WORTHINGTON -- Watching Michael Preuss at a wrestling meet is an experience.
While other wrestlers may fidget, jog the hallways nervously, or generally look as if they’re either bored or antsy during long intervals between matches, the former Adrian High School Dragon is a study in tranquility.
“He just doesn’t let anything bother him,” says Minnesota West assistant coach Don Wasmund. “You don’t have to worry about him getting too tight for a match.”
On a day when his teammates struggled significantly, a cool, calm and collected Preuss won three of five matches Saturday at the Worthington Open, coming just one victory away from placing at 165 pounds in a big tournament that lured well more than 200 wrestlers into town.
Preuss is the one West matman who has performed well throughout the 2017-18 season, and this despite sitting the sport out a year ago. But though Preuss is well known for his calm demeanor, he is even more highly regarded for his hips.
Yes, his hips. Minnesota West coaches rave about Preuss’s great hips in such a way that you’d almost want to make him promise to donate them to science one day. Those swiveling hips help him throw opponents, and they help him roll out of jams with relative ease.
Preuss says he doesn’t know why his hips should be so special. He’s an instinctive wrestler, that’s all.
“I’ve just always been the guy that naturally feels it. It’s always been a feel kind of thing,” he said Saturday afternoon. “I don’t know if I got it (the hips) from my mom or from my dad. And I’ve always been strong in my legs.”
Ever since the first time he competed at the state tournament in high school, Preuss has learned to take things in stride. He played baseball and football in high school, too, and football at West.
“Ever since then, I just go out there like it’s just another match. Or like football, it’s just another game, another match. You gotta have that mentality,” he said.
But there’s a difference between being easygoing and being goal-oriented and competitive. Preuss hopes to qualify for the nationals this year in wrestling, and more importantly than that he wants to be an All-American -- and finish his year “on the podium.”
He and all the other Minnesota West competitors who wrestled Saturday -- Hser Eh Pwae (125 pounds), Hser Moo Pwae (133), Wallace Michels (157) and Austin Pulse (285) -- faced very stiff opposition. The open tournament featured not just two-year college wrestlers, but Division I and Division II recruits as well. The University of Minnesota Gophers brought five athletes to the meet.
Bluejays head coach Bryan Cowdin hopes all of his entrants will learn from the experience. Without a doubt, most of them took plenty of lumps. Preuss was the only one of the five to win a match.
“They’re right there in their matches,” said Cowdin. “They just made some small, but big mistakes. There’s hope there. They’re talented. These guys keep trying. I’ve got a good group of guys.”
“They’re not giving up. They’re working hard and they’re getting better every day,” he maintained. “Hser Eh, Hser Moo and King (Blanchette, the Worthington High School grad who sat out Saturday due to injury), they had a whole year where they weren’t wrestling. And Preuss, he didn’t wrestle last year, either. … It’s just a lot of drilling, and just a lot of getting into the swing of wrestling. They get a little rusty, and they knock the rust off and they get better.”
Of all the Bluejays, twin brothers Hser Eh and Hser Moo, themselves former WHS wrestlers, are probably taking the most difficult route back to respectability. They both take a challenging load of classes at Minnesota West in Jackson, then they must drive to Worthington for practice.
“It’s tough. But good experience,” said Hser Moo.
“It’s not like all the regular students,” said Hser Eh. “It’s 30 minutes (driving) every day. And by the time we get to practice, we’re tired. And in practice, we wrestle each other all the time. And that gets old.”
The Pwae brothers also have much yet to learn about college wrestling. They didn’t take up the sport until they were eighth-graders.
“We took a year off. It kind of ruined us. The most important thing is to work on the little things. I’m still learning,” said Hser Eh.
But a year off can mean different things to different people.
“Sometimes it helps,” said Preuss, “just to get your mind re-focused on things and just to get your mind off wrestling. When you start in pre-school (as Preuss did) and go all the way up, sometimes it wears you out.”
Now, the Adrian kid is back. And all-in, which pleases Cowdin.
“Preuss is a hard worker, fun to watch. You don’t have to coach him alot,” Cowdin testified. “But if he likes something you coach, he picks it up right away.”
Alex Crowe of the University of Minnesota, who captured the 157-pound class, was named the outstanding wrestler of the tournament.
Firsts and seconds in every weight classes are as follows:
125 -- 1. Lucas Hagel, Ridgewater; 2. Romelle Person, Iowa Central
133 -- 1. Garett Vos, St. Cloud State; 2. Shiquan Hall, St. Cloud State
141 -- 1. Brent Jones, Minnesota; 2. Austin Anderly, North Iowa
149 -- 1. Jake Bergeland, Minnesota; 2. Mark Voss, Ridgewater
157 -- 1. Alex Crowe, Minnesota; 2. Hunter Shelton, South Dakota State
165 -- 1. Brett Bye, South Dakota State; 2. Joseph Heinz, Concordia
174 -- 1. Brady Vogel, Iowa Central; 2. Jonah Egli, Iowa Central
184 -- 1. Austin Ward, Augustana; 2. Daniel Bishop, Augustana
197 -- 1. Noah Ryan, St. Cloud State; 2. Kody Vandeneykel, Concordia
285 -- 1. Zachary Muller, St. Cloud State; 2. Brady Reigstad, St. Cloud State