A championship match and a friendship years in the making
By Brian Jerzak
Shakopee’s Alex Lloyd and Owatonna’s Peyton Robb have come full circle. As the clock wound down in the 145AAA individual finals, Robb held a one-point lead over Lloyd. With under a minute to go in the third, Lloyd hit a takedown and was able to ride out Robb for the final few seconds to win the title. For both juniors, the match was bittersweet. After the referee had put Lloyd’s hand in the air, both wrestlers embraced in the center of the Xcel Energy Center – possibly for the last time in competition.
The first time they wrestled each other they were in elementary school. It would become the first of many times the two would lock horns in competition and in the practice room. Shortly after their first meeting, they would become training partners and best friends.
“The first time I met him it was at an elementary school tournament,” Robb said. “He won a one-point match.”
“It was a really good match,” Lloyd said (the two didn’t agree on a score, but they both remember Lloyd won by one point). My dad came up to his dad, and our parents became friends right away.”
Both wrestlers’ introduction to wrestling was early and followed a similar path.
“My dad was a wrestler, and I have been wrestling as long as I can remember,” Robb said.
“My dad used to wrestle, and he got me involved, and I just fell in love with the sport,” Lloyd said.
Both wrestlers soon decided to dedicate themselves to the sport year round and have been wrestling with PINnacle Wrestling School. After their first meeting, the families’ friendship grew, and the boys wrestling journeys would become almost one in the same.
“We wrestled a couple more times, and then we both started to go to PINnacle,” Lloyd said. “We wrestled all the time at Pinnacle. We were both in the Shakopee youth program, and we got to spend a lot more time together.”
“Peyton Robb wrestles and practices at a very high pace,” PINnacle coach Brandon Paulson said. “He just hit his growth spurt this year, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him wrestle 160 at state next year. Peyton has the tools to become an awesome college and international wrestler. Peyton is a good kid that does the right things on and off the mat.”
“Alex is still very high energy and loves to compete,” Paulson said. “He is an extremely explosive wrestler and entertaining to watch – especially in the international styles.”
The coaches at PINnacle are often treated to epic battles far from the spotlight.
“Some of the matches in the room are just crazy,” Paulson said. “They both throw the kitchen sink for every go.”
“Peyton and Alex were both very high energy kids, even compared to other young wrestlers,” Paulson continued. “They started being partners around 5th/6th grade. Up to this day, a wrestling drill is never just a drill, as EVERY takedown ended up with either a throw or an attempt at one.”
Through PINnacle and freestyle and Greco tournaments, their families hit the road.
“We started traveling to national tournaments together,” Robb said.
“We would drive around together and just have fun,” Lloyd added.
Off the mat, their personalities went well together.
“We are both goofballs,” Robb said. “We have the same type of personality. We hit it off at practice and just always hung out.”
In the practice room, they can separate the competitor from the friend.
“We push each other all the time. We love the competitiveness,” Lloyd said. “When we know it is time to go to war we go to war. We do whatever we can to push the pace, to do whatever it takes. It is a hard fought match every single time.”
“I don’t think of him any different than any other training partner,” Robb added. “We both push each other. I don’t think of it as ‘I am wrestling one of my best friends.’ I just think of him as a practice partner.”
The two friends met earlier this year at the Christmas Tournament.
“It was pretty similar to the state tournament except I was able to hold him down for the last thirty seconds and was able to get the win,” Robb said. “In the state finals, it was basically the same thing except this time he was able to get that last takedown at the end.”
“I got taken down late in the third period and ended up losing the match – he rode me out,” Lloyd said.
The Shakopee Sabers’ star wanted a second shot at his friend.
“I decided to go down to 145 to wrestle him at State and the second time I won,” Lloyd told The Guillotine, “but in my opinion, it was a much tougher match than the first one.”
Although he wasn’t sure who was going to get the two, their mutual coach saw the final takedown coming a mile away.
“It was a shot by Lloyd. Robb pulled him up,” Paulson said. “Lloyd gets his underhook, and then I knew somebody was getting thrown.”
The emotions after a win or loss to the other are different for each then after wrestling anyone else.
“I can’t get as mad. He is obviously a great competitor,” Robb said of Lloyd. “It’s not really an excuse, but a loss comes a little easier knowing that it is someone I am great friends with who got the win and not somebody I might not know as well.”
“I love him. I look at him as a brother,” Lloyd said. “I love him to death. We respect each other so I show him the respect he has earned and he does the same to me. It is a brotherhood between us.”
“When I beat him,” Robb continued. “I feel like I just beat one of the best guys in the nation, so it is a great win, but I take it more modestly.”
They thrilled the crowd that Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center, but at least one person in the crowd had mixed feelings during the match.
“Although I always look forward to watching a Lloyd versus Robb competition match, there is always a little dread for me as well,” Paulson admitted. “One of them will not get what they have trained so hard for. I prefer just to watch the two battle in the room, where wins and losses don’t mean a thing.”
Their friendship hasn’t waned off the mat since their early days. Their time off has gotten shorter as they get older, but they both try to get together socially when they can. After high school they will see plenty of each other – both Lloyd and Robb will be attending and wrestling for South Dakota State.
“(Sartell-St. Stephen’s) Rylee Molitor, Alex and I were all going to the duals, and we were having a great time,” Robb said. “Rylee committed (to SDSU). It was like a domino effect. We kind of convinced each other. I committed there, and Rylee and I encouraged Alex and talked about how sweet it would be to all wrestle together.”
“Peyton and I did a visit at the same time,” Lloyd said. “It was fun doing it together. We watched our first SDSU match against Iowa State – it was electrifying. Everybody loved it; everybody lost their voices. We kept talking about how it would be to wrestle together here – it would be a lot of fun to be Jackrabbits.”
It is unlikely both wrestlers will stay at the same weight next year. Both Robb and Paulson feel Peyton will ultimately move up in weight more quickly than Lloyd. If the state tournament is the last time the public can watch a Robb versus Lloyd match, at least they went out with a bang. For those in the PINnacle or South Dakota State practice rooms, the fun is only beginning.