Brancale, Kingsley rise to the occasion at state
Being a wrestler isn't just about takedowns, reversals, and pins. It's about dedication and mental toughness and pouring every bit of your heart and the deepest part of your soul into everything you do.
This year at the state wrestling tournament, two athletes showed they know what it's all about. Both ended their high school wrestling careers with state championships. Each has his own unique story.
For Sam Brancale, a senior at Eden Prairie, the tournament was about redemption. His sophomore year was a success. He won a state title in the 103-pound class. His junior year didn't end on such a high note.
He made it to the semifinal match in the state tournament last year, where he met Mitch Bengtson and lost, 1-0. Bengtson went on to win the state championship. Bengtson compiled a state-record 178-match winning streak, and hadn't lost since his second match of the eighth grade. And then he met Brancale again.
"I was down 1-0, and I started down just like last year," Brancale said. "This year I guess I fought a little bit more and I got the reversal. It was getting down to the point where I thought it would end the same way, but I kind of changed it up a little."
He changed it up a lot.
"He was on top, and he had his arm around my waist pretty tight," Brancale said. "It was kind of hard to breathe, so I started to panic a little bit. I looked up at the clock, and it said, like, 10 seconds. So I knew that if I was going to do something, it had to be then. I tucked his arm against my body and I started to roll. He kind of went with it and he was on his back. I switched my hips and got on top and it kind of worked out good for me."
No, it worked out great for him. In the last four seconds of the match, Brancale became the kid who ended the longest winning streak in state history.
Meanwhile, Brandon Kingsley, a senior at Apple Valley High School, also had a great state tournament. He has been wrestling since he was 3 years old, and, 15 years later, he won his fourth state championship.
That makes him one of the few wrestlers to ever win four individual championships in Minnesota history.
"You never really fully expect something like that," Brandon said. "I wanted it, which was what pushed me to win it. This year I just worked a little harder because I knew people would be coming after me to stop me from winning. So I tried to step it up a little bit."
He stepped it up this year, just like he has since his freshman year, when he won his first championship in the 125-pound class. A year later, he won in the 135-pound class. The next year, he won the 140-pound championship as a junior.
"People asked me how it feels (to be one of the few to win four state championships) a few times afterward, and I didn't know how to explain it because it's just hard describing it," Brandon said. "You can never really prepare yourself for this kind of thing. When I was younger I didn't really know that I was capable of something like this, but now that I finally achieved it I don't really know how to feel. I'm excited, and it's just a great thing to accomplish."
These two wrestlers, Brancale and Kingsley, both impressive in their own rights, came to the end of their high school careers in different ways. Next year, they begin a new journey and will do it together as wrestlers at the University of Minnesota, and it's a safe bet they will be pouring every bit of their hearts and the deepest part of their souls into it.