Le Sueur-Henderson school history was twice made on Saturday evening, as seventh-grader Dalton Wilson stepped up to the podium at the Class A State Wrestling Tournament, held at the Xcel Energy Center on March 4-5, to accept his sixth-place medal.
Of the 672 athletes competing in this year’s team and individual tournaments, just four were in seventh grade. In Class A, it was just Wilson and 106 lbs. competitor Conrad Koll of United North Central.
A total of 252 athletes would receive a medal, given to 1-6th place, and Wilson was the only seventh-grader to medal.
To top it off, Wilson is the first seventh-grader in LS-H school history to qualify for the state meet, and he is believed to be the first seventh-grader in the prior Henderson High School and Le Sueur High School history.
Wilson’s path to the podium opened with a first-round 12-3 major decision loss to Holdingford’s Wyatt Novitzki.
Wilson had to wait to find out if he would receive another match. If a wrestler loses their opening match, they are awarded a second match if their first-round opponent wins their quarterfinal. Those whose opponents lose their second match are eliminated. In Wilson’s case, Novitzki, who would go on to finish in third place, won his quarterfinal after his opponent dropped out with an injury at 3:27.
Wilson faced that same injured wrestler, sophomore Luis Lopez of Medford in his callback match, and used two takedowns and a reversal to win 6-2 and advance to the consolation quarterfinals on Saturday morning.
“I am feeling really good and am proud of myself and I’ve got to do twice as hard tomorrow and hopefully get on the podium,” Dalton said after his win.
Coach Luke Wilson, who happens to be Dalton’s uncle, said Dalton “exceeded all expectations” just by being one of four seventh-graders to earn a state berth.
“Dalton is doing very well, he is getting better every match. He has really grown into his own and got used to wrestling the bigger, stronger guys and I think it showed,” Coach Wilson said. “The first half of the season he took that challenge on, and he did very well with it.”
Coach Wilson said Dalton is very strong with his sweeps and takedowns, and added that “he is tenacious and aggressive when he wants to be.”
“When he has those two things, he is a strong wrestler,” Coach Wilson added.
The win over Lopez sent Dalton to the consolation quarterfinals on Saturday morning, where he faced Chatfield’s Javier Berg, a freshman.
Dalton jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first with a takedown, added a reversal and a takedown in the second, and scored a third takedown in the third to win an 8-3 decision. This win sent Dalton to the consolation semifinals, and guaranteed him a spot on the podium.
His competition in the consolation semifinals was Caledonia/Houston freshman Braxton Lange. Lange proved to be a tough competitor and defeated Dalton 7-2; Lange went on to finish fourth.
Dalton’s final match of the day was against Royalton/Upsala’s Tucker Simmons. Unfortunately the match ended in disappointment as Simmons earned two takedowns and a near-fall before pinning Dalton in 3:05.
In addition to being the youngest medalist, Dalton was also the smallest. He came in 2-3 lbs. underweight both days, while Coach Wilson said other wrestlers were cutting weight.
“The experience was awesome and the fact I was the only seventh-grader was pretty awesome,” Dalton said of his state performance. He added that he also learned he doesn’t need to be nervous.
Dalton also experienced success last year as part of the LS-H Youth Wrestling Club. Not only was he part of the team that finished in sixth place out of 32 teams at the NYWA Youth State Championships in Sioux Falls, S.D., but he earned an individual sixth-place medal in the Minnesota/USA Wrestling individual tournament.
Dalton’s state performance and medal is the latest chapter in a family legacy on the mat. Coach Luke Wilson is a 2017 graduate of LS-H and went on to wrestle for Augsburg. During his time at LS-H, he was coached by his uncle, Ben Wilson, who happens to be Dalton’s father. Now the tables have turned, and Luke is coaching his own nephew, and Dalton’s father was there as an assistant coach and able to witness his son’s triumph up close from the sidelines.
“It feels great, like a dream come true, and he has a lot of good years to come,” Ben Wilson said. “It started last year and with what he did and accomplished, I could not be prouder. He definitely has a bright future.”