A current Gopher and a future Gopher each won junior national titles in Las Vegas on Saturday at the United World Wrestling Junior Freestyle National Championships. Rylee Streifel, a heavyweight who recently completed a rookie season in which he redshirted for the Gophers, won the title at 120kg. Earlier in the day, incoming Gopher commit Mitch McKee won the championship at 60kg.
Two other Gophers – Bobby Steveson and Fredy Stroker – also placed in the event. Steveson finished third at 84kg, while Stroker took fifth at 66kg.
Streifel began his championship run with a 10-0 tech fall in his opening match before earning three consecutive decisions to finish the tournament, including a 10-8 thriller in the finals to cap his first-place performance. Streifel matches the accomplishment of teammate Tommy Thorn, who won a freestyle national title in the event last year following his first season at Minnesota as well.
McKee overwhelmed the competition on his way to the 60kg crown. A 12-0 tech fall in his first match was the first of four consecutive tech fall wins, a streak during which he outscored his opponents 51-8. McKee saved the best for last, earning a fall at 2:15 of the finals to seal the title. McKee is the second straight alum of St. Michael-Albertville (Minn.) High School to win a UWW junior national title, adding to, coincidentally, Thorn’s win last year.
Steveson came out on fire, reaching the quarterfinals after back-to-back 10-0 tech falls. It appeared he’d head to wrestlebacks after falling behind 8-0 in the quarters, but 10 unanswered points earned him a 10-8 win and kept him on the championships side. Following a tough defeat in his semifinal bout, Steveson won a pair of matches on the backside of the bracket to place third.
Stroker’s fifth-place finish at 66kg required a grinder’s mentality after a second-round defeat gave him a lengthy road through wrestlebacks. Stroker rallied after the loss to win five straight elimination matches and position himself to stand on the podium at the end of the night.
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