Cypress Hill’s “Insane In The Membrane” blasted through the speakers of the Totino-Grace wrestling room last Thursday. That’s when heavyweight Sam Anderson decided to have some fun.
Between practice matches against teammate Kez Flomo, Anderson bobbed his head and danced to the beat at the center of the mat. Anderson endured a serious injury last season and now embraces fun with his group of experienced teammates while searching for state titles.
“Sam’s the goofball on the team,” Flomo said. “When we’re down, Sam makes us laugh. He just has that smile that makes you want to laugh.”
Anderson’s sophomore year of sports came to a halt when he was hit from behind on the football field. The nose guard came up with a fractured bone in his back.
“It was pretty tough to come back from. Your back kind of involves everything you do,” Anderson said.
He returned in time to qualify for the wrestling state tournament, but was knocked out in the first round at the heavyweight class. Coach Doug Svihel has higher expectations for Anderson — ranked No. 4 in the state — now that he’s been healthy for an extended period of time.
“He’s got a good shot to contend for a state title,” Svihel said.
Anderson’s climb back, from being injured to becoming one of the state’s top heavyweights, likely wouldn’t have been possible without guidance from his talented senior teammates. Isaac Florell is ranked No. 1 in the 182-pound weight class and Lance Benick is No.1 at 195 pounds. Flomo (220) is No. 4.
Before Anderson started dancing, Flomo grabbed his right leg to show how to tighten up a single leg move.
“I wasn’t having it locked right and he was telling me how to lock it up right,” Anderson said. “He was really helpful. I love practicing with Kez.”
Benick said Anderson’s footwork has improved drastically this season, but his enhanced endurance is another reason he’s one of the favorites to win the heavyweight individual title at the wrestling state tournament, which runs Thursday through Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
“A lot of heavyweights just kind of push into each other and get dead tired,” Benick said. “He’s got a good gas tank and he can last a while.”
Totino-Grace’s upper weights are stacked with Florell, Benick, Flomo and Anderson all contending for individual titles. For Anderson, the only junior of the foursome, it’s beginning to sink in that he’s almost done wrestling with the seniors he calls mentors.
“It’s kind of mind blowing,” said Anderson, who’s known some of his teammates since first grade. “It’s going to be sad to see Lance, Isaac and Kez go.”
The Eagles likely will need more production from wrestlers at the lower weights to win the team championship on Thursday.
“Sometimes the guys at the lower weights think they can just get pinned and we’ll make up for it,” Benick said. “But everyone’s got to be tough.”
As the music in Totino-Grace’s wrestling room blared, Anderson and Flomo resumed their wrestling match. Flomo got low and pushed hard at his adversary.
“He’s too big!” the senior shouted, tackling Anderson.
Anderson burst out laughing as he tumbled onto the mat.
“Stop that, Sam,” Svihel said from across the room. “Heavyweights don’t giggle.”
Now healthy, Anderson does.
“I’m a goofball,” Anderson said. “I can be immature at times. Sometimes they just put me in line.”
Jack Satzinger is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.