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Warrior trio forges friendly rivalry in state title defenses

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Winner Area's Trevor Peters (bottom) takes down O'Neill's (Neb.) Levi Drueke in the 152-pound quarterfinals of the Mid Dakota Monster on Friday in Presho. (Nick Sabato / Republic)

PRESHO -- After winning a state championship, there is one satisfactory encore for the following season: domination.

Winner Area has three reigning Class B state wrestling champions -- Kaden Keiser, Sam Kruger and Trevor Peters -- coming off a season in which they went a combined 132-9. Not only do they have designs on duplicating last year’s feat, but they want to be convincing in doing so.

This season, they have forged a friendly rivalry with a “Can you top this?” mentality.

The trio has friendly wagers over who can have the most nearfalls, pins or takedowns and it keeps them focused on each match in a difficult year. All three are also expected to help Winner Area contend as a team, where they’ve finished second in Class B in each of the last two seasons.

“You see little games within the tournaments,” Winner Area head coach Spencer Novotny said. “They’re trying to compete with each other and I think that’s an additional drive for all of the kids.”

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For Keiser, it is hard to improve upon a 46-1 record and his goal of going undefeated this season evaporated after 11 matches in a 3-2 overtime loss to Chris Williams, of Valentine, Nebraska. That match has gnawed at him, but he is also looking at a bigger picture. After winning a state title at 120 pounds, he has bumped up to 126 this season and he is seeking a championship in two different weight classes.

Still only a sophomore, Keiser also has time to continue building his legacy, which already includes two state finals appearances. He hopes he can follow the likes of Canton’s Kellyn March or former Tri-Valley standout Caden Lamer with multiple state championships in his career.

“I look up to those guys, I see what they do, I try to match that and do better if I can,” Keiser said. “Hopefully I can be up there with all of those guys when it’s all said and done.”

Like Keiser, Kruger has also reached the state finals multiple times, earning his first championship by topping Parkston’s Lucas Bietz in the 160-pound championship match last year after losing in his first two trips. His goal of going undefeated is still intact, but he missed nearly all of December after suffering a quad injury.

Now that he has returned to full strength, the junior is intent on dominating each opponent he steps on the mat with. Each of Kruger’s matches thus far have ended with a pin (five times) or a major decision (three times).

While Kruger wants to dispatch each opponent as quickly as he can, his experience in close matches help him avoid being just a takedown specialist.

“It just depends on the match,” Kruger said. “If the match is closer, then I’ll wrestle a closer match. It just comes and goes.”

Peters -- the senior of the group -- is also familiar with tight matches, but not all of them went his way last season. He felt some of his five losses could have resulted in wins and that has driven him this year.

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Still undefeated at 152 pounds, Peters has recorded nine pins thus far to ensure he does not find himself in similar predicaments this time.

“Last year in certain tournaments, I lost certain matches that I shouldn’t have lost,” Peters said. “It could have hurt me for seeding at state and I don’t want it to happen again. There is an expectation for me to come back and (win state) again. It would be a disappointment if I don’t.”

Related Topics: WRESTLING
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