The letter “J” in Matt Njos’ last name is silent. So, too, was the Anoka senior’s celebration after winning the Class 3A state wrestling championship at 160 pounds.

“There was one hell of a smile on his face,” Anoka coach Todd Springer said. “He’s a humble, quiet kid.”

A competitive fire burned inside, however. Rated fourth at his weight by The Guillotine wrestling magazine, Njos “considered himself No. 1,” Springer said, and set out to prove as much.

Njos rolled through the first two rounds last week at Xcel Energy Center, scoring a technical fall and pin. The third-round match against Shakopee junior Owen Webster, a state champion at 152 pounds last year, called on all of Njos’ “grinding, Anoka-brawler style,” Springer said.

“He wrestled a real smart match,” Springer said. “He kept good position and countered anything Webster tried.”

A 3-2 victory sent Njos to the title match, where he “completely dominated,” Springer said.

“He got a takedown right away and the three points against him were on escapes,” Springer said.

Njos won 7-3, sharing the moment with his father, Matt Sr., an Anoka alum. Springer allowed the elder Njos to sit matside for his son’s match.

Njos became the 51st Anoka wrestler to win a state championship, joining the likes of Lucas Murray, a Torndoes assistant coach and Njos’ practice partner.

“Working with Lucas gave Matt confidence knowing he wouldn’t see any better competition,” Springer said.

Njos got a late start on the mat, making a shift from basketball to wrestling in seventh grade.

He placed eighth at state at 182 pounds as a sophomore despite wrestling up two weight classes.

He earned a fourth-place finish as a junior last season.

“He’s a great story of a kid who shows it’s never too late to try another sport,” Springer said. “Plus, he’s a three-sport athlete. He was a football captain and he does pole vault for the track and field team.”

Njos’ teammate, junior Jeremy Rodman, placed fourth at 220 pounds. Tornadoes freshman Tyler Eischens was runner-up at 113 pounds.

 

Park Center girls win Northwest Suburban West

The Park Center girls’ basketball team earned the Northwest Suburban Conference West Division title by defeating Maple Grove last week. Not since 1979 have the Pirates captured conference hardware.

Mikayla Hayes led the team with 12 points, followed by Ann Simonet (eight) and Feyisayo Ayobamidele (seven). Park Center (19-7), defending Class 3A state tournament champions, takes the No. 1 seed into Section 3 play beginning at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at home against St. Paul Johnson (9-16).