Cory Berry was slouched over on the floor of the underground concourse that encircles the bottom of the Xcel Energy Center.
With one hand, the Champlin Park senior clenched his fist in the aftermath of the upset he just pulled off in his first bout at last week’s Class 3A state wrestling tournament.
His other hand was being stretched out by head coach Bill Maresh, who exchanged words of encouragement for the obvious pain Berry was enduring while the hand/wrist was bent back into shape.
Very few things, Berry would say a few minutes later, ever hurt so good.
“I am not complaining at all,” he said. “Nothing is easy here, and it might hurt a little bit. But it feels good to me. Everything feels good right now.”
It’s been that way for awhile when it comes to the Champlin Park wrestling team, thanks in large part to the success Berry and the three seniors that accompanied him on the mats in St. Paul last week have enjoyed over the past 13 months.
There was a day when wrestling took priority over most any other sport (sans football) in the school; a day that ran parallel to the three consecutive state championships Sam Maresh won in his time as the state’s best and most dominant grappler.
In retrospect, it wasn’t that long ago. Maresh’s last title was in 2008. That’s only five years. But as Berry put it, that seems like an eternity ago.
“He is one of our coaches now, so maybe that makes it seem like it was loner ago,” Berry said. “But we wanted to make it a sport that people pay attention to, and I think we’ve done that. I know it is working at the younger levels. I think our youth numbers went from like 20 to 40.”
The real burst in interest came a year ago, when the first time ever, Champlin Park qualified for the state wrestling tournament as a team.
The group of four that were back in the tournament last week were a symbol of that team’s accomplishment, and their own as individuals.
Berry ended up wrestling all the way in to the 160-pound semifinals, before falling back to finish sixth after a 15-13 defeat to Lakeville North’s Lucas Westrick and an injury default defeat against Forest Lake’s Austin Boniface.
LaQuan Wallace opened his tournament with a pin of Faribault’s Cold McAdam just 1 minute, 1 second into the 182-pound tournament before dropping each of his next two bouts.
Adam Cottrell (152-pounds) lost twice, and Trenton Novalany (195) fell to Apple Valley’s Trom Peterson 3-1 and wasn’t wrestled back in in later matches.
Their appearance back in St. Paul wasn’t unexpected. The four are good. Really good. And they work out together, wrestling as partners most of the year.
But the impact they’ve had goes well beyond the mat, and it even stretched into the hallways back at school, where wrestling is certainly back.
“These four guys are basically my brothers,” said Wallace. “This has always been the dream, to get us here. It feels good, and it felt good in school. Our school is not all about wrestling, but I’ve had kids I’ve never met before coming up to be to say great job. That is awesome. I feel pretty accomplished for that the four of us have done.”
Contact Nick Clark at [email protected]