Match No. 254 is why Jordan Chouanard stays after practice.
Medford’s Curt Maas is why he trained tirelessly last offseason.
A Class 1A state wrestling championship is what drives the Aitkin Gobblers’ senior.
The third ranked Class 1A 145-pounder was one match away from a chance at the coveted state title during last year’s state individual tournament.
Chouanard lost to the eventual state champion Mass in the semifinal round by a 9-1 score. After getting past Jadon Evans in the consolation semis, he destroyed Grant Hegge of Southland with a 2:50 pin in the third-place match.
“I think about it all the time — that match and the state tournament every single day,” said Chouanard. “I really want to take it all this year. I think 145 is more open and that 152 will have a lot more solid wrestlers at the state tournament. I don’t know if I’ll make it down to 145, but I’ll know shortly.”
Neither weight class appears to be giving Chouanard any trouble. The six-year varsity wrestler is 17-0 this season to improve his career record to 131-40.
Four of those wins came Jan. 7 at the Mora Invite, where Chouanard was named the tournament’s most valuable wrestler.
He cruised through the first three rounds with two 30-second pins and another pin at 3:20. In the finals, he decisioned Albany’s Phillip Maus 5-1.
“I knew I was going to get pretty good competition in the semifinals and the finals the guy was a really good wrestler,” Chouanard said. “I just had to wrestle smart and if I got a lead to just hang on to it and not make any dumb mistakes.”
On Tuesday, Chouanard went 2-0 at the Cloquet-Esko triangular and in the process picked up his 75th career pin.
“He’s really focused and he’s been working on a lot of the areas where he was weak at last year,” said Aitkin head coach Kevin Lamke. “He’s working on improving the bottom again. His goal is to not only place at state, but to win the state tournament or improve on what he did last year.
“His hard work is playing off because when he goes out in a match, and we tell our other guys this all the time, you have to have it in your head that nobody is going to beat you. He goes out there and he’s confident enough that no matter if he makes a mistake he’s going to get the win. Confidence has a lot to do with his success.”
Earlier this year, Chouanard won his second straight Big Bear title and has helped Aitkin to a 3-0 Great River Conference and a 6-3 overall record.
Last season he finished 37-3, but there is only one way he wants to end his senior season and his Aitkin career.
“Just first,” he said. “Nothing else is acceptable except first. It’s what I’ve been working on since I started wrestling. This is what I put in all the hard work for. This is my last year and my last chance.”
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Caleb Baker, Crosby-Ironton, scored 33 points against Deer River and 19 against Hermantown.
Ryan Redfield, Wadena-Deer Creek, scored 26 points against Verndale.
Cole Hunstad, Pillager, finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds against Sebeka.
Preston Weber, Pierz, scored 32 points against Howard Lake-Waverly.
Caleb Janson, Pierz, finished with 18 points and 19 rebounds against Howard Lake-Waverly.
Jordan Redmond, Pequot Lakes, scored 23 points against Staples-Motley.
Hockey: Austin Bjorge, Little Falls, scored a natural hat trick against Prairie Centre.
Michael Stumpf, Little Falls, made 14 saves in a shutout win over Prairie Centre and 14 saves in a shutout win over Northern Lakes.
Wrestling: Darian Rubner, Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus, collected his 75th career victory and went 4-0 last week.
Dillon Kifer, Little Falls, won the Cambridge-Isanti 138-pound weight class and finished the week 6-0.
Jerod Novak and Jordan Hanan, Aitkin, won individual titles at the Mora Invite.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5856.