Morton caps off career at Sibley East with 3 state titles
Plans to wrestle for Gophers next season
2021-2022 All-Journal Wrestling • Drayden Morton, Sibley East • Wrestler of the Year
ARLINGTON — While he finished his senior year of high school wrestling a win shy of his fourth state championship, Drayden Morton still has gold in his sights when it comes to his wrestling future.
Morton fell to United North Central’s Ethan Hendrickson in the Class A 145-pound state championship match at Xcel Energy Center on March 5, but the Sibley East senior has a lot to look forward to as he plans to continue his wrestling career next season as a Golden Gopher at the University of Minnesota.
Morton was recruited by the Gophers after going on a recruiting trip last fall.
“I feel like it’s the right place,” Morton said. “I’ve been practicing up there with the [Gopher Wrestling Club] RTC over the past summer and I just feel like it’s the right place and the best place for me to become the best wrestler I can.”
Morton, wrestling at 145 this year, came into the season intent on winning his fourth state championship. He won his first state title in 2019 at 106 pounds, his second in 2020 at 120 and his third in 2021 at 132. After making it to his fourth state championship match on March 5, Morton dropped a 5-3 decision to Hendrickson to finish second.
Derek Steele, a former teammate of Morton’s, beat Hendrickson in 2020 for the state title at 113, while Morton beat Hendrickson for the state title last year at 132. In this rematch between Morton and Hendrickson on March 5, Morton led 3-0 heading into the third period before getting reversed.
Hendrickson was then able to score 3 more quick points to come back and hold Morton off for a 5-3 win.
Morton said that he believes he wasn’t looking to score with as much urgency as he should have in the second and third periods and it came back to cost him.
“I feel like I’ve made big jumps from last year — I just wasn’t scoring — I didn’t have the same urgency to score enough points,” Morton said.
Despite falling short of his fourth consecutive state title, Morton was named the All-Journal Wrestler of the Year for the fourth year in a row on Thursday. Morton finished his senior year with a 48-1 record. He was the All-Journal Wrestler of the Year on his own in 2019 and was Co-Wrestler of the Year in 2020 and 2021 with Steele.
To be expected, the state championship match defeat still bothers the ever-competitive Morton, but he was already back on the mat to train not even two days after the loss on Monday morning.
And even though the loss will sit with him for a while yet, Morton said he’s been fortunate to have his family, friends and faith to pick him up.
“It helps, obviously, to have a good support system with my family,” Morton said. “But, honestly, just knowing that each time I step out on the mat, I know that God has it under his control and he already knows what’s going to happen, I just have to go out and do my best.”
Morton is still the reserved, respectful person he’s shown to be over the years, but Sibley East head coach Chris Koob said he’s proud of how much more of a vocal leader Morton became in his final season with the Wolverines.
“He’s always led by example for the most part, and this year I’m most proud of how he took more of a vocal leadership role,” Koob said. “Instead of just showing it by his hard work, he kind of brought guys with him, so to speak, guys like Omar [Martinez]. That’s probably one of the things I’m most proud of is how he’s developed as a person.”
Martinez is a sophomore heavyweight for the Wolverines who finished fifth at state this year.
In addition to the numerous state medals, Morton finished his career third all-time in wins at Sibley East with a 189-15 record. Nathan Rose holds the record for most wins at Sibley East with a 221-28 record, while Lincoln Carpenter is second (196-74).
Morton said that he doesn’t have any one match that stands out to him most from his high school wrestling career. His favorite memory during that time, however, was his eighth-grade year when he got to wrestle alongside his brother, Dayne. That season, both brothers made it to state and Dayne won the Class A state championship at 120 pounds.
As for Drayden’s wrestling future, he looks forward to his training partners at the U of M but said he’s just going to keep working to improve before then.
“With the Gophers, I’ll have really good practice partners every day, but I feel like it doesn’t really affect how I train right now because I train each day to keep getting better,” he said. “I’m going to go to Virginia Beach at the end of March [for High School Nationals], so that’s the next thing I’m training for.”