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Wrestling State Tournament: 2024 Individual Championship Recap

Posted: Saturday, March 2, 2024 - 11:19 PM

Cy Kruse

Totino-Grace senior 215-pounder Cy Kruse finished the season with a record 51 pins, the final one coming in the Class AA championship.

Ask longtime Totino-Grace wrestling coach Doug Svihel to describe senior 215-pounder Cy Kruse and it will take a while before he even mentions the sport. Attributes like respected leadership, goal-setter, humble, stellar student-athlete, progressive thinker and polite are the ones that easily rattled off.

Oh, one more, he adds: “Pinner.”

Don’t forget state champion, too.

Kruse completed a season of dominance with, no surprise here, a pin to capture the Class AA 215-pound championship during the Minnesota State High School League’s Wrestling State Tournament on Saturday, March 2 at Xcel Energy Center. He ended his career with a single-season record 51st pin when he defeated Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton junior Caleb Johnson.

With lightning quickness that racks up points via takedowns to wear an opponent out, Kruse had an 18-8 lead over Johnson before quickly applying the championship pin with seven seconds left in the first period. All of Johnson’s eight points were from escape points when Kruse purposely let him go. If the margin becomes 15 points, the match ends as a technical fall.

Kruse pinned his way through the state tournament. He had three during the Class AA team portion when Totino-Grace shared the third-place trophy with Becker and four more during the individual tournament. During the team tournament, Kruse broke the single-season record of 45 pins set by Stillwater’s Ryder Rogotzke last season.

“The motivation and focus to win with a pin is always in me,” Kruse said. “I expect it. It’s part of the plan and the setup. If you stick to your stuff, your technique, you will wear an opponent out. That is my key, working my plan and being patient.”

Kruse, who has committed to wrestle and study at Cornell University, finished the season 56-1, his lone loss to a wrestler from Iowa. His season of dominance ranks tied for third all-time with Rogotzke. Totino-Grace’s Jake Svihel, Doug’s son, set a single-season record with 57 victories in 2019, a feat that was equaled by New Prague’s Koy Buesgens in 2023.

Kruse’s final prep victory takes away a yearlong sting of losing to Simley’s Gavin Nelson, currently with the University of Minnesota wrestling team, in the dramatic Class AA 215-pound championship match.

“I was very hard on myself this season,” Kruse said. “I believed that I could win last year. When I did not, it pushed me to wrestle full-time. That is what you do. You take things to the next step.”

That included an aggressive summer schedule of wrestling that included three national folkstyle championships.

“It feels amazing; it is every kid’s dream to be a state champion,” Kruse said. “Rebounding from that loss of last year is very rewarding. . . I hope that I’m remembered as a pinner, someone who has earned it. I was just a kid that won.”

Raymond’s quest halfway complete

As a seventh-grader in 2022, Simley’s Charli Raymond made League history by becoming the first girls wrestling state champion. She added another as an eighth-grader, and on Saturday night won a three-peat with a 13-2 victory over New Prague senior Destiny Lofton in the 118-pound championship match.

“The goal from the start has been to become the first six-time (girls) champion,” Raymond said. “That is out there for me to achieve. It’s what motivates me and keeps me grinding away in the practice room. I’m not finished yet.”

Raymond, 41-0 over the past two seasons, is excited to see the growth of girls wrestling surpass 1,000 participants this season.

“It is so awesome to see so many girls coming out to wrestle and experience this great sport,” she said. “We want to see the growth continue on and on.”

Ambrose captures No. 4

Jackson County Central senior Nolan Ambrose became the 33rd wrester in League history to win four individual state championships following a pin of Gavin Johnson of Kenyon-Wanamingo in the Class A 145-pound title match. Ambrose, who finished his prep career 212-26, is the first four-time champion in the rich tradition of the Huskies’ program. Three-time JCC champions include Payton Handevidt (2020-2022); Keegan Moore (2014-2016); Bronson Steuber (2009-2011); Nate Baker (1998-2000) and Chad Kraft (1992-1994).

Quick Takes:

  • Northfield sophomore Caley Graber, who on Day 1 of the individual wrestling state tournament became the first girl to defeat a boy competitor and then do so again in the quarterfinals, lost in a 4-0 decision to Eagan’s Dylan St. Germain in the Class AAA 107-pound semifinals. She then lost again in the consolation round to Shakopee’s Anthony Heim. Graber’s fifth-place finish made her the first-ever girls medalist in boys wrestling.
  • Hastings senior Skylar Little Soldier capped her prep wrestling career with a third championship with a pin of Luverne's Cece Rock in the 148-pound title match.
  • Becker junior Kaden Nicolas prevented Mound Westonka senior Jack Nelson from winning a fourth individual championship with a tense 5-4 victory in the Class AA 139-pound championship. Nelson has committed to wrestle for the Gophers.
  • Griffin Lundeen made school history at Thief River Falls as the first-ever two-time state champion.
  • Attendance for the three-day state tournament was 58,537.

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