A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY
There are plenty of stories that make up the Kasson- Mantorville wrestling team. As a dominant program, there are some kids that step on the mat and instantly find their way onto the top of the podium. For others, their path to success is a work in progress that starts at an early age and requires patience to reach their final destination.
For K-M’s Jace Minelli, his success this year has been a culmination of years of hard work. After waiting his turn to crack the KoMets’ lineup, the senior has been taking advantage of the opportunity to hit the mat, compiling a 14-4 record at 106 pounds.
“It started way back in seventh grade when he was coming into the program,” K-M head coach Jamie Heidt said of the foundation of Minelli’s success. “Guys like him, Robby [Horsman] and Jared [Johnson], they all work incredibly hard. They never missed a practice or a work out. You could drive up and down the streets of Kasson any day in the summer and you would see them out running.”
For Johnson and Horsman, their validation came early in their careers. Johnson became a two-time state place winner after cracking the lineup as a sophomore and Robby Horsman recently earned a third-place finish at state after hitting the mat one year later. Meanwhile, Minelli waited for his opportunity and continued to work hard.
“Jace was really in a tough situation, but he was sticking with it,” Heidt recalled. “As a coach, you see kids come in and they’re competing early and having success at a young age, but it’s equal importatnt that we have patience and stick with something until that maturation comes. Maybe it takes until your junior or senior year, but I tell kids that if your best wrestling comes in your last match of your junior or senior year, it’s all worth it.”
As Minelli entered his senior season, he was still finding issues getting on the mat for the KoMets. With Logan Vaughan bumping up to 113 pounds after wrestling at 106 last year, Minelli
saw another log jam with a talented teammate, but saw an opportunity to help the team by taking his spot in the lineup.
With the team needing a boost, Minelli took one for the team, dropping down a weight class to compete at 106 pounds.
“I want to do anything I can for the team,” Minelli said of cutting the weight. “All of these guys are like my brothers and we’ve grown up together since kindergarten. It seems unreal just to be able to compete with them.”
Since dropping down, Minelli has made the most out of his opportunity.
Debuting in the 106 spot at the Green Devil Duals, Minelli went 5-0 and earned a spot on the All-Tournament team. Even more, his focus in the wrestling room has remained the same as he’s trained with Vaughan and Horsman as well as Johnson, who returned over winter break to mentor Minelli.
“It’s been great to have a partner like him that knows wrestling well,” Minelli said of Johnson. “I think that’s what helped me get where I’m at now.”
“It’s pretty neat to see a situation where at one point they were competing for a spot and now there’s a bit of a mentorship going on,” Heidt added. “He’s really been a great mentor and with Logan and Robby being great
training partners, they’re just kids that do everything that you ask of them. It’s a work ethic and commitment that’s been there for a long time.”
WIth Minelli’s emergence, the KoMets are running on all cylinders as they gear up to defend their three consecutive state titles in February. As the senior leads things off, it’s a situation
that him and his teammates cherish.
“I think he’s taking full advantage of it,” Heidt said. “Maybe it wasn’t planned at the weight he was at right away, but we saw an opporunity to fill a spot for the team. He’s taken that a step further and with the attitude and work ethic he has, we’re going to see him on the po end of the year.”