Anoka goes 3-3 at The Clash

Anoka wrestling was one of 32 teams to take part in The Clash National Duals in Rochester Jan. 3-4, splitting six matches. Carter Ban turned in a dominant weekend, posting four pins, a technical fall and an 11-7 decision to earn a spot on the All-Tournament Team at 120. Jake Whitaker also went 6-0 at 145.

Huskies win Herb Brooks Classic

Andover girls hockey, ranked No. 1 in Class AA, swept through the Herb Brooks Holiday Classic Dec. 30-Jan. 1, defeating Holy Family 5-1, Rogers 5-2 and Proctor/Hermantown 5-2. 

Lions still undefeated

Legacy Christian Academy boys basketball cruised past North Lakes Academy 81-37 Jan. 7, remaining undefeated at 9-0 on the season. Brian Halcomb led the way offensively with 24 points.

White reaches 1,000

Andover girls basketball senior Sydney White scored her 1,000th career point during a tournament at Roseville to close out December.

More than a game

The boys hockey matchup between Coon Rapids and Spring Lake Park Jan. 4 took on a deeper meaning in a ‘Stick it to Cancer’ game, as both sides raised money for Children’s Minnesota’s Cancer Kids Fund. 

Quiet. Gentle. Someone who blends in.

Ways to describe Coon Rapids junior Gavin Layton … except when he’s on the mat.

Then, one of the most imposing wrestlers in the state makes his presence known, often with a powerful thud.

Any last moments of flying under the radar have been put to rest during the past month by Layton.

Now, it’s about sticking out. And dominating.

The Cardinal 285-pound power has done both, flattening foes left and right en route to a 27-0 record, including showcase titles in late December at the Minnesota Christmas Tournament in Rochester and Rumble on the Red in Fargo.

“I feel way stronger and a lot more comfortable with technique on my feet and my defense has improved drastically,” Layton said. “I’ve never felt so comfortable in my matches and never really feel like I’m going to lose.”

“We could see it from the beginning of the season that Gavin had turned the corner and was now competing rather than just wrestling,” Coon Rapids head coach Bob Adams said. “He has been showing more determination to win! In addition, he's a good athlete who uses his size and intelligence by staying in good position most of the time.

“Gavin spent the entire summer wrestling the best in the country on the Minnesota National Team and it's paying off for him now. We thought Gavin could win the Christmas Tournament, but then we always think our guys can win, you have to do it on the mat against the best and then do it again and again to prove it wasn't a fluke.”

Layton entered the Christmas Tournament Dec. 20-21 as the fourth seed and ranked No. 6 in Class AAA. Not an unknown, but not the favorite either.

Two days later, that all changed.

“Gavin had beaten all five of the guys ranked above him in the rankings at one point in the past, so Gavin knew he could beat them,” Adams said. “When good wrestlers become great wrestlers, it's because they find that confidence and become much more consistent when they step on the mat. They know they have a target on their back, yet they still perform.”

Layton opened the tournament with a pin, then delivered wins of 9-3, 5-0 and 15-5 over the No. 5, 1 and 2 seeds, respectively, the final victory coming against then-No. 1 ranked Bennett Weber of Waconia.

“I was expecting my season to go like this,” Layton said. “I felt the best I have coming into the season. Even though I wasn’t ranked the best, I felt that I was able to beat everyone that was ranked above me.”

A week later at the Rumble on the Red, Layton powered into the finals with a pair of falls and a 12-2 major decision to set up a rematch against Weber.

Any notion of payback, though, was put to rest. Quickly.

Layton secured a fall in the just over a minute, another in what has become a season of powerful performances.

“I felt accomplished, that I just proved what I’ve been telling myself since the beginning of the season,” Layton said. “Pinning him in the finals is something I expected. I hit the same move on him at the Christmas Tournament and I just wasn’t able to stick him, but I knew that that move was gonna be there and I capitalized on that.”

“Beating a highly ranked wrester isn't easy – beating him in the rematch is even harder because that guy has the revenge factor in his favor. That's where the consistency comes into play. When you beat a highly ranked opponent twice, that says something.”

“We thought he wrestled great at the Christmas Tournament, but then to follow it up by dominating the ROR and pinning the former No. 1 ranked guy in the state in the rematch was even more impressive. Gavin Layton is for real! College coaches are already calling on him and he is only a junior. I believe he can go D1 if that's what he wants to do.”

Layton added another four wins, three by fall, at the Farmington Duals Jan. 4. He has positioned himself among the favorites heading into the home stretch of the season, with Section 7AAA and state competition just over a month away.

“Gavin was 27-12 last season and couldn't gain an escape in the true second match to go to state last year,” Adams said. “I don't think he has forgotten that moment and he has worked really hard to turn the corner last year's results. The difference this year from last year is the time he put on the mat over the summer. We also have great coaches to work out with him on a daily basis in Tyler Berdahl and Mike Bothwell; they push him hard and have been making him a little meaner on the mat.

“Gavin's confidence is really high right now. Gavin would probably never say it because he is so humble and quiet, but most of his teammates and coaches believe that he can win a state title, maybe two. Gavin is a gentle giant ... until he steps on the mat. Then he's not so gentle. Stay tuned!”

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