Driven to compete: Austin’s Winkels is all in as he prepares for state meet

Published 6:37 pm Monday, February 27, 2023

Austin sophomore Sam Winkels is already the first underclassmen to qualify for the state wrestling meet in a long time, but he is not satisfied.

Winkels is hoping to keep pushing forward as he prepares to wrestle in the Class AAA Minnesota State Wrestling Meet in Xcel Energy Center this Friday and Saturday.

“I’m just looking at it as the same old wrestling meet,” Winkels said. “I can’t look at it as any different from any other wrestling meet, it’s just another match.”

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Winkels is coming off the high of winning the Section 1AAA meet at 220-pounds, but he’s quickly shifted gears into preparing to wrestle at Xcel, a place he’s never competed in before.

“My focus (at sections) was just on making sure I did the right thing and just stuck to what was working,” Winkels said. “I had to stay tough and go to war. After I won in the finals, I took a moment to look at my coaches and my brother and it was like ‘holy cow, I made it.’ It was an unreal moment and it felt good to get it out of the way because I’m still on track for my goals.”

Winkels, who is 37-3 overall, will open the state meet against Dominic Heim of Eden Prairie, who is 37-3 overall. The 220-pound bracket is led by Alex Riley of Waconia, who is 39-1 overall.

While Winkels has taken a look at his bracket, he is avoiding any feelings of intimidation.

“I can’t put kids on a higher pedestal or that will get in my head,” Winkels said. “I’m just going up there to compete and whoever is across from me on that line, we’re just going to battle and hopefully I win.”

Austin is short on wrestlers as a program, but Winkels is hoping that he can inspire some of his teammates and other students considering wrestling. He would love to see more Packer wrestlers at the state meet in future years.

“It’s always been goal of mine since I was a youth wrestler to make it to state and do well at state,” Winkels said. “Our program is kind of in a rough patch, but the guys that are here at practice are working hard and those are the guys I want with me as we try to build the program up.”

Westfield sophomore Bo Zweiner is 34-6 overall at 132 and he will open the state meet against Mark Schiefelbein of Kimball, who is 30-12 overall. Westfield senior Cade Christianson is 32-11 overall at 145 and he will open against William Pilarski of Holdingford, who is 40-6 overall.

In the girls meet, GMLO senior Mackenzie Armagost is 21-7 overall and will open against Cassandra Gonzales of Shakopee, who is 10-0 at 126. GMLO senior McKenna Hendrickson is 18-2 at 132 and will open against Imrie Mistic of Bemidji, who is 11-14 overall.

GMLO junior Diann Smith is 21-3 overall at 138 and will open against Brooke Kritzeck, who is 6-4.

The individual tournament will begin at 9 a.m. Friday, with quarterfinals beginning at 4 p.m Friday. The championships will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday.

All matches are at Xcel Energy Center.