Rockford’s Griffin follows title run with fifth place finish
BY DAVID PEDERSEN
The wrestling season was a work in progress for Delano’s Tucker Sjomeling, who got the job done and captured the first state wrestling title in school history.
The eighth-grader won four straight matches at 106 pounds, defeating No. 1 rated Trevor Schultz of Fairmont/Martin County West 5-2 in the title match Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Sjomeling finished with a 36-8 record while Schultz ended at 41-5. In the semifinals, Schultz, a senior, beat Jacob Jewett of Glencoe-Silver Lake/Lester Prairie, who defeated Sjomeling three times this season.
Despite maybe a mismatch on paper, Sjomeling continued to learn from his mistakes and learn what may be helpful against each opponent. It was a formula that worked well in his first full varsity season.
Sjomeling lost to Jewett in the league and section finals by getting caught in a cradle move and put on his back late in close matches. The focus in practice last week was to study how to avoid getting caught in a cradle.
“Losing to Jewett probably helped because he had stopped a lot of my moves,” adds the Tiger wrestler. “I knew I needed to tweak my moves to make them work better.”
In the semifinals, Sjomeling won 2-0 over Gabe Shea of Kasson-Mantorville, who was 37-3 at the time. Some good scouting and a good memory did the trick.
“I knew his moves and looked to block them,” said Sjomeling about knowing his opponents tendencies. “Once I got to the semifinals I knew I had a change, even when I thought I would face the toughest guy in the bracket.”
In the title match, Schultz recorded a quick take down for a 2-0 lead. That did not faze Sjomeling since he had trailed in every other state tourney match.
A reversal tied the match after the first period. After a scoreless second period, Schultz let Sjomeling escape for a one-point lead, hoping he would get a takedown to regain the lead.
“My coaches had told me not to let him have any chance to score points at that point so I kept grabbing at his arms and worked to stay in good defensive position,” said Sjomeling, who was able to avoid a takedown attempt by Schultz and secure his own 2-point takedown for the win.”
Coach Jeff Olson called the state title by Sjomeling “an unbelievable accomplishment. He keeps his head in matches and does not get rattled. Nobody out-works Tucker, who has a great work ethic and is a quick learner.”
Olson said his Tiger state champion reacts and lets things flow on the mat, utilizing his instincts and natural ability. The coach adds how, “There was a magical feel to the way he was wrestling.”
Sjomeling started wrestling in first grade when the local club did a presentation at his elementary school and a flyer was taken home. He says he lost a lot the first couple of years, but gradually got the hang of the sport.
Last year as a seventh-grader he was too light at only 90 pounds to qualify for varsity at 106 pounds. Sjomeling says drinking a lot of Gatorade before matches at times got him to the weight limit. He was 3-4 on varsity last season, competing at nearly 15 pounds less than opponents.
Sjomeling gained weight, lifted weights and competed in off-season practices and tournaments. He made the Tiger varsity cross country team the past two years to stay in condition and plays for the Delano tennis club in the spring.
Last year he claimed second place at the USA Wrestling State Tournament for his age group in Rochester. Sjomeling returns to the event this weekend, seeking a spot in the national tourney.
In other action
Delano had two other wrestlers qualify for state. Senior Miles Hammerlund entered the meet at 30-1, ranked second in the state. He finished second a year ago. This year he opened with a 17-7 win over Seth Gardner of Monticello. However, late in the match he suffered a sprained ankle.
“The injury was bad enough to be a factor when he lost 11-7 to Bobby Lee of Becker in the quarterfinals,” said Olson. “Miles could not drive or push off. It was impossible to wrestle to the best of his ability.”
Hammerlund won the first match in the consolation round before losing 12-11 and did not place.
Olson said ninth-grader Kevin Kneisl had a good tourney as a light heavyweight. He lost the first round to Preston Woods of South St. Paul, who ended up in second place. Kneisl next pinned Colton Hines, ranked third in the state. Then he lost to the fifth-place finisher.
Junior Ty Griffin of Rockford advanced to the section semifinals at 126 pounds before losing to the state runner-up and defending state champ Juan Torres of Simley.
The defending state champion at 120 pounds, Griffin was slowed by injury early in the season. He took an 18-5 record to state as the section champion.
Griffin opened with a 6-2 win, followed by a 2-1 victory after his opponent lost a point for staling late in the match. After losing in the semifinals the Rocket wrestlers lost 5-4 and placed fifth with a 3-1 win.
Junior Brad Johnson had a tough draw at 132 pounds and lost to Brody Berge of Kasson-Mantorville, who was 41-1 and finished third. Johnson did not get to enter the wrestle backs.