Sibley East duo Steele and Morton repeat as state champions
ST. MICHAEL — For the second year in a row, the Sibley East duo of senior Derek Steele and junior Drayden Morton ended their prep wrestling seasons as Class A state champions.
On Saturday, Steele claimed the title at 126 pounds, while Morton won the title at 132 at St. Michael-Albertville High School.
Steele finished first at state a year ago at 113 pounds, while Morton took first at 120 pounds. Morton also finished 2019 as the state champion at 106 pounds.
It was a fitting final year of prep wrestling for Steele, who ended 2021 undefeated at 36-0 and with another first-place state finish. Steele defeated Walker Bents of Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa in the finals this year by a 5-2 decision.
“I lost to [Bents] this [past] summer, so I wanted redemption against him,” Steele said. “So this one felt a little extra good. And just to go undefeated this year was pretty impressive for me, and I felt like I kind of redeemed myself for my two losses last year.”
During the match with Bents, Steel took an early 2-0 lead after a takedown in the first period. Steele added a 2-point near fall in the second but was quickly reversed for a 4-2 score after two.
In the final period, Steele started down and got an escape to lead 5-2. With both wrestlers on the mat, Bents was able to flip Steele onto his back near the boundary line. Bents couldn’t keep Steele down long enough for any back points, though, and the two were called out of bounds shortly after for a reset in the center.
“I was a little worried there for a moment, but I outmuscled him there,” Steele said of Bents’ attempt to score in the third. “So I knew I was pretty safe there.”
Steele then held on for the 5-2 decision. Steele breezed past Will Gorecki of Royalton-Upsala in his first match on Saturday by a 15-0 tech fall at 4:07 before beating Braden Thom of Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville by a 15-4 major decision to move on to the finals.
Morton also ended his season unbeaten (33-0) and claimed his third state title after defeating Ethan Hendrickson of United South Central in the first-place match by a 3-2 decision. Hendrickson fell to Steele last season in the state title match at 113.
Morton led Hendrickson 2-0 after a first-period takedown. Hendrickson then got an escape 30 seconds into the second period for the only point of the period to trail 2-1.
Hendrickson allowed Morton to stand up for an escape point in the third period as he looked for a takedown. Morton did a good job fending off Hendrickson but was penalized for stalling late, making the score 3-2 with 11 seconds left.
Morton said he didn’t disagree with the stalling call but knew what he had to do from there out.
“Just [had to] stay in good position,” Morton said. “I knew he wouldn’t be able to get through my head-hands if I just stayed in good position.”
Morton did just that and held on for the win.
First on Saturday, Morton defeated Thomas Freking of Jackson County Central by an 8-3 decision before taking down Coy Gunderson of Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg by an 8-0 major decision to advance to the title match.
“It was just really fun that Derek and I could do it again together,” Morton said of repeating as champs with Steele. “Honestly, that’s the main thing. And then I’m just thankful that God gave me the opportunity to compete this year with all of the COVID and everything like that.”
Also from the area, Springfield 145-pounder Joe Anderson and Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial Area 138-pounder Tucker Wills competed in the final day of state individuals on Saturday.
Anderson first fell to Royalton-Upsala’s Jacob Leibold after being pinned in 4:56. Anderson scored a takedown in the first to go up 2-0, but Leibold took over from there, scoring 10 consecutive points before getting the pin.
Anderson then fell to a consolation-bracket match with Reubens Swanson of West Central Area-Ashby-Brandon-Evansville. Swanson first went up 2-0 after a takedown before Anderson escaped to trail 2-1. Anderson then got a takedown of his own before Swanson escaped to tie things up at 3-all heading into the second period.
Swanson got an escape and a takedown to pull ahead 6-3 before Anderson got a last-second escape to trail 6-4 heading into the third. Swanson was quick to make a move in the third and pinned Anderson 29 seconds in to end Anderson’s senior year with a 34-3 record.
Wills first took on the top-seeded John Paul Fitzpatrick of Crosby-Ironton. Fitzpatrick got a quick takedown and then cradled Wills for the pin in 44 seconds.
Wills then took on BBE’s Tyler Jensen in consolation action. Jensen got an early takedown in the first for a 2-0 lead and then led 5-0 heading into the second after a 3-point near fall.
Wills was then pinned in 2:21 to end his senior year with a 21-8 record.