Lakeville North’s Volk, Hanson want to help grow Panthers’ program
Lakeville, a wrestling hotbed?
Don’t laugh. While it’s true other south metro communities – most notably Apple Valley, Shakopee and Inver Grove Heights – have received more attention for their success in high school and youth wrestling, Lakeville has had its share of accomplishments as well.
In 2019 alone, the community had two athletes – Willie Bastyr at Lakeville South and Bryce Benhart at Lakeville North – win state high school Class 3A individual championships.
Two more North wrestlers just completed a productive spring and summer at the youth level, with both winning multiple national championships. Jore Volk, a sophomore, took first in freestyle and Greco-Roman at the U.S. Marine Corps Junior and 16U Nationals, the annual youth wrestling extravaganza that takes over the Fargodome in North Dakota in July.
Zach Hanson, who will be a freshman, was one of four wrestlers nationally in 2019 to win the “Triple Crown,” sweeping folkstyle, freestyle and Greco-Roman championships in the 14U age group.
They have several more years to pursue “stop signs,” the eight-sided plaques awarded to All-Americans at national youth tournaments. But they also have several more years to help Lakeville North be a factor in the high school season.
“We’ve had other wrestlers here that have had success early, but what they’re doing on the national stage is big for our program,” said Lakeville North coach Dan Recchio. “As far as their potential? The sky’s the limit. They both have a great sense for the sport and work really hard at it. They eat, sleep and breathe wrestling. They’re on the mat all the time, they’re finding new partners, new coaching, new instruction, new techniques. They’re constantly working at it, and because of that they’ve reached this level of success at a young age.”
Volk was one of three wrestlers to win freestyle and Greco-Roman championships in the 16U nationals in Fargo this summer. He won the freestyle championship at 100 pounds, defeating Caden Horwath of Michigan 12-5. That was after needing a takedown in the final seconds of his semifinal match to win 11-9. If regulation time had ended with the score 9-9, Volk would have lost on tiebreaking criteria and would not have advanced to the final.
Volk earned his sweep with a 4-1 victory over Benjamin Aranda of Illinois in the 100-pound Greco-Roman final.
“At Fargo there’s five matches a session, and all the best kids in the country are there,” said Volk, who also was runner-up in the state high school Class 3A tournament at 106 pounds in March. “You just try to be the best. I had to stay on my attacks and be in my positions. Getting bigger and stronger also helps for getting it done.”
Hanson won the 14U folkstyle championship at 106 pounds in April at the University of Northern Iowa. In June, he added the freestyle and Greco-Roman championships at 110 at USA Wrestling Kids Nationals in Wisconsin. Kids Nationals are for the 10U through 14U age groups. Hanson will be eligible to compete in “Fargo nationals” next season.
Hanson said he knew about the significance of the triple crown “since way back in the day when I was really young. It’s always been a goal of mine to get the national triple crown. Winning the folkstyle nationals in March made it a realization that I could do it this year, but I bumped up a weight class for freestyle and Greco nationals, and that just made the competition that much harder.”
Hanson finished third in Greco-Roman and fourth in freestyle at nationals in 2018. Last winter he became the first eighth-grader from Lakeville to qualify for the state tournament (at 113 pounds), and “I think that could have been the deciding factor” in his success at nationals.
“I’d already been on one of the biggest stages, making it to the state tournament, and that was really nerve-wracking,” Hanson said. “Walking into Wisconsin Dells, I was kind of ‘chiller’ and I knew I could handle anybody that came on the mat against me.”
Volk and Hanson also train with Pinnacle Wrestling, a Roseville club operated by Minnesota wrestling legends Brandon Paulson and Jared Lawrence. Recchio said being exposed to different coaching philosophies has only helped Volk and Hanson.
When Lakeville North wrestling practice starts in November, “they’ll certainly bump heads a lot, and it works out great because they’re around the same weight class,” Recchio said. “But they’re also valuable in the room because you can get them with other kids and they’ll almost wrestle and instruct because they have such a deep knowledge of the sport.
“Along with their technical skills, they bring a lot of energy and frankly, they’re fun dudes. They amp up our room a little bit and make it a fun place to be.”
Volk and Hanson both lost to eventual champions from Shakopee at the 2019 Class 3A individual tournament, and winning high school championships before they’re done is a priority. But they also want to help make sure the North program is in good shape a few years down the road, after they have moved on to college. They want to be active in recruiting boys to join the team, and they want to be role models.
Benhart served in that role at North last season, going undefeated and winning the state 285-pound title. But he’s now at the University of Nebraska and playing football.
“Bryce was a great role model, but not everybody can be as dominant as him,” Hanson said. “Sending an eighth-grader and ninth-grader to state and one of them coming up and placing second is pretty amazing for this program, and it’s helping all the youth kids to look up to somebody.”