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State Champ!

Irish senior Ezayah Oropeza is presented as the Class AAA, 220-pound state champion after beating Cole Fibranz in the championship match on Saturday, March 2, at the Xcel Energy Center. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
Senior Zach Young went 1-2 at 182 pounds in his first appearance at the state tournament. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
Oropeza lets out his emotions as he embraces coach Tyler Cookas and nearly carries him off the mat. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

A dream come true

Irish senior wrestler Ezayah Oropeza had just one goal this season after taking second last year at state in the 220-pound weight class—win a state championship—and he achieved that goal on Saturday, March 2, at the Xcel Energy Center. Oropeza is a state champion.

"As soon as it was over, it's just a dream come true you know," he said after the awards ceremony.

Oropeza had dominate the entire season despite wrestling some heavyweight matches as well. He entered the state tournament with a perfect 42-0 record and stayed perfect through four matches at the Xcel, none of which were particularly close, including the championship round.

"After that first takedown I was pretty sure, most of my matches if I get the first takedown I'm going to end up winning it," he said about when he knew he was going to win. "So after that I felt pretty confident."

He won his first two matches on day one by fall over Brady Nielsen of Albert Lea and Tommy Johnson of Shakopee with neither matchups making it past the first period. In the semifinals, he beat Andrew Reigstad of Willmar by a 5-1 decision. In the championship match against Cole Fibranz of Sartell-Saint Stephen, Oropeza gained control of the match early and cruised to a 7-3 win.

Usually very stoic after his wins, Oropeza did not show a whole lot of emotion until he reached his coaches when he enveloped coach Tyler Cookas in a monstrous hug, pretty much carrying him off the mat. After coming so close last season and it being his senior year, Oropeza said the context made it all that much sweeter.

"Definitely, I mean a state title would feel great no matter what, but just knowing that I definitely improved is really rewarding," he said.

Ever the perfectionist, Oropeza could not say if he had reached his peak during the state tournament.

"I don't really know, I never saw this much competition throughout the season," he said. "I feel like I wrestled well but I know there was still some stuff I could work on."

Heading into spring and summer, there will not be much time for rest for Oropeza who is headed to St. Cloud State University next year and will wrestle for the Huskies.

"Just work," he said. "Lifting weights, gotta gain some weight, I'm going to wrestle heavyweight next year so I just have to work and build up some size."

Young goes out with a bang

Joining Oropeza at the state tournament was fellow senior Zach Young who qualified at 182 pounds for his first state tournament. Heading into state, Young said his goal was to made the podium. While he did not quite make that goal, he did notch a win in his first state tournament appearance, which is more than many wrestlers can say when confronted with such an intimidating environment.

Young lost his first-round match to eventual runner-up Cade King of Owatonna by a 17-2 tech fall. He bounced back in the first consolation round and beat Jaco Meissner of Osseo by fall in 3 minutes, 49 seconds to advance to day two. However, the next morning in the second consolation round he fell in a close match to Kaden Streed of Willmar by a 4-3 decision. He ends his senior season with a 32-18 overall record and his career among some of the best wrestlers in Minnesota.

Alec Hamilton

Alec Hamilton is a RiverTown Multimedia sports reporter covering Hastings, Farmington and Rosemount athletics. He graduated from Drake University with a journalism degree in 2014. 

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