STATE WRESTLING: Canby’s Kindopp wins state title in the 170-weight class

Photo by Stephen Wiblemo Canby’s Jaden Kindopp is announced the 170-pound champion in Class A after defeating Levi Larkin of West Central Area in the individual tournament on Saturday at Xcel Energy Center. The championship is Kindopp’s first and 13th overall for the Canby program.

ST. PAUL – If someone had told Canby wrestler Jaden Kindopp at the beginning of the year he would be a state champion, he would have laughed at them.

“My goal at the beginning of the year was to be in the top four, and I thought that was stretching it a little bit,” Kindopp said.

Whether he would have believed it in November or not, his dream came true Saturday when he was crowned the Class A 170-pound champion at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

“It feels great,” he said. “Coming into this tournament I wasn’t expecting it at all. The feeling of being an underdog and coming through to win it just feels great.”

Although he was no slouch during the year, racking up a 37-11 record before state and being ranked No. 6 in a different weight class, most people probably wouldn’t have picked him to win it, either. But the state wrestling tournament is a funny thing. You have to be good, of course, but you also have to be a little lucky and have everything line up in your favor.

“When you come down here, in a lot of these weight classes you could have a different champ every week,” Canby coach Gary Stoks said. “Jaden just wrestled awesome.”

Kindopp’s title run started Friday with a big opening win and a narrow 3-2 win in the quarterfinal to get him into the second day. For some reason, he said, he wasn’t nervous even though it was his first appearance at state. He says that helped him stay loose.

“Honestly, I was probably more calm here than I was at sections,” he said. “I didn’t feel pressured at all and, I guess, because of that I performed better.”

He celebrated those two wins by eating a little more than he should have and almost didn’t make weight that night, but fortunately he got it down and was able to continue his path to the semifinals.

Saturday’s first match was a big one. Not only would the winner go on to the title bout, but the two wrestlers – Kindopp and Nick Altermatt of Wabasso/Red Rock Central – were familiar with each other. They’d wrestled twice before this year and most recently at sections. Kindopp was 0-for-2, but the third time was the charm as he pulled out a 4-2 victory.

“Altermatt is an excellent wrestler,” Stoks said. “When you watch him wrestle, you just hope you can stop his shot. He’s just physical and quick … (Kindopp) just wrestled his match that time.”

“All my friends were jumping around. They were probably more excited than I was,” Kindopp said about his semifinal victory. “I didn’t really know how to feel, I guess. It was just amazement that I could be part of it.”

After that victory Saturday morning, there was about a seven- to eight-hour wait before the championships that night. That’s a long time for wrestlers to sit and think, but Kindopp said it went fast for him.

“Up until the last hour, that was the only hour that seemed like forever,” he said. “Once we started getting here and warming up, I started thinking about my match and time slowed down.”

His opponent in the championship was Levi Larkin of West Central Area/Ashby/Brandon-Evansville, who also had a 38-8 record going into state. Kindopp’s plan was simple and effective.

“I knew he didn’t shoot a lot. He has two big knee braces and struggles with shooting,” he said. “I knew he was going to try to throw me, so I stayed away from the upper body.”

While the match itself wasn’t the most exciting, there were no takedowns, it did go into overtime tied 1-1. Kindopp was able to escape his opponent’s grasp, and then tied him up on his turn to seal the victory.

“He started believing more and more in himself, and we just told him, ‘Keep doing your thing,'” Stoks said about Canby’s newest state champ since Tad Merritt won at 152 pounds in 2007. “That’s the biggest thing. Every wrestler is different, every style is a little different, so don’t try to change it. Just keep working on what you’re doing and believing in yourself.”

Kindopp is a junior, which means he’ll have a chance to defend his title next year as a senior. Whether he wins it again or not, he’d like to at least make it back to state once more just for the experience.

“Something I wasn’t expecting is how relaxed everyone is here,” he said. “Everyone’s talking, everyone’s congratulating each other. It’s a big group of people that respect each other.”