By Jeff Striggow
The 36 year wait is over! Orono’s Jackson Striggow was crowned the 182-pound AA State Champion before a crowded Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul Saturday evening.
The last time Orono brought home a state wrestling title was 1979, when Mike Arne beat Minnetonka’s Tom Becker 8-6 in the AA 119 pound weight class final.
During a congratulatory phone call to the Striggow home on Sunday, Arne’s coach, Dave Sohn, complimented Jackson for his success and stated he was happy to see that the Orono wrestling program has rebounded. Sohn coached the Spartans from 1969 to 1984.
Striggow opened the tournament on Friday with a third period fall over Hayden Johnson of Quad County in 5:36. In the quarterfinal match Friday evening, he defeated Foley’s Spencer Elwell by a major decision 13-3. He earned a trip to the championship round on Saturday by beating Noah Ryan of Kasson-Mantorville 5-1.
The final round was a repeat of the previous week’s matchup in the individual section final with Isaac Florell of Totino-Grace.
After a scoreless first period, Striggow was able to quickly escape from the down position in the second period. Striggow scored a takedown and gave up an escape to end the second period.
In the third period, Florell earned an escape to move the score to 3-2. Another Striggow take down with 10 seconds to go in the match ended the scoring at 5-2, giving Jackson the win.
“Jackson has worked hard over the last 4 years to get to where he is today,” said an elated Head Coach Joe McPherson after the match. “I have coached a lot of kids over the years and I have never had anyone more dedicated than Jackson.”
Added McPherson, “he is a great young man on and off the mat. He deserves everything that comes his way and I know he will succeed next year when he wrestles for Michigan.”
“Our 3 qualifiers wrestled well this weekend. and to have Jackson win Orono’s first state title in 36 years is great,” continued McPherson. “I’m so proud of the entire team for wrestling so well down the stretch and peaking at the right time. We stress every day in the room how important it is to concentrate on continuing to improve and not worry about wins and losses at the beginning, because our ultimate goal is to do everything we can during the year to accomplish our goals at the end of the season. This year the entire team did exactly that.”
Striggow’s brother, Bobby (160), and Jonny Schmid (120) also competed at the tournament but did not place. In a thrilling end to his first round match, Bobby Striggow hit a head lock take down with just two seconds to go and won the match by one point.
A few days after the event, the elder Striggow had time to reflect on his high school career.
“Being a state champion has been a goal of mine for as long as I’ve been wrestling,” he remarked. “I owe it all to my coaches, friends, and family for helping me turn that dream into a reality.”
He will now have time to recalibrate his goals as he embarks on a career next season wrestling for the University of Michigan Wolverines.
“Guys like Jackson make coaching easy,” said Jason Stripling, assistant coach for the team and mentor to Striggow. “His drive and determination have got him where he is today. It was a joy to watch him develop into the athlete and person he is today.
“I’m excited to see what he can do at the next level with the work ethic he will bring to college,” added Stripling.
Striggow ended the season with a 44-1 record. His only loss this year came to the #1 ranked wrestler in the country at 195 pounds, Lance Benick of Totino-Grace. Striggow went up a weight class to wrestle Benick three weeks ago in the team sectional tournament.
Total attendance for the three day State Tournament was 49,218.