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John’s Journal: From Rodeo To Wrestling, Faith Koning Has Been Busy

Wadena-Deer Creek Junior Had A Hectic Week In Texas And St. Paul

Posted: Saturday, March 4, 2023 - 3:48 PM


Wadena-Deer Creek's Faith Koning (right) shakes hands with Bemidji's Imrie Mistic before their match in the state tournament consolation bracket.




Faith Koning competing in barrel racing.

Multi-sport athletes are nothing new, but Faith Koning took that phrase to another level this week, in two very different activities. One is wrestling and the other involves horses. Frenzied air and highway travel are also part of the story.

The junior from Wadena-Deer Creek, a first-year wrestler, qualified for this weekend’s state tournament at a section meet three weeks ago. But she didn’t know if she would be able to wrestle because she had also qualified for one of the biggest junior rodeos in the world … in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Junior Patriot Rodeo is a 12-day event that will end Sunday. Faith’s specialty is barrel racing and when the rodeo schedule came out, everything fell into place and she knew she could wrestle at state. But it wasn’t easy.

Faith’s mom, Ashley, dropped off Faith and her grandma at the Dallas airport on Friday and they arrived in the Twin Cities around 8 p.m., 13 hours before the first round of girls competition at Xcel Energy Center. So, Faith would wrestle, that was certain.

Ashley, with three of the five kids in the family, drove all night from Texas and arrived in St. Paul at 5 a.m. Saturday after 14 hours on the road.

“I went to my mom and dad's hotel and I showered and drank some coffee and came over here,” she said Saturday at the tournament.

Faith’s grandpa, Dan Lawson, was also at Xcel Energy Center, broadcasting matches on Wadena’s KWAD radio. So Faith, her mom and her grandparents were in the building.

Where was her dad, Josh? Well, somebody had to drive home with a trailer and Faith’s horses, Flash and Peanuts.

“We're kind of dividing and conquering,” Ashley said.

Faith wasn’t overly enthusiastic about her results in Texas, saying. “I didn't do the greatest. My horses and I kind of struggled with the competition down there because it's so intense, but it was fun.”

On the wrestling mat, Faith lost in Saturday’s state quarterfinals to Jaden Ruegsegger of Centennial. Her season came to a close a couple hours later with a loss to Imrie Mistic of Bemidji in the consolation bracket.

After being in Texas for nearly a week, Faith was happy to be back in her home state, if not her hometown. She is one of five girls on the Wadena-Deer Creek team. A year ago, W-DC’s Maddie Gallant made history by qualifying for the first MSHSL girls state wrestling tournament. Maddie helped convince Faith to come out for the team this year.

“She's wanted to wrestle ever since she was a little kid, because my brother wrestled,” Ashley said. “And we always just kind of told her, ‘You know, it's not really a girls sport.’ And then after Maddie was in it last year, Maddie kind of talked to her about how it would be nice to have a wrestling partner and other girls to wrestle with in our town.

“I knew she would be good at it because she's strong and just kind of whatever she decides to do, she’s good at.”

Faith had been a dancer previously, along with a lifelong love of horses. She had never attended a state wrestling tournament, so Saturday’s experience was eye-opening.

“There's a lot of people, a lot of commotion,” she said. “This is pretty insane.”

Faith is one of two wrestlers from Wadena-Deer Creek who made it to the 2023 state tournament. The other, senior Koby Endres at 195 pounds in boys Class A, was defeated in the quarterfinals by senior Ayden Goetzinger of Caledonia/Houston. That gave Koby a season record of 37-3.

Wolverines coach Brad Wollum said he has never before had to worry about a wrestler competing in horseback barrel racing at the same time.

“No, this is a first,” he said with a laugh. “I think it was actually harder on grandpa and grandma and dad and stuff, with all the logistics and everything.”

When the wrestling season started, Faith had already qualified for the rodeo in Texas.

“She said, ‘By the way, in March I have this national rodeo,’ ” Wollum said. “So we're like, ‘OK, it's a long shot (getting to state). And then she got her (rodeo) draw order, and we realized all the cards would fall into place. And then it all came down to the flights lining up. So luckily, it worked out.”

--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at [email protected] 

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