Four Eagles wrestlers win state individual titles
Moments after winning his fourth consecutive state individual wrestling championship, Mark Hall went into the stands at Xcel Energy Center to thank and hug some of the people who have helped him along the way.
They’re people who have his back, and Hall said it’s good to know they’re out there – because he knows there are some who don’t feel the same way about Apple Valley wrestlers.
The Eagles are, in a sense, the New York Yankees of Minnesota high school wrestling. An Apple Valley wrestler who wins a state championship match is greeted with polite applause, but someone who beats an Apple Valley wrestler might hear roars from the crowd.
The Eagles don’t have to like it, but they understand that’s the way it is.
“It is a little disappointing,” Hall said of fans who openly root against Apple Valley. “I try to stay focused on what I want to achieve. I don’t necessarily have to win, but I want to glorify God and represent my school.”
Hall, a sophomore, completed a 48-0 season with a technical fall victory over Henry Sibley’s Garrett Beaman in the state Class 3A championship match at 170 pounds. He is 184-4 over four seasons and has a chance to be Minnesota’s first six-time high school champion if he can win state titles as a junior and senior.
Hall’s previous state titles were at 132, 152 and 160. He does not appear to be any less dominant on the mat as he’s gone up in weight.
“I’ve wrestled anywhere from 119 to 170,” he said. “I think I’ve had an advantage because I’ve usually been quicker than the guys I’ve wrestled. But I might not be quite as quick as I used to be now that I’m at 170.”
But there’s still no indication Minnesota opponents are any closer to solving Hall. In seven matches at state (including three in the Class 3A team competition) he won four by fall, one by technical fall and two by major decision.
Two Apple Valley wrestlers became three-time state champions Saturday – junior Maolu Woiwor (44-2), who won the 132-pound title, and senior Seth Gross (44-2), who took first at 138. Bobby Steveson (38-1), a junior who moved to Apple Valley this season, was a state champion at 182.
“The goal was to win four state titles, but I missed in my freshman year,” said Gross, who placed third at 106 as a ninth-grader. “But three state titles is good, and we finished the way we wanted to as a team (Apple Valley won its ninth consecutive state team championship). This is a good way to go out.”
Gross defeated Eden Prairie’s Ben Brancale 3-1 in the state championship match and said he was as nervous before that match as he’s ever been, knowing that it was his last for Apple Valley.
Gross also acknowledged that he hears the fans who want to see Apple Valley wrestlers lose, but “you have to put that aside and just go out there and wrestle the best you can.”
In his three state championship seasons, Gross’ record was 113-9. He also was junior freestyle champion at 132 and junior folkstyle runner-up at 132 in the USA Wrestling nationals last summer.
Woiwor won the state 113-pound championship last year and took first at 106 the year before. He is 132-13 over the last three years. Woiwor won the 132-pound championship match 8-4 over Hastings senior Luke Rowh, who was third at state at that weight last season.
Steveson beat previously undefeated Tartan senior T.J. O’Hara 7-0 in the championship match at 182. It’s the second state high school championship for Steveson, who placed first in the Indiana state tourney last year. A University of Minnesota recruit, Steveson also was a junior folkstyle national champion in 2013.
Steveson’s brother Gable, an eighth-grader, came close at 195 but lost 6-1 to Alexandria’s Justin Cumberbatch in the championship match to finish 39-3.
Eagles senior Paul Cheney, the defending state champion at 220, reached the state final again but lost to Prior Lake’s Alex Hart 8-5. Cheney and Hart wrestled four times this season, with each winning twice.
“I feel bad for Gable and Paul because they work as hard as anybody in our room,” Hall said. “But for Gable to take second at 195 as an eighth-grader is a great accomplishment.”
Apple Valley sent a wrestler to state in all 14 weight classes. Ninth-grader Kyle Rathman (41-10) placed third at 106. Ninth-grader Noah Buck (31-18) went 2-2 at 113. Senior Gannon Volk (42-8) placed fourth at 120. Ninth-grader Zach Chytka (20-5) went 1-2 at 126. Sophomore Brock Morgan (45-5) finished third at 145. Senior Daivonte Young (31-9) finished fifth at 152. Senior Jackson Graham (28-9) placed sixth at 160. Lord Josh Hyeamang (39-4), a senior, lost his first-round match at 285 and was shut out of the wrestlebacks when his first-round opponent lost in the quarterfinals.