At the annual Rogers Holiday Matness during the last week of December, junior Wil Yasseri hurt his jaw and had to default out of the tournament, leaving the Royals short one wrestler.
Since that injury more than a month ago, Yasseri has returned to competition as Rogers won its first conference title in program history, tying Coon Rapids 34-34 in the Northwest Suburban Conference championship meet on Feb. 7. Earlier this season, he won his 100th career match, but he has other goals in mind.
Royals co-head coach Chris Donnay said Yasseri wasn’t himself after the injury. He took two weeks off to recover.
“He’s quiet, already, but he wouldn’t talk much and stuff like that,” Donnay said. “You could tell that he wanted to be out there, but with head injuries nowadays, you don’t want to mess with that. Once he came back is when we went on our roll. We’re 9-0-1 since then. That shows how important he is to the team.”
Yasseri enjoys the grind and dedication it takes to be an elite wrestler. He said he doesn’t eat chocolate chip cookies or fried chicken during the season because it wouldn’t help him maintain a healthy weight.
“It takes a lot of dedication, especially when you’re weight cutting, to stay away from unhealthy foods or keep your weight on track,” Yasseri said. “It’s very challenging [not to eat junk food]. At the same time, I know that the season’s not that long. Once it’s over, I can start eating that stuff instead.”
In his most-recent match against Alex Kowalchyk of Coon Rapids on Feb. 7, Yasseri lost 3-1. However, he has won three of his last five matches, including a victory over Elk River’s Hunter Larson on Jan. 18.
Royals co-head coach Justin Oie said Yasseri is very driven.
“You see it in practice,” Oie said. “You see it on the mat. He loves to get into the top position. When he gets there, you can see that fire going in his eyes. He wants to pin the guy for the team. Our whole team has rallied around each other this year. It’s a great team atmosphere and he’s a big part of that because he gets the team fired up with what he does on the mat. Then, he supports his teammates after.”
Senior Sam Essendrup said that Yasseri’s height give him an advantage on that mat.
“Say he’s running a half-Nelson,” Essendrup said. “He has extra leverage. He can torque it with his long limbs. He can get it on a shot with his long arms. It’s hard to stop.”
When he’s not competing in a sport he describes as “the hardest sport,” one of Yasseri’s favorite hobbies is woodworking. He likes to carve intricate, decorative pieces and also builds tables. His favorite subject is world history.
Donnay added that making the state tournament is only part of Yasseri’s goal.
“Since the injury, he’s been working harder than I’ve ever seen him work,” Donnay said. “His goal is not just to get to state this year. It’s to get on the podium. Half the reason he didn’t make it last year to state was he went at the tougher weight in sections, but he thought he had a better chance of placing in state if he went there. That shows character. He’s not just happy to get to the X anymore. He wants to be on that podium.”
Author's note: A previous edition of this story included a photo of the wrong wrestler. The photo was not of Wil Yasseri, but of his teammate, Ryan Lund. This story is being republished to correct that mistake. The author takes full responsibility for his actions.