New Prague sophomore Lawson Eller said his loss in the Class 2A 106-pound final last year was a huge motivator for him this season.

New Prague posts its state participants and their finishes at state on the walls of its wrestling room. So each day at practice, Eller was reminded of his second-place finish.

"Ever since then, I've just wanted to get better and better so that when Saturday night came, I was going to be getting my hand raised," Eller said.

On Saturday at Xcel Energy Center, Eller accomplished his goal, defeating Simley's Austin Grzywinski at 106 pounds to win his first state title.

"I still can't believe that I did it and I'm on top of the podium," he said after his 5-3 victory, which came on an ultimate tiebreaker. "It's what I've wanted to step up on my whole life really ever since I was coming here as a little kid."

Eller was one of four New Prague wrestlers to win a state championship. At 152 pounds, Colton Bornholdt won his first title, defeating Simley's Cash Raymond 2-1, and at 195, Joey Novak won his first title, defeating Hutchinson's Hayden VanderVoort with a pin. Senior Koy Buesgens won his third title with a technical fall at 145.

Bornholdt, who was participating in his fourth state tournament, said the team improved a lot this year. He said it's fun to wrestle with his state champion teammates, noting that he has known them since he was young.

New Prague was one of two Class 2A teams to win four individual titles Saturday. The other was Simley, which won multiple state titles for a fifth straight year.

For the Spartans, the winners were seniors Brandon Morvari (120), Travis Smith (182), Gavin Nelson (220) and Soren Herzog (285).

"It's kind of tradition for us," said Morvari, who will wrestle at Illinois next year. "These guys work for this, so it's not a surprise for us."

Buesgens, Morvari and Nelson were among the five repeat winners in Class 2A. The others were Mound Westonka junior Jack Nelson (126), who won his third title, and Princeton senior Tyler Wells (132), who won his fourth.

Jackson County Central continues strong run

Jackson County Central senior Caleb Vancura lost to his opponent in the Class 1A 220-pound final, defending champion Ethan Boll, as a sophomore.

On Saturday, Vancura got his revenge, defeating Boll 11-4 for his first state title.

"It hasn't quite set in yet," Vancura said, "but it's pretty surreal. I had a blast out there."

Vancura's victory gave Jackson County Central three individual titles, after the Huskies won the team title on Thursday. Junior Nolan Ambrose won his third state title, defeating Royalton/Upsala senior Alex Diederich 3-0 at 132, and senior Thomas Freking won his first title with a 4-3 win at 138.

The Ambrose-Diederich matchup was the only match in Class 1A that featured two past state champions. Ambrose won titles in 2021 and 2022 at 106 and 113, respectively, and Diederich won a title in 2022 at 126.

Ambrose said he was excited at the beginning of the season when he realized he could face Diederich, with whom he has competed on dual teams and camps. "I knew going into the tournament that that was probably the matchup I would see in the finals," he said. "To come out on top of that matchup just feels great, especially [with] the fact that he's a state champion as well."