Wrestlers living up to billing as state wrestling champions

Delano’s Sjomeling is 23-0, ranked No. 1

Delano’s Tucker Sjomeling (left) held on to his No. 1 state ranking after defeating No. 6 Dylan Pundsack from Hutchinson last week. (Photo by Stephen Wiblemo/Hutchinson Leader)

Delano’s Tucker Sjomeling (left) held on to his No. 1 state ranking after defeating No. 6 Dylan Pundsack from Hutchinson last week. (Photo by Stephen Wiblemo/Hutchinson Leader)

BY DAVID PEDERSEN

It was such a major achievement when Delano’s Tucker Sjomeling won a rare state wrestling championship at 106 pounds as an eighth-grader last season that the question looms regarding if it could happen again.

Sjomeling has been providing his answer to the question all season on way to an undefeated 23-0 record and No. 1 state ranking at 113-pounds in Class 2A when defeating some of the other top-ranked wrestlers in two states.

The most recent justification to the ninth-grader’s place on top came last week when he defeated No. 2-ranked Jacob Jewett of Glencoe-Silver Lake. The victory was a definite show of progress since last year Sjomeling lost three times to Jewett, now a senior.

The two wrestlers battled in the conference dual meet and league tournament last season before going at it in the section title match and both advancing to state. Jewett and Sjomeling almost met again for the state title, but Jewett lost in the semifinals to the wrestler Sjomeling beat to grab the state crown. It was the first state title obtained by a Delano wrestler.

Sjomeling proved his ability at the major Fargo tournament in late December when winning the 113-pound title match over Tyler Eischens of Anoka, ranked No. 2 in Class 3A. The Tiger also beat Eagan’s Nasir Ali, ranked No. 6 in 3A and West Fargo’s Jared Franek, ranked No. 1 in North Dakota.

Closer to home, Sjomeling claimed the 113-pound title at the Norwood-Young America Invitational over Sibley East’s Tanner Pasvogel, ranked No. 6 in Class A. Last week Sjomeling won over Hutchinson’s Dylan Pundsack, ranked No. 6 in 2A. Tourney titles were won at Fridley, Delano, NYA and Fargo.

“Tucker has improved from last year,” said Delano coach Jeff Olson. “It is a combination of things. He is a year older, he is stronger and he has trained and picked up some little things in his technique. I think his confidence in himself is that much better now too. He’s a very good athlete that works extremely hard and is a quick learner.”

Sjomeling said he wrestled a lot in the off season and is hoping to have the same success as last year. In fact, the goal set to keep the ninth-grader focused is to win five state championships before he is done.

Along with attending weekly elite wrestling practices at different locations during the summer and attending wrestling camps Sjomeling would look for a training partner twice a week.

In the fall Sjomeling ranked as one of the top four varsity cross country runners, which helped his conditioning. Adding to all the work and preparation, Sjomeling then “gives it all I got.”

After a victory the next step is to focus on the next match, a philosophy Sjomeling has long employed. Another motto has been to put in the work and hope for the best.

“This year I worked on holding a better position, such as staying low and not giving up any opportunity for opponents to score,” says Sjomeling, who plans on cutting weight to defend his title at 106 pounds.

The other Tiger wrestler who qualified for state last year is sophomore Kevin Kneisl, who is 17-5 this season. Aaron Wagner is 10-3, but is sidelined with an injury.

Delano lost to strong teams from Hutchinson and GSL early in the week, bouncing back to win two of three matches at the Becker Invitational Friday. The Tigers lost to Becker but won over Fergus Falls and Minneapolis North.

Delano wrestles against Litchfield and Dassel-Cokato at Orono Thursday, Jan. 16 and against Annandale and New London-Spicer at Annandale Jan. 23.

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