No Longer The Hunter – Zach Hanson

By Brian Jerzak

There is a saying out there that goes, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. For most athletes, second place in the state wrestling tournament would be considered a wildly successful season, and most athletes don't get anywhere near that close to a state championship. After two straight second-place finishes at State - for Lakeville North's Zach Hanson – close no longer counted, and he wouldn't be happy unless he was on top of the podium.

"Winning a state title (last season) was a relief," Hanson said. "There have been no slouches in the state finals in Minnesota. (St. Michael-Albertville's) Cole Becker was a great opponent. We had wrestled earlier in the season, and it was a quadruple overtime match. You couldn't tell which way it would go, but getting that takedown in overtime was the most relieving moment I have felt in a long time. Just to know I had finally done it and proven I could do it. Now this year, I can focus on improving and not worry about results as much as I used to."

Hanson entered his senior season as the hunted, not the hunter.

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Building Culture By Building Family

Richard Schlotfeldt and Andover Wrestling

By Brian Jerzak

When Richard Schlotfeldt took over the Andover wrestling program, it wasn't something he had planned. Although he had been involved in wrestling since he was a young boy, becoming a coach – much less a head coach – was not on his radar. He had worked at the University of Minnesota for years but was ready for a change.

"I liked what I was doing at the 'U,' but I didn't think it was something I could do until I retired, so I thought I would try something different," Schlotfeldt said. "A friend recommended teaching. At the time, there was an opening at Andover High School. After teaching for a year, I thought I would help with the youth or wherever they needed help in the wrestling program."

Some persuasive voices in the community and Schlotfeldt's own family moved up Schlotfeldt's coaching timeline.

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Less Is More – Tyler Wells

By Brian Jerzak

I was focused on the AA mat when I settled into my seat at the Xcel Energy Center, ready to watch the 132 championship matches. In my mind, it was the marquee matchup of the 2022 state wrestling tournament. As the whistle blew to start the match, I thought, "I bet I am doing a story next year on whoever wins this match." Here we are, months later, and I am writing about three-time state champion Tyler Wells.

Wells' journey to join the exclusive "three-time state champions" club and his continued journey to the even more exclusive "four-timers" club has followed a different path than most multi-champion wrestlers I have talked to walk. If you look at their TrackWrestling profiles, most guys have results from multiple tournaments each year. Not so for Wells. For the three-time champion, less is more.

"I was in first or second grade when I started wrestling," Wells said. "My mom got me into wrestling because she was looking for a way to have me burn off energy—what would be better than wrestling?"

Wells' "less is more" philosophy started right away.

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High School Class AAA Preview

Section 1 

Four teams will contend for the title in Section 1 this season. Northfield will be defending their third-place state finish and section championship, with seven returning state entrants. Senior Jayce Barron (152) leads the returning entrants, and he will have a strong sophomore class to back him up this season. Sophomores Keith Harner (113), Logan Williams (120), Owen Murphy (160), and Ryan Kuyper (182) were all state entrants last season, along with freshman Jackson Barron (132) and eighth grader Caden Staab (106).

Faribault, with new co-head coaches Jacob Staloch and Jesse Armbruster, will be a very strong challenger for Northfield. The Falcons return four state entrants in senior Gabriel Shatskikh (220), junior JT Hausen (3rd at 120), junior Isaac Yetzer (145), and sophomore Bo Bokman (126).

Rochester Mayo and Owatonna are two other teams capable of taking the team section title. Mayo returns freshman Juan Cobarruvias (106), sophomore Calder Sheehan (138), senior Dylan Peper (182), and junior Ethan Peper (285). The third-place finisher, senior Cael Robb (132), will head the Owatonna title hunt along with sophomore Lane Karsten (113).

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High School Class AA Preview

Class AA: Chasing Down the Champs

The target is on Simley again this year. The Spartans are the defending state champion after defeating Kasson-Mantorville by a 47-21 score in the state final match at the Xcel Energy Center last season, and it was the Spartans’ fourth straight state title. Overall, Simley returns six state placewinners this year and opens the season as heavy favorites to repeat as state champions in St. Paul this March.

Individually, seven state champions take to the mat again this year. Six of those champions will be defending their Class AA titles, while one defends her girls’ title from last March. Tyler Wells, a senior from Princeton, returns as a three-time champion. Wells has the opportunity to become the 30th four-time state champion in Minnesota state wrestling history. The last Class AA wrestler to win that many state titles was Bennett Berge of Kasson-Mantorville, who won his fifth individual title for the KoMets last season. The state’s first four-time champion was Jim Van Gorden from Minneapolis Marshall in 1940. The first four-time champion from a current Class AA school was John Miller from Renville-Sacred Heart - part of the current Quad County coop - in 1985.

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High School Class A Preview

Section 1A

Favorites: Dover-Eyota Eagles and Chatfield Gophers
Dark Horses: Kenyon-Wanamingo Knights and the Goodhue Wildcats

Dover-Eyota Eagles
Head Coach: Brain Lehnertz
Three Rivers Conference: 6-1 | Overall: 20-10
The Eagles defeated Goodhue 45-30, GMLOS 64-11, and Chatfield 33-30 in the Section 1A championship. The Eagles defeated Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa in the state quarterfinals 30-26. In the semifinals, they were defeated by Royalton-Upsala 34-33 and West Central Area 35-31 for third. The Eagles had twelve section placewinners last year and two state medal winners. They will have back nine of their section placewinners, including three state placewinners and three state qualifiers. They graduated three seniors, including a pair of state qualifiers. They should be in a real dogfight for the top spot in Section 1 with Chatfield. They will have seven back with 20-plus wins. Their leaders should include Gavin Gust (40-1), Bolton Thesing (39-13), Brody Kellen (38-8), Aidan Gasper (32-20), Jackson Duellman (28-7), Landon Lehnertz (26-15), and Damon Bye (26-16).

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Pin To Win – Ryder Rogotzke

By Brian Jerzak

During the 2021-22 wrestling season, Stillwater senior Ryder Rogotzke had one of the most dominant seasons a wrestler can have. He lost just one match all season and won his first state championship. In doing so, he pinned his way through the state tournament. During the season, Rogotzke only went the full six minutes twice. He finished with 44 falls – tying the state record for most pins in a season.

"Instead of teaching me how to win, my dad taught me how to pin," Rogotzke said. "That is the easiest way to win. You can be down by ten. If you get the pin, you win. My mentality of pinning everyone was there in the first year. I would go for headlocks, three-quarters, cow catchers, and no one really knew pinning defense. There is not as much strength when you are little. That got me through to now."

Rogotzke found enjoyment and success in two sports as a kid.

"I remember trying t-ball, football, and wrestling," Rogotzke said. "Football and wrestling stuck."

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Lineup Battles Loom For Golden Gophers

University of Minnesota has more depth than they’ve had in a long time

By Matt Krumrie

The Minnesota Gophers head into the 2022-2023 season with talent, experience, and question marks.

It’s a unique mix but should make for a fun and exciting season of Gophers wrestling.

The team has depth, talent, and experience, led by returning All-Americans Patrick McKee (125), Jake Bergeland (141), and Brayton Lee (157). They have experience most college teams would covet, with eight other wrestlers previously qualifying for the NCAA championships. Those eight include Jake Gliva (133), Marcos Polanco (141), Michael Blockhus (149), Cael Carlson (165), Andrew Sparks (165), Bailee O’Reilly (174), Isaiah Salazar (184), Michial Foy (197).

Combined with the returning All-Americans, the Gophers feature a roster with 11 wrestlers who have competed in the biggest tournament in the sport of college wrestling - the NCAA Division I championships.

But they also have question marks at several weights. One of which is, who will emerge at 285 replacing Gable Steveson? Steveson was a man on a mission throughout his Gophers career, ending his career on a 52-match winning streak on his way to three straight undefeated seasons and two consecutive NCAA titles. Steveson, an Olympic Gold medalist, was also a two-time Dan Hodge trophy winner, given annually to the top wrestler in college wrestling.

What’s interesting is that even though the Gophers have question marks, the Gophers lineup includes multiple wrestlers at many weights who can all start and make an impact - because they already have proven to do that.

“One of the things I’m excited about this season is that we have more depth than we’ve had in a long time,” said head coach Brandon Eggum, now in his seventh season as head coach of the Golden Gophers. “You know it’s the nature of the beast that it’s a real physical sport and you’re going to deal with hiccups throughout the season so it’s really important for us to have that depth. I expect to see some guys battling for some spots.”

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