In March, Waconia’s Max McEnelly again proved he was one of the best wrestlers in the state, winning his second consecutive Class AAA Wrestling Championship. But the sophomore’s work was not done, as he got right back to the grindstone to prove he was not only one of the best wrestlers in Minnesota, but one of the best wrestlers in the country. And in July, the hard work paid off as McEnelly bested 53 wrestlers from 23 different states to win the 2021 Fargo 195 pounds 16U National Championship.
“It’s probably one of my greatest wrestling accomplishments ever,” said McEnelly. “Being on that stage in front of those people in front of the crowd, in front of all of those college coaches there - this is a national tournament - this is one of the best high school tournaments in the nation, so it was awesome.”
After an undefeated high school wrestling season, McEnelly set his sights on the Fargo tournament, needing to earn a spot on the roster to represent Minnesota. To clinch his ticket to Fargo, McEnelly had to win the Minnesota State Freestyle Tournament or place in the top four at the regional tournament in Wisconsin. McEnelly won both tournaments with a 6-0 record, winning every match by technical fall.
“Some of these matches are often quicker because in freestyle I only need five takedowns [to win by technical fall], which in a regular folkstyle season I need maybe like 14, so they go by a lot faster,” he said.
In high school wrestling, competitions consist of folkstyle wrestling, but these competitions were freestyle. While McEnelly has not competed much in freestyle, only three freestyle tournaments thus far, but quickly took to the different rules.
“I just took people down. I hand fight hard and I got my shots,” said McEnelly. “Whenever people shot on me I took advantage of their shots and turned it into my scores, that’s just what I do. “My wrestling style stays the same - I don’t like to change things up, it’s just not who I am. I like to stick to what I do and works best for me.”
The Fargo tournament is considered one of the toughest tournaments of the year and had 48 states represented by 1,300 athletes in the 16U division. McEnelly had to win seven matches to take the title while facing nationally ranked opponents, but was unfazed by the big stage.
“Everyone is like, ‘What’s it like wrestling at that big of a tournament?’” McEnelly said. “But every tournament is the same to me. I just go out and wrestle, try to stay focused. No tournament is too big, just wrestle the same every single match, no matter who the opponent is, no matter where you’re wrestling. If it’s on a big stage or if it’s on one of the side mats, you’ve just got wrestle your match.”
While McEnelly was not the first Waconia wrestler to make the tournament, joined this year by fellow Wildcat Lincoln Vick, no Waconia wrestler had won the championship, with Joe Nord being the only to place at the competition. But McEnelly’s confidence never wavered as he went undefeated against the best young wrestlers in the country.
“I had confidence in myself, my coach he had confidence in me too, and when someone has belief in you, then you start believing in yourself too,” McEnelly said. “These are the top guys in every state, so every state is bringing their best guys who they think can win a national championship. The competition is tough, you’ve just got to go out and wrestle your match, nothing is different. It’s just wrestling.”
The Fargo championship is just another accomplishment to add to McEnelly’s career and Waconia’s impressive rise to wrestling dominance. The Wildcat wrestling program always preaches hard work in the wrestling room and that nobody will put in more effort. Confidence is built during practice and pays off during competition, which was exhibited by McEnelly when he made Waconia history, adding a national championship to his two state championships.
“It’s just the hard work I’ve put in - no one is going to outwork me, I’m going to outwork everyone else,” he said. “I’m just high pace, I’m faster than everybody, I think I’m stronger than everybody too. You put all that together with my technique and what my coaches have taught me - what they’ve done for me is amazing. Putting all of that together, I don’t think anyone can beat me.”
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