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Athlete of the week: Youth serves KWLPG's Kruger well

KIMBALL -- Kimball/White Lake/Platte-Geddes wrestler Sam Kruger won the Region 3B championship Saturday in Winner at 106 pounds and did it convincingly, pinning the No. 3 wrestler in the state in the final round.

KIMBALL - Kimball/White Lake/Platte-Geddes wrestler Sam Kruger won the Region 3B championship Saturday in Winner at 106 pounds and did it convincingly, pinning the No. 3 wrestler in the state in the final round.

Needless to say, he doesn't wrestle much like someone only in seventh grade.

"He knows what he's doing out there," said KWLPG coach Thomas Konechne. "At times, you almost forget how young he is or that he's in seventh grade. His mindset is only about winning."

That would seem to bode well for Kruger, who will be in the field of 16 wrestlers in the lightest weight class at the Class B tournament this weekend in Rapid City.

Kruger, who has a 40-7 record on the season, defeated Corey Resel of Miller/Highmore-Harrold in the opening round Saturday, pinning him in 38 seconds. He bettered that in the quarterfinals with a 28-second pin of Jordan Reub of Bon Homme/Scotland. In the semifinals, he scored a 9-0 major decision victory over Wyatt Turnquist of Winner Area and went on to defeat Tate Heider of Wolsey-Wessington by pinfall 5 minutes and 24 seconds into the championship match to win the region crown.

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For his efforts, Kruger has been named The Daily Republic's athlete of the week, an honor that is voted upon by the newspaper's sports staff.

Kruger, the No. 5 wrestler at 106 pounds in Class B according to last week's rankings, defeated Heider in what is the rubber match of their season series so far, after splitting two matches earlier this year.

"I think the competition level was there and that's what you want, especially in a big tournament like that," Konechne said.

Kruger also had tournament wins from the KWLPG Invite on Dec. 5 and the Titan Invite on Dec. 19. Konechne said he knew Kruger, who attends school in Kimball, had a chance to show off his talent around Christmas.

"He started to raise that competition level," Konechne said. "This weekend, he was aggressive and he was looking to score early in both matches. That's so important, to stay on offense early."

Kruger will wrestle Chance Grill, of Custer, in the first round of the state tournament.

Kruger has the most wins of any wrestler in the top half of the 106-pound state bracket (40) and he is also the only seventh grader in his half of the bracket. The draw was also favorable to Kruger; he's the only wrestler in the top-7 of the state rankings that is in the top-half of the bracket.

"He wrestled with focus and intensity. If he wrestles like that, he will be in good shape," the coach said. "He's got a goal in mind and he's going to do what he needs to get it done."

Related Topics: KIMBALLWHITE LAKEWRESTLING
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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