game but felt nothing but joy on the wrestling mat this week.
He notched a pin in Simley’s 34-21 2A state championship victory over Albert Lea on Friday and defeated New London-Spicer senior Noah Welsh 10-4 to reach the individual semifinals in consecutive years.
“I hope it’s not the same result as Mankato West because the second half we ended up getting blown out, but it’s feeling good,” Ryan said. “It’s kind of surreal right now to just win that match and to be guaranteed back on the podium. But I want the good things to keep going.”
Totino advances five
Totino-Grace will have five representatives in the Class 2A semifinals. Sophomore Jared Florrell, junior Sam Anderson and seniors Isaac Florell, Lance Benick and Kez Flomo all advanced at 170-285 weight classes.
Isaac Florell defeated Zimmer senior and defending 182-pound champion Austin May in overtime. Benick, the defending champion at 195 pounds, quickly defeated GMLOKS senior Wyatt Richardson by pin to move to 43-0. Then went he walked over to his right to watch Flomo defeat Kasson-Mantorville senior Chase O’Connor 5-3.
“We’re all really close friends,” said Flomo, who also played on the football team with the other four wrestlers. “We all hang out with each other every single day, we play sports together.”