Wrestling: Luft, Cannon, Pulse fight through roadblocks at Worthington Open

WORTHINGTON -- The road to happiness in wrestling is paved with blood and sweat, and sometimes with more than a little bit of pain. For Anthony Luft, a former two-time state champion at Worthington High School, and current Minnesota West Bluejay ...

3107948+Wgtn. Open wrestling 2 rgb.jpg
Tim Middagh/Daily Globe Anthony Luft (in red) controls Nick Santost of Iowa Central on the mat in the 141-pound weight class on Saturday at the Worthington Open at Minnesota West

WORTHINGTON -- The road to happiness in wrestling is paved with blood and sweat, and sometimes with more than a little bit of pain.

For Anthony Luft, a former two-time state champion at Worthington High School, and current Minnesota West Bluejay wrestlers Lamont Cannon and Austin Pulse, the 2016-17 mat season is an ongoing struggle. But with perseverance, and time, hope remains.

On Saturday, 132 college-age wrestlers converged on Worthington for the Worthington Open, a free-wheeling tournament that attracts college freshmen and sophomores and unattached competitors from a wide Midwestern swath of territory.

Luft was there -- the former WHS standout, Southwest Minnesota State University and Augsburg College wrestler -- now competing for himself, and still unsure of where his road will take him.

In his first match, Luft started slowly against Zach Scott of Rochester Community College, but he came from behind to win a 10-4 decision. Luft, who is unattached and admittedly out of shape, showed that, even at the college level, a considerable amount of natural ability can sometimes overcome other handicaps.


“I didn’t know I’d be coming here until Thursday morning,” Luft said moments after his win.

Augsburg hasn’t gone as well as it might have for the former prep champ. He left the school, he said, in December of 2015 in order to “figure some personal stuff out.” At college, he’d experienced some difficulty maintaining his weight at 125 pounds. He said he felt some burn-out, so he opted out of school

Some of his Augsburg friends tipped him onto the Worthington Open, so Luft decided to wrestle as an unattached entrant.

When Luft says “unattached,” he means completely unattached. So unattached, in fact, that he hasn’t been working out with a partner. He hasn’t been working out, basically, at all. He has a full-time job in Eagan. It’s hard to find the time.

So on Saturday he was winging it at 141 pounds.

“I’m excited to get back on the mat and be in competition. I just really like it,” he said.

It’s clear today that Luft still loves wrestling. Coaches who remember his high school career still talk about the potential that the former Trojan has always possessed. One unnamed coach at the Open said that Luft could have been a two-time national champion had he attended Minnesota West, where he would have gotten the technical training that he still needs.

Luft agreed that a better grasp of the technical aspects of wrestling could have made him a more well-rounded competitor. But as of Saturday, he was still stuck in a kind of limbo with a future still under consideration.


“Right now I’m not sure,” he said.

He added, “My success in high school led me onto thinking I could be a better wrestler if I could be a better technician. But like I said, I’m a little burned out.”

Saturday, however, turned out to be a plus. After winning his first match, Luft won his next 16-4 over Nick Santos of Iowa Central, then won his semifinal match 12-7 over Mike Hayes of Augsburg. He finished in second place at 141 pounds, losing in the championship match 14-2 to Ryan Rodorigo of St. Cloud State.

Bluejays are battling Minnesota West sophomore Lamont Cannon and freshman Austin Pulse are coming back from injuries. Saturday was a beginning for them. Or, to be more precise, a new beginning.

In his first tournament this season, Cannon, a 141-pounder from Michigan, was head-butted in the teeth that resulted in a major injury. His recuperation period lasted more than a month.

“It was the first time I didn’t wear my mouthpiece,” he recalled.

Saturday was his first time back since the accident, and in his first match he won easily, 13-1 over Jermein Rivera of William Penn (Iowa), despite being winded and feeling out of shape.

That’s to be expected. After the head-butting, he couldn’t do anything wrestling-wise for several weeks. Finally, he was able to do some practicing at his Michigan high school, but before the Open his formal practice time had been almost non-existent.


When asked if he felt winded during his first match Saturday, Cannon smiled.

“Actually, I was winded before the match. Running some sprints down the hallway,” he said.

Cannon can smile now, but his personal mat plans are serious. In his freshman year at Minnesota West he achieved seventh place at the national tournament, and this year he aims to get first.

One meet at a time.

“I really know I’ve got a really great shot defense,” said the confident Cannon. “I just want to take wrestling wherever it takes me. I know I got my defense.”

His Bluejay teammate, Pulse, lost by a 1:21 fall in his Worthington Open opener to Pipestone Area High School graduate Blake Wolters of South Dakota State University. A two-time state high school qualifier from Brandon Valley, S.D., the heavyweight Pulse also hopes to qualify for the national tournament. But until then, he has to work on his conditioning.

In October, he broke a foot during football season. He came back two weeks ago and, he said, “I’ve been trying to get in shape ever since.”

Saturday morning he experienced his very first college wrestling match.

“It’s very different than high school,” he said, coming off the mat. “You gotta be in shape more, and it really teaches you the mental mindset. And the guys are bigger than you.”

This winter, the Minnesota West wrestling room is unfilled. Injuries and defections have decimated the Bluejays squad, and a heavyweight like Pulse lacks bodies to work out against. Fortunately, assistant coach Bryan Cowdin -- another former WHS standout (who has put on a few pounds since his prep career) -- has been taking on Pulse in Bluejay practice sessions.

Cannon’s lack of conditioning caught up to him on Saturday. After his initial win, he lost his next three by 11-7 decision, by fall in 5:28, and by 16-1 technical fall.

Pulse was also unable to place. After losing to Wolters, he dropped his next match to Ethan Hofacker of Augsburg, in a fall at 1:10. Wolters went on to finish second at heavyweight, losing 4-2 to Iowa Central’s Thomas Petersen in the finals.

Austin Ward of Augustana College was named the tournament’s outstanding wrestler.

Here are the results of the championship round of the Worthington Open:

125: Josh Portillo, South Dakota State, decisioned Jordan Aquino, St. Cloud State, 8-3133: George Farmah, Iowa Lakes, decisioned Tyus White, Rochester, 7-1141: Ryan Rodorigo, St. Cloud State, won by major decision over Anthony Luft, unattached, 14-2149: Alex Wilson, Augsburg, won by injury default over Tanner Vassar, Augsburg157: Dayton Racer, Iowa Central, won by technical fall over Brett Bradford, Rochester, 15-0165: Kasey Klapprodt, South Dakota State, decisioned Brady Vogel, Iowa Central, 5-3174: Austin Ward, Augustana, pinned Eric Vigo, Iowa Lakes, in 1:08184: Brady Ayers, South Dakota State, decisioned Dylan Anderson, Minnesota, 8-3197: Dalton Lunde, Minnesota, won by injury default over Will Balow, Minnesota285: Thomas Petersen, Iowa Central, decisioned Blake Wolters, South Dakota State, 4-2

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at
What To Read Next
The Sibley-Ocheyedan Generals are looking to make great things happen this basketball season
Thursday night high school sports roundup:
Better scores on balance beam leads to success
The Bluejay's rotation of seven players kept up with the larger roster of the Riverland Blue Devils. The Minnesota West mens' team missed a 3-point shot in the final seconds to force overtime.