Wrestling: WCA-A-B-E's Anthony Sykora lives out his dream by winning a state title
WCA-A-B-E's Anthony Sykora wins 1st in Class A at 170, BHVPP's Abby and Gideon Ervasti finish second in their respective brackets.
ST. PAUL - A high school wrestler’s dream is to win a state title in front of a packed arena. West Central Area-Ashby-Brandon-Evansville junior Anthony Sykora (170) got to live that dream with a 6-2 win over Royalton-Upsala’s Gabe Gorecki (41-5) in the finals of the 2022 MSHSL State Wrestling Tournament.
“It’s unbelievable, it’s a dream come true,” Sykora said following the match. “It’s been my dream since I’ve been a kid. If you work hard, it pays off. Then you get to be a state champ and it’s the best feeling ever.”
Sykora (47-5) came into Saturday’s finals match with a demeanor that looked calm, cool and collected, at least on the outside. He stayed loose as his name was announced to the thousands of fans in attendance at the Xcel Energy Center. The pressure of the moment didn’t seem to get to him and he didn’t seem panicked.
Midway through the finals match, both wrestlers stonewalled each other’s offensive attack and the score was 0-0. But Sykora kept pushing and it paid dividends. Sykora first earned a point for Gorecki locking his hands. Sykora then fired out from the bottom position with an escape and two takedowns in the last 1:04 of the second period.
With a 6-1 lead in the third period, Sykora fended off all of Gorecki’s offensive attacks, after Gorecki scored an escape, and earned the 6-2 victory. And a release of positive emotion then ensued, with Sykora first pointing to the sky, flexing and screaming in excitement, as well as jumping up into head coach Brandon Gruchow’s arms.
“It’s a big venue that we’re in, everyone’s watching you,” Sykora said. “There’s a lot of pressure.”
That pressure didn’t seem to faze Sykora when he needed to make some big moves.
He didn’t allow Gorecki to get a takedown in the match and he attributes that to his scouting.
“I knew his main strategy coming in was to go for a double leg [takedown],” Sykora said. “So I got lower than him to take away that double leg and stop him for the whole match.”
Sykora had great shot defense in the finals on Saturday and in the entire tournament.
Sykora, the four seed in the bracket, allowed just one takedown in four matches throughout the tournament, which came in the semifinals. He outscored his opponents 35-8 in all matches combined.
Before the tournament, Sykora said he went to the coaching staff, asking if he should change up his offensive approach.
“I asked the coaches, ‘Should I change my strategies up and change what I’m doing,’” Sykora said. “I got good coaches giving me advice, telling me to stay with my stuff and beat them with my best move.”
With the finals win, Sykora earned his 175th career victory.
Sykora got to the finals with a 7-5 decision over Kimball Area’s Ashton Hanan. He scored a takedown and back points in the match's first minute to move ahead 5-0.
Sykora is a four-time state qualifier and placed fifth at 160 in the 2021 state tournament.
Along with Sykora, one more Knight had a top-six finish. Freshman Hunter Gruchow (Class A - 132) finished in sixth. Gruchow fell by an 11-3 major decision to Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City’s Cole Holien in the fifth place match.
Gruchow advanced in consolations with a 3-1 overtime win over New Richland-H-E-G’s Nikolas Petsinger. Gruchow finished a takedown nine seconds into the minute-long sudden victory one period.
Gruchow then lost a match to Jackson County Central’s Logan Butzon 6-3.
The Knights went 1-2 in the consolation matches on Saturday. Seniors Reubens Swanson (145) and Colton Linquist (220) were both eliminated before the medal rounds.
B-H-V-PP’s Abby and Gideon Ervasti each finish second
The Bertha-Hewitt-Verndale-Parkers Prairie Raiders (Class A) had two wrestlers get to the finals matches in their respective weight classes. They happen to be siblings, senior Gideon Ervasti (220) and sophomore Abby Ervasti (145 Girls).
This year was the inaugural girls championship, with the previous girls championship being the MWCA Girls Championships in 2020.
Like she did in 2020, Ervasti got to the finals. Abby Ervasti got to the finals with a second period pin (2:21) off of a reversal over Northfield’s Laney Louts.
Abby Ervasti (3-8) got pinned in the finals by Apple Valley’s Grace Alagbo in the second period (3:24).
“I'm super proud of my sister,” Gideon Ervasti said. “We both worked hard and we put in a lot of hours.”
Abby has been wrestling on varsity since her 8th grade year and has never been afraid of the challenge. This is one of many reasons why Gideon and others see Abby as an inspiration for younger girls wanting to get into wrestling.
“She jumps right in and sets a great example,” Gideon said.
Gideon got to the finals with a 9-2 win over Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa’s Ethan Spanier in the semifinals. Ervasti had two takedowns, a reversal, a two-point near fall and a point for stalling being called on Spanier.
He fell in the finals 9-5 to Crookston’s Ethan Boll, who finished the season 44-1. Boll scored four takedowns and one escape in his win.
Boll and Gideon Ervasti know each other well.
“We wrestled each other quite a bit back in the day,” Gideon Ervasti said. “There’s no bad blood between us, he’s a good guy.”
Before his loss in the finals, Ervasti had outscored his first three opponents 31-12.
He finishes the season with a 21-2 record. He had to miss a significant amount of the season due to recovering from surgery and illness.
“I broke my thumb back in May. I didn't even know it until after football season,” Ervasti said. “Then I got into wrestling and realized it was broken. That was the biggest thing and mentally coming back from that.”
Gideon said it took him three weeks to recover from that surgery and then he was sick and couldn’t be on the mat.
Gideon will finish his high school career as a four-time state qualifier and a runner-up at 220 (Class A) in the 2022 state tournament.
Alexandria, Osakis, Minnewaska bow out early on day two
The Alexandria Cardinals, Osakis Silverstreaks and Minnewaska Lakers each had one wrestler still in medal contention to begin the day but had zero after the consolation round on Saturday.
Alexandria’s Mason McGrane (Class AA - 113) fell to Big Lakes Cash Sixberry in the consolation round (pin 2:09). McGrane, a freshman, joined junior teammate Blaze Nelson at this year's state tournament and gained more valuable experience.
"We stressed a lot to Mason and Blaze that to win at the state tournament you have to be the one setting pace and controlling the tie-ups within the match," Alexandria head coach Aldon Struchen said. "They were aggressive and gave it their best shot, which we really liked to see. They didn't clam up under the bright lights and roars of the crowd, which we sometimes see wrestlers do. They both had very good seasons and we are proud of their accomplishments. Hopefully they will both get an opportunity to represent us again at the state tournament next year."
Osakis’ Reggie George (Class A - 106) fell to Royalton-Upsala’s Tucker Simmons by a 3-1 decision.
At the end of the second period, Minnewaska’s Chase Smith (Class A - 113) got pinned by Millie Lacs’ Zach Remer.