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Steele and Morton share Co-Wrestlers of the Year

ARLINGTON — No matter what injuries and obstacles Sibley East sophomore Drayden Morton and junior Derek Steele faced entering this past high school wrestling season, there was nothing going to stop the duo from getting back to the state tournament and ending their time there as Class A state champions.

While Morton took home a first-place state medal last year at 106 pounds, Steele came up a little short and finished with a second-place state medal at 113. This year, both standout grapplers finished as champions.

Sibley East has never had two state champions in the same season before until Steele and Morton checked off that box this year.

In addition to ending their seasons as state champions, both wrestlers were also named the 2019-2020 All-Journal Co-Wrestlers of the Year.

Steele ended his season with a 50-2 record, 26 pins, 76 takedowns and 260 team points. Morton finished the season with a 28-3 record, eight pins, 54 takedowns and 137 team points.

Steele had a shorter summer to hone his craft in 2019, battling a dislocated and fractured elbow that kept him off the mat almost the entire summer. He returned to action in August.

That summer setback didn’t deter Steele, though.

“Beginning of the season, I wore a sleeve that kept the padding on it because it was still bothering me a little bit in the beginning of the year, but once I got mat time on it and got muscles back to full strength again, then there was no problem,” Steele said of the injury. “Everyone comes in with a little bit of injuries and dings, but I felt great at the state tournament. Everyone’s worried they’re going to get a sprain or something before the state tournament, just a little something, but I came in good. The elbow did worry me in the beginning of the year, but once I got used to it again and the strength built back up in it, there was no problem.”

Steele wasn’t the only one battling back from injury, though.

Morton missed a month of wrestling last summer with a compound fracture in his right ring finger. He then missed the beginning of the 2019-2020 season with a torn meniscus before returning to action in mid January after a month and a half out.

“I was just really thankful that God gave me that opportunity to try for another state title and have it heal in time and let me feel a lot closer to normal,” Morton said about coming back from his injuries.

Morton added that his torn meniscus did have a minor change in how he wrestled coming back.

“It changed a little bit [how I wrestled] because I couldn’t quite do everything I normally could,” he said. “The main difference was I started leading my left leg more and started taking left leg attacks more.”

While Steele remained at 113 pounds this season to win his first state championship, Morton earned the second state title of his career 14 pounds heavier from last year.

Morton said that despite his injuries and bump up to 120 this season, he believed that he’d still achieve his goal of winning a state championship again this season.

“I was pretty confident that I’d be able to do what I wanted to do,” Morton said.

After finishing last season’s trip to state with a second-place medal and watching his teammate Morton take first, Steele said he was proud of Morton but added that it also pushed him more in his attempts to become a state champion, too.

“Our school’s never had two state champions simultaneously in the same year, so it’s something new for our school, too, but it definitely did push me,” Steele said. “Whenever your teammate does good, you always want to do just as good.”

As far as next season, Steele said that he thinks he’ll be wrestling at 120, while Morton said he’s thinking he’ll be wrestling at 126 or 132.

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