Farmington's Venz capped off season with a state championship Saturday
Taylor Venz has been dreaming about winning a state championship for the last three years.
At least, he's been trying to. That's why he wrote "state champion" on his pillow case with a Sharpie. He wanted that goal to be the last thing he saw every night before he went to bed.
"I was at a wrestling camp and they said to put your goals somewhere where you would see it every day," said the Farmington freshman. "About three years ago I made the pillow case and it's been my goal since then."
Venz made progress toward that goal last year when he became the first Tiger wrestler to qualify for state as an eighth-grader. His dream finally became reality Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul when he capped off a 4-0 run through the Class 3A 106-pound bracket with a 6-0 decision over Brad Osatiuk of Maple Grove in the finals.
"It feels awesome to accomplish my dream. All the hard work I put in, looking back it was definitely worth it," said Venz, who finished with a school-record 43 victories -- including 26 in a row --- against two losses. "It really didn't sink in right away. I couldn't believe it."
Venz, who entered ranked second in Class 3A at 106 pounds, faced his toughest obstacle in the semifinals where he went up against No. 1-ranked Mitchell McKee of St. Michael-Albertville. McKee, a winner by pin when the two faced each other last year as eighth-graders, jumped out to a 5-0 lead over the first two periods.
"My defense wasn't as good as it should have been and I let him finish some shots I should have defended," Venz said. "I knew I had to step it up in the third period, but I knew I could get back some points. I was confident I had the ability and I just had to move forward."
Venz did step it up in the third, putting McKee on his back twice and outscoring him 9-1 to advance to the finals with a 9-6 victory.
"I have been around wrestling for a long time. That two minutes of wrestling is the best I have ever seen," Farmington coach Chad Olson said. "The really cool thing is most of the fans knew Taylor's match was 1 vs. 2 and the entire arena erupted each time Taylor would score."
Venz had no trouble advancing to that semifinal. He opened with an 11-0 victory and followed that up with a 5-0 decision.
Venz's practice partner, Jamin LeDuc, also had a successful run at his first state tournament. The freshman had to move up to 113 pounds and ended up placing sixth.
LeDuc opened the tournament by upsetting 10th-ranked Danny Chlebeck of Spring Lake Park, 2-1. He then advanced to the semifinals with another upset, this time by a 4-1 decision over eighth-ranked Luke McCord of Forest Lake. LeDuc was later pinned in the fifth-place match, leaving him with a record of 33-5 in his first varsity season.
"He does not pay attention to names or rankings. He had no clue the first two wrestlers he beat were ranked. He just assumes he can beat everyone," Olson said." There are a lot of wrestlers who are beat before the match even starts because their opponent has a well-known name or high ranking."
Two other Tigers also competed in their first state meets. Sophomore Kyle Benjamin (19-7) was pinned in a pair of matches at 132 and Joe Hoeve (26-15) lost 9-0 at 152.