Wrestling: Tulenchik finishes 2nd at state
Junior Ryan Sokol of Simley pinned sophomore Connor Tulenchik of the Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus Road Crew at 48 seconds of the 145 pound individual championship match at the Class 2A state wrestling tournament Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Tulenchik, who finishes 47-5 overall, was the first state finalist for the Road Crew since 2003 when Shane Walton reached the finals, according to Road Crew coach Travis Hoffarth, who added that the only state champion for our combined PL/PR-B program was heavyweight Josh Bresnahan in 2001.
“Connor has his eyes set on being the second (champion),” the coach said of Tulenchik. “His feat is so important for our program. He has now set a bar for our kids. They are able to watch him and see what a state finalist does in the weight room, practice room, and off-season. They see that it is possible to reach a state final, and their work to be a state champion can pay off.”
Tulenchik made the semifinals by winning a 5-3 sudden death match over junior Carson Tschudi of Delano in the opening round and a 9-2 decision over sophomore Joe Gardas of Zimmerman in the quarterfinals.
“Connor went into the tournament with a mindset that he could make the state finals,” Hoffarth said. “He was focused from the moment he saw his bracket. He did a great job of staying within himself and not letting his opponents or the stage control him. Connor had two extremely exciting matches, no matter what venue they would have taken place in, but for it to happen at the state level and in front of a packed Xcel Energy Center was something special.”
Hoffarth added that Tulenchik’s first round win over the No. 2 seed (Tschudi) was “nerve wracking.”
“We got a late escape and takedown only to give up a reversal as time expired,” he said. “That forced overtime, where we were able to capitalize and finish with a takedown and a 5-3 victory. A lot of times when you get in an overtime match the kid’s tank is on empty. So you want to make sure if you are going to take a shot that it’s a quality shot. We were able to defend one shot on him, and then pick a key time and he was able to finish.”
Tulenchik rallied to pin junior Trevon Johnson of Dawson-Boyd-Lac Qui Parle in 5:24 in the semifinals.
“Connor was down (to Johnson) 3-1 with under a minute remaining, and Connor was able to get in deep on a shot, and run straight to his back and get the fall,” Hoffarth said. “Those are the moments that you can only wish were something you could bottle up.”
Tulenchik faced a quality opponent in the final in Sokol, who finishes 49-2.
“(Sokol) is the second ranked kid in the nation for his age and weight and has already committed to Cornell University,” Hoffath said. “He is at an elite level and will do things in this sport that most only dream of doing. The best part about his finals match was that Connor didn't back down, and was ready mentally. He knew what he was up against, but he was still confident. He has so much to be proud of. He set the record for most wins in a season (47) and he had over 100 takedowns, a feat that I‘m not sure has ever happened in our program. I do know that it has never happened in the 14 years I have been part of the program.”
Another Road Crew wrestler, Caleb Ruhl, defeated his 113-pound opponent, freshman Rameses Pederson of Totino Grace, in the opening round by a 6-3 score, but lost to top-seeded Simley junior Reid Nelson 23-9 in a major decision in the quarterfinals. Ruhl then dropped his wrestleback match against Foley’s Levi Jacobson in a major decision 9-0.
“Caleb had a special season, and to get a win in his first trip to state is so important,” Hoffarth said. “He was able to wrestle three important matches. That experience is going to make such a huge difference in his career over the next two seasons.”
Hoffarth added the state tourney atmosphere wasn't too big for Ruhl, who finishes 35-16.
“After his first takedown in his first match, he was able to relax and wrestle,” Hoffarth said. “He gave the No. 1 seed (Nelson) all he wanted in the quarterfinals, and had him on his back in the second period. Caleb didn't place in the top six, but he now knows what it is going to take in order to get on that podium. We are so proud of him, and how he represented our program and communities.”