As his match wore down, the crowd at Xcel Energy Center moved slightly forward in anticipation. Totino-Grace senior Lance Benick had the match in hand — he won his fourth state championship with a dominant 17-7 victory over Carson Hagen of Worthington in the 195-pound finals of the Class 2A tournament. What everyone was waiting for was the flip.
Benick gave them what they wanted, completing a smooth backflip after his hand was raised in victory. The appreciative crowd roared in approval.
“I couldn’t even do one as a freshman,” said Benick, who completed a perfect season with a 43-0 record. “Then, as a sophomore, I was super excited one day and I did it. I’ve done them ever since.”
Not after every match, however.
“Only the after the big ones,” Benick said.
Benick doesn’t know if he’ll continue the celebration at Arizona State, where he’ll wrestle next year. For now, he’s reveling in the afterglow of an impressive high school career.
“It’s gone by so fast,” he said. “I had so much fun. I can’t believe it’s over already.
A 50-0 season
Kasson-Mantorville sophomore Brady Berge collected his third state title in Class 2A, boasting a 50-0 record after defeating Mahtomedi junior Devin Fitzpatrick at 152.
Berge won the state title at 145 pounds last year, but he drew inspiration from his third-place finish at 132 pounds in eighth grade that ruined his dream of becoming the first wrestler in Minnesota history to win six state titles.
Berge peeks at the third-place medal tucked in his gym bag before every tournament to remind him of what could have been.
“I don’t want that feeling ever again of getting beat,” Berge said. “I don’t like it. It pushes me every day in the practice room.”
Scott West seniors David Flynn and Andrew Fogarty are fast friends, team captains and future teammates at North Dakota State. And now, they are both state champions. Flynn won his first title with a victory at 132. Fogarty won his second 160-pound championship. “We’ve always talked about how fun it would be,” Flynn said.
Class 1A: Title No. 5
Border West senior Cameron Sykora became one of six wrestlers in state history to win five state titles, defeating LeSeur-Henderson senior Austin Anderly to finish the season 42-0.
Rather than focusing on the rare accomplishment, Sykora is already shifting his attention to national tournaments.
“When I’m older, it’ll be awesome,” Sykora said. “To come to the state tourney and see my name in the book with those [numbers], but I’m young right now. I want to win four NCAA titles [at South Dakota State] now. I want to focus on that.”
Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial Area senior Louie Sanders and Kimball Area senior Quinten Berres both finished their careers undefeated, winning consecutive titles in two different weight classes.
Sanders (44-0) defeated Kimball Area senior Blane Tschida for the 132-pound Class A title. He won the Class A 126-pound title last year. Berres (48-0) pinned Dover-Eyota junior Ryan Keach for the 138-pound title. He finished atop the 132-pound class last season.
The total attendance for the three days of the tournament was 49,228.