Jacob and Aaron – A Mutually Beneficial Friendship

By Brian Jerzak

Athletics can do amazing things. Among others, as an adult, they give people like me who are WAY past their athletic prime a way to stay involved, they entertain, and for kids, give them something in which to strive. For some kids, athletics can do more than that. Sometimes athletics gives kids a chance to succeed when he otherwise would have not. Sometimes sports can form unlikely friendships that change both parties for the better.

Jacob Gentile was born Valentine’s Day 2002. He was premature and born six weeks early. He weighed three pounds twelve ounces.

“He was placed on oxygen for a week,” said Annette Gentile, Jacob’s mother. “He is legally blind in his left eye.”

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Not Your Normal, Everyday Routine

By Brian Jerzak

There are not too many high school wrestlers who have a weekend routine like Rogers’ Andrew Piehl. Piehl is one of the top 285 pound wrestlers in the state and like many successful wrestlers also is a solid football player who helped the Royals to back-to-back seven-win regular seasons. The last few years he has become active in the Greco and freestyle world and generated interest from Division I wrestling programs and Division II football programs.

For most 17-year olds, that is already a full schedule, but for an elite high school athlete, it is more of the norm. If it is not the football season, Piehl’s weekends are filled with wrestling practices, tournaments and one unique hobby that he and his dad picked up three years ago.

Piehl – who is The Guillotine’s number one ranked 285-pound wrestler in Class AAA – started wrestling at a young age.

“When I was in first grade my dad came home, and he had seen a sign on the side of the road for youth wrestling,” Piehl recalled. “He asked if I wanted to do it. Basketball wasn’t working out, and I wasn’t having any fun, so wrestling was something new to try.”

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Defending champs pushed, but prevail

By Brian Jerzak

Wrestling fans in the south metro were treated to a highly entertaining dual meet on Thursday night. The number one ranked Apple Valley Eagles traveled about fifteen minutes south to face the fourth-ranked Farmington Tigers. Rarely are the Eagles pushed in the regular season unless they are in a tournament with teams from around the nation. Down by one point with two matches remaining, their dual with the Tigers was far from a walk in the park.

It was a back a forth duel all night. The largest lead of the night was ten – twice – for Apple Valley, but there were six lead changes with the final lead change not coming until Valley’s win at 220. Obviously, Apple Valley has a number of hammers in their line-up, but Farmington has their share of ranked wrestlers as well.

It was a match without a marque match up – no single bout had ranked wrestlers on the mat at the same time, but almost every match-up featured one ranked wrestler. Obviously, the Eagles had more ranked guys, so to keep it close the Tigers had to avoid bonus points and earn bonus points when they could. They almost pulled it off.

In the end, Apple Valley had an ace in the hole. Eagles’ head coach Dalen Wasmund decided to bump his number one ranked 220 pounder – Gable Steveson – up to 285.

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Sticking To The Basics – Moorhead Spuds

Moorhead head wrestling coach Skip Toops’ path toward helping bring the Spuds wrestling program back to the glory days of the late ’70s and early ’80s did not go in a straight line. Many times his path started to lead him in a different direction from the wrestling room. In the end, his path became clear. Since he became the head coach for the Spuds, Moorhead wrestling has had its best stretch of results in more than thirty years – in large part because the program became a reflection of its coach. It has stuck to the basics.

Toops grew up in New London and wrestled for New London-Spicer. He is from a family full of athletes and coaches, but none of them were wrestlers. Toops would be the first to pursue the sport past the early youth levels.

“My mom put me in wrestling when I was five years old because I was an overly active and aggressive kid,” Toops said. “My dad had been the head basketball coach at my school until I was born, and my brothers were basketball players, but wrestling just fit with who I was.”

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One of Minnesota’s best football players sticks with wrestling

By Brian Jerzak

Few wrestling families in the state of Minnesota have had the success of the Moore family from Jackson County Central. Cooper is a two-time Minnesota state champion and is a two-time MAC conference champion for Northern Iowa. Brother Paden is a one-time state champion and is ready to start his college career with his brother at UNI. The youngest of the Moore brothers is JCC senior Keegan Moore. Keegan has a chance to be the most decorated of the Moore brothers – brothers who have helped Keegan get into the sport and helped make him one of the best wrestlers in the nation.

“(My brothers) always make sure I am going hard. Growing up and watching them wrestle I definitely learned from them,” Moore said. “All three of us wanted to be doing the same thing.”

Originally Moore saw himself as a football player first and a wrestler second.

“I went out for wrestling to become a better football player,” Moore said. “My dad was a football coach, and he thought it would be the way to go. We ended up being better at wrestling.”

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The Strange Journey of Jojo Garcia

By Brian Jerzak

It has been a strange, sad journey for former Minnesota Gophers’ football recruit and one-time possible Gophers wrestler Jovanny “Jojo” Garcia. As a freshman, he was one of the top Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestlers in his age group in the state. As a senior he is hoping to wrestle for the Simley Spartans.

As a sophomore and a junior Garcia was one of the top football recruits in the state. He played defensive tackle for two years for the East Ridge Raptors and nearly helped his team to a state championship. Although he has not wrestled a varsity match, he is active with the Minnesota Storm.

One of the best football players in the state – even though he has not played in a year – Garcia feels wrestling was invaluable to his football success.

“Wrestling has been my sport since I was four years old. My hips are strong. Pretty much everything a defensive tackle needs to know with hand techniques I have gotten it all from wrestling.”

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Wrestling is a Family Affair

By Brian Jerzak

From a very young age, Marty Morgan has been involved in some aspect of wrestling. From youth wrestling, through his time as the Minnesota Gophers’ head wrestling assistant, and beyond, Morgan has been involved in the sport. Wrestling has always been a big influence on his life. It has had almost as much influence as his family. For Morgan, wrestling has always been – and always will be – a family affair.

“My three oldest brothers were all professional boxers, and my dad ended up switching to wrestling. Three of us, the younger brothers – we had six boys total – the three younger ones, we all switched into wrestling. I just followed my brothers who were older than me. We were at Kennedy High School, which was a strong program in the early 80’s in which we were state champions twice. My brothers both went on to become college All-Americans and were both on the Olympic team. I had some good mentors right in my own house.”

Morgan was a very good high school wrestler, but could never get over the hump and become a state champion. After he got into college Morgan got over the hump. He won two national championships – one with (at the time) Division II North Dakota State and one with Minnesota.

“When I got to college I became an NCAA champion which is probably my number one athletic moment.”

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