BY DAVID PEDERSEN
Two seasons ago the first state wrestling titles were captured by Rockford and Delano got into the act last season with the school’s first state crown.
Despite armed with two former state title winners, the four local representatives with state meet experience came home from the state Class AA tourney in St. Paul with one medal. Senior Ty Griffin of Rockford placed second at 132 pounds, losing 5-1 to No. 1-ranked Griffin Parriot from New Prague in the final.
Defending 106-pound state champ Tucker Sjomeling from Delano was taken out of the tourney in the first round when he lost 11-9 to Heaten Schoor of Kasson-Mantorville. When Schoor lost in the second round, it meant Sjomeling could not advance to the wrestle-backs. The ninth-grader finished the season at 41-1.
“Tucker went against an excellent wrestler in Schorr,” said coach Jeff Olson. “I think Tucker probably wins that matchup eight or nine times out of 10. You have to give Schorr credit. He was able to convert on some big moves for big points.”
Olson notes how Sjomeling had what is arguably the best season in Delano wrestling history. He had the best record ever with 16 of the 41 victories coming against state entrants.
“This doesn’t change the fact that Tucker is a phenomenal wrestler,” adds Olson. “Tucker is extremely mentally tough. He will bounce back and be better from it.”
Also representing Delano was sophomore heavyweight Kevin Kneisl, who opened with 3-2 loss to Brandon Merten of Milaca, who captured second place. Kneisl was pinned in the wrestle-backs to finish 29-8.
“The Merten match could have gone either way,” said Olson. “It was 1-1 in the third period and Kevin was very close to taking him down a couple times. In his second match Kevin got caught early and had to take some chances. He’s a very tough kid who I think is ready to come on the next two years and be absolutely dominant.”
The other Rockford wrestler was senior Brad Johnson at 138 pounds. For the second straight year had to open the tourney against the top-ranked wrestler. Johnson had a great effort, losing 3-0 to Zach Siegle, who won the title and was 49-1 on the season.
“Everybody knew Brad was tough, but I don’t think anyone counted on him allowing only three points to the anticipated and would be state champ,” said Rockford coach Larry Hunter. “Brad appeared to have the upper hand before his adversary avoided a double leg shot and gained a takedown.”
Johnson next lost 4-1 in the wrestle-backs to finish the season at 32-6. He missed some matches due to a concussion and wrestled at state with an injured arm tendon.
Griffin collected his fourth state tournament medal. He was sixth as a ninth-grader, first as a sophomore and fifth last season. This year he started with an 11-5 victory over Connor Rohr of Cannon Falls. He next defeated Will Funk of Sauk Centre 10-1 and Logan Axford of Tracy Milroy 5-2 in the semifinals.
Parriot’s only loss this year was to a four-time state champ. He finished the year at 42-1 and with the state title. Griffin, ranked second in the state, finished second with a 35-3 record.
“I was real satisfied with how it went,” said Griffin about his fourth state meet appearance. “I went into the season with my main goal to get back in the finals and have one more shot at the title. When I made the finals it was a big release.”
Griffin said he could not get through Parriot’s defense, noting how, “He had a very solid base and took me off my game. He caught me a couple times in a move I had not seen all season. He throws up your arms and then slips in behind you.”
Griffin ended his outstanding career with the appreciation of how difficult it is to make it to state. He adds, “Placing at state is a great feeling because you knew you could compete with the best.”
Coach Hunter said Griffin will forever be a legend in Rockford’s wrestling room. He won medals in each of his four trips to state, including a first and second.
“I have coached and trained a lot of people, but none as gracious nor as committed as an athlete as Ty,” said Hunter. “I will miss his extraordinary effort.”