Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus Road Crew junior Connor Tulenchik finished second at state for the second straight year at the Class 2A individual wrestling championships Friday, March 26, at St. Michael-Albertville High School.
After knocking off his 170-pound division opponent Keegan Lemke in a 15-5 major decision in the quarterfinals, Tulenchik beat Blaine Henderson in a 6-4 sudden death decision in the semifinals to advance to his second-straight state finals.
In the finals, the top-seeded Tulenchik faced No. 2 Adam Sylvester, who was undefeated at 27-0 going into the match. Tulenchik lost in an 11-3 major decision to be back-to-back runners-up. He finishes the season 40-2.
“We got to where we wanted to be,” Road Crew head coach Travis Hoffarth told the Brainerd Dispatch. “His goal all year has been to be a state champion, and to do that you need to reach the state finals.
“The semifinals were a little more nerve-wracking than we would have liked them to be. We went to overtime with an opponent he’s familiar with. Sometimes those matches can be a little closer than you want, but we got it done and reached the finals and just ran into a better kid.”
Tulenchik has another chance to return to state next season.
“Runner-up for the second year in a row, next year we are hoping the third year is the charm,” Tulenchik said. “We wouldn’t change anything as far as our approach goes or our game plan goes. Unfortunately we fell on the wrong side this time.”
At 126 pounds, Road Crew teammate Owen Carlson lost both of his state championships matches. In the quarterfinals, Carlson fell to Big Lake’s Nolan Reiter in an 8-5 decision. In the consolation round he was pinned in 5:49 by Zach Pribyl.
“You get to this point and it’s difficult to continue to climb that ladder,” Hoffarth said. “He started a little slow, but gained some confidence as the first match went on, but just fell short. His second match, honestly, I think if we wrestle 10 times we win eight of them, but we just let it slip away.”