State wrestling: Luft wins another wrestling championship; Kempema places fourth
ST. PAUL — Anthony Luft seems to have a knack for making big moves at big moments of big matches at the state wrestling tournament. Saturday was just another chapter to that story for the Worthington senior.
Showcasing his ability to score from anywhere and at any time, Luft squeaked out a 9-7 decision in overtime with Simley senior Cortez Arredondo to make himself a back-to-back state champion.
“It’s pretty awesome,” was all Luft could muster of winning again. “It’s hard to explain.”
Luft trailed early, struggling to get anything going offensively against a technically sound Arredondo in the finals.
Arredondo took a 2-0 lead with a takedown midway through the first period. From there, Luft inched his way back into the match.
Luft tied with Arredondo at 2-2 with 25 seconds remaining in the first period but Arredondo put together a takedown, a reversal and a two-point near fall for a 6-4 lead again in the second frame.
Trailing 7-5 with little time left in regulation, Luft scored a takedown to tie the match and send it to overtime. He then got the decisive push with a takedown just seconds before time ran out.
“He kept really good position,” Luft said after his championships match. “He caught me in some places but I was able to keep wrestling through it to score points. He wasn’t doing much from his feet so I figured I could score from there.”
Luft reached the semifinals by taking a 12-2 major decision in the first round over Chisago Lakes Area sophomore Aaron Sistrunk. He then pinned Scott West junior David Flynn in 53 seconds in the quarterfinals.
Luft’s semifinal, however, came at a much higher price than the first two bouts had. Trailing 2-1 against Foley senior Tyler Funk late in their match, Luft came up with a two-point near fall with time expiring to claim the lead and forge on into the finals. Luft had defeated Funk last year in triple overtime for his first state championship.
“This morning was close,” Luft said of the semifinals. “But I just had to keep wrestling to score points.”
According to Worthington head coach Mark Prunty, Luft is a youngster of a quiet, yet competitive demeanor, and he prefers to lead by example. He caps his final prep campaign at 41-2.
“It’s hard enough to win one state title. But to win two; I’m not sure if people understand how hard that is to do,” Prunty said. “I think people assume that if you’ve won it once that it’s just going to be a cakewalk. People are shooting for you and there is a lot of pressure on you. To a accomplish that is a huge, huge deal.”
That being said, another state championship in Luft’s career still wasn’t a huge surprise to Prunty, especially when one considers how hard Luft works and how much he desires to reach his goals.
“I think that a lot of people will get down early and then come back looking for a lateral drop, a headlock or something bigger and they’ll take themselves completely out of the match,” Prunty said. “Anthony is a perfect example of how you start with an escape or a reversal, and then all of a sudden when you look at the scoreboard and he’s still in it.
“The main thing is Anthony’s poise out there and being able to not panic but keep battling,” Prunty added. “After the semifinals match I looked over at his dad (Assistant coach Mike Luft) and told him he’s just a winner. He wins. That is all you can say about Anthony.”
Luft will graduate in roughly two months from Worthington High School and knows he would like to wrestle at the next level but is not sure where yet. At least now he’ll have some time to consider that.
“I took a couple of losses from the beginning of the year and the middle of the year, but I had to build on that,” Luft said of his senior season. “Since the beginning I’ve kind of wanted to be remembered, almost like a legend. That is something I’ve worked toward every day.”
Kempema places third, three Trojans miss out on medals Worthington senior Zach Kempema also received hardware at state with fourth place. He took a first-round match by 11-3 major decision but fell in the quarterfinals to Mahtomedi’s Carter Focht.
Coming back on the consolation bracket, Kempema won two matches in overtime. His first was a 7-3 triumph over Princeton’s Jake Pramann and the second was in a second meeting with Focht. This time Kempema won the match, 6-4.
Going for third place, Kempema struggled to get anything going and trailed 5-1 after two periods, eventually losing by 7-3 decision.
“This is the second year in a row we’ve had two medalists,” Prunty said. “Zach is another senior, so for him to be able to go out with a fourth-place medal is a huge deal. Zach had to win a match after a tough two-point loss to make it another day and he was able to do that.
“Three-straight wins in the wrestlebacks to ensure his medal says a lot about Zach’s heart, his determination and his ability,” Prunty said. “I’m really proud of Zach and what he’s accomplished this year.”
Worthington sophomore Hser Eh Pwae won an opening round match at state against Scott West eighth-grader Jackson Stauffacher by 5-2 decision but fell in Friday evening’s quarterfinals,12-10. Eh Pwae then lost his first consolation match, against Pquot Lakes-Pine River’s Anthony Phillipson by a 5-2 decision to end his tournament.
WHS senior Blake Schroeder was one win away from a medal, finishing with two wins in St. Paul. He won a 7-5 decision against first-round opponent Billy Merth of St. Paul Highland Park and lost in the quarterfinals to Tri-City United’s Josh Selly by a major decision.
Schroeder won a 16-0 technical fall against Perham’s Cole Schmitz in the first round of consolations but bowed out of the tournament with a loss to Princeton’s Billy McClay.
Worthington senior Carson Hagen, after placing at last year’s state tournament, lost out of this year’s event following two losses. Foley senior Mitch Struffert beat Hagen 3-2 in the quarterfinals. Hagen then lost a 3-2 match in overtime in the consolation quarterfinals.
“We’ve had three seniors who have been able to wrestle with us all year long. All three of them have been a big part of the team,” Prunty said. “Blake was just one match short. We would’ve loved to have gotten all three up on the podium but Blake has improved leaps and bounds this year. He has great leadership in the room and he’s more of a vocal leader. Anthony and Zach are both quieter and lead by example, but Zach’s the vocal leader.”
Axford finishes fifth, Oeltjenbruns wrestle in Class AA tournament
Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove’s Logan Axford was one step away from a spot in the state championship match, but Rockford senior Ty Griffin kept him from that opportunity. Falling to the consolation side of the bracket, Axford moved his way to the fifth-place match where he won in a five minute, 26-second fall over Simley junior Kyle Nordstrom.
For Luverne, senior Spencer Oeltjenbruns closed his season with a pair of losses at state. Zimmerman junior Austin May bested Oeltjenbruns in the opening round in a 4-2 decision. In the consolation bracket, Oeltjenbruns dropped an 11-3 major decision to Byron senior Brian Bertram. Oeltjenbruns finished his season at 33-6.