Charley’s in charge
SAINT PAUL — Medford’s
Charley Elwood couldn’t contain his excitement after winning the 113-pound Class A state championship on Saturday at Xcel Energy Center. So he took a victory lap around the backstage corridor area.
“It was just a little walk to let it soak in,” he said moments after defeating Sibley East’s Derek Steele (41- 5) in the championship match. “I just feel a lot of relief that it’s over and all that hard work paid off. It feels really good.”
After placing second in his previous try at an individual wrestling state title, Elwood (35-2) took care of unfinished business.
Elwood entered the tournament ranked No. 1 in the state and as the No. 1 seed in his respective weight class.
“I felt like I kind of had a target on my back, like everybody was coming for me, but you have to push that all aside and wrestle,” Elwood said. “I came up short last year and it just makes it all that much sweeter to get it done this year.”
Elwood became the Tigers’ first state champion since Curt Maas in 2012 and just the sixth in the program’s history. In the championship match, Elwood played to his strengths and used his length to ward off the attacks of the much shorter Steele.
“I really like my length,” he said. “I’ve figured out how to use it and it obviously helps me in my matches against shorter opponents.”
Elwood controlled the match after securing an early takedown and eventually won by a 4-0 margin.
Steele was able to avoid the pin-fall defeat, as Elwood avoided any unnecessary risks and completely controlled the match.
“A win is win,” Elwood said. “There is no team points or team title on the line here. It’s just about winning and moving forward.”
Medford head coach Dennis Whitman said he loves the way Elwood handled the pressure of the weekend that came with being the No. 1 seed.
“He went out there and proved it,” Whitman said. “Everyone was giving him their best shot and it was impressive the way he handled everything.”
Elwood earned his trip the state championship match after he won 9-5 over Crookston’s Zach Brown (39–3) in the semifinals.
“He’s incredibly savvy,”
Whitman said. “A lot of people make a big deal out of him being an eighth-grader, but he’s put far more time andeffort into this than youraverage eighth-grader and it shows.”
Elwood had his closest match of the tournament in the semifinals against Easton McCory (31-10) of Minnewaska in quarterfinals on Friday followed that up with a 9-1
mayor decision over Windom- Mountain Lake’s Zack Spinks (29-11) in the quarterfinals and a 6-4 decision over Owen Novacek (45-4) in the semis.
“In the past, I kind of would psych myself out before matches by worrying about my opponents records or who they had beat,” he said.
“This year I didn’t worry about that stuff. I focused on myself. I knew if I did that and wrestled my hardest then anything could happen. I was excited going into the finals and wasn’t nervous at all. I just wrestled a tough opponent and lost by one to good competitor.
“I’m proud of my team and coaches,” VonRuden continued. “The support we get from our small community of Medford is great and I’m just thankful to be a part of it.”
VonRuden said he was especially proud of teammate Charley Elwood for winning the Class A 113-pound title. “We both set goals of being state champs, but he got the job done and I couldn’t be happier for him and his family,” VonRuden said. Whitman said he’s been impressed with VonRuden all year, and not just with his wrestling.
“It’s his growth, maturity and preparedness for each match,” he said. “He is mentally ready to perform every time he steps on the mat. That’s a hard thing to do, especially in a state tournament. Those are some long hours and days, but his approach never changed.”
VonRuden finished third at 138 pounds last season, while Canavaugh was the state champ at that weight class.
Medford eighth-grader Alex Helgeson (24-12) also qualified for the state tournament at 106 pounds, but he was eliminated on Friday after losing his first two matches. “He had a super tough draw, but he did phenomenal,” VonRuden said of Helgeson.
“It was a tough break for him, but he improvement so much throughout the season and he has the right mindset. He will be back for the next four or five years.”
He lost by major decision 9-1 to Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s Michael Majerus (40-10) and 15-5 to United North Central’s Ethan Hendrickson (38-6). Majerus entered the tournament ranked No. 5 in the state, but was seeded No. 1 in the tournament. He finished second. Hendrickson entered the tournament ranked No. 3 in state. He finished sixth.
“It was a horrible draw,” Whitman said. “But he battled. It’s easy to feel like you don’t have shot in that situation, but he went out there and gave him opponent all he could ask for. That’s something great to build onto for the next four years.”
Whitman said it was nice for Helgeson to get a taste of the state tournament at such a young age.
“He got the nervousness and first-time jitters out of the way,” he said. “He realizes that he is an eight-grader and he will have plenty of chances moving forward. He took some giant steps this year. His future is bright and he knows it. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can do.”