KASSON – With blood streaming out of his bottom lip, Carlos Ruffo leaped off the mat and let out a blood-curdling roar.
“This is my weight,” Ruffo screamed.
The Kasson-Mantorville senior entered Saturday’s Swalla Duals as the No. 1 overall seed in Class 2A’s 152-pound weight class. But he didn’t feel like the favorite.
He battled Fairmont/Martin County West’s 152-pounder Payton Anderson in the championship pool. Anderson was the No. 2, 152-pounder in Class 2A.
It was tied at 1 after six minutes of ferocious wrestling. But in the overtime period, Ruffo dominated and came away with a 3-1 victory.
Ruffo proved that he owned 152 pounds.
“I don’t feel like the target,” Ruffo said. “I’m going after people. I’m going to go out there and hunt for that state title.”
That type of mindset represented the entire Kasson-Mantorville squad. K-M came into the Swalla Duals as a respected team, but Fairmont/MCW was ranked above them in Class 2A, and Shakopee was No. 1 in Class 3A and No. 20 in the country.
In the end, Shakopee did clinch the Swalla Duals title with a perfect 4-0 showing, but a young K-M squad showcased that they’ve got a chance to make some major noise down the stretch with guys like Ruffo leading the way.
“We did some things great today,” K-M head coach Jamie Heidt said. “We were more physical today. We had some tough, hard-fought matches. Tanner Paulson had a heck of a day. He really had to fight throughout the day.”
K-M blitzed their way to the championship pool with wins over Ellsworth (49-15) and Blue Earth Area (44-27).
Ruffo’s heroics helped spear a comeback against Fairmont/MCW. Before Ruffo’s match, Fairmont/MCW led 19-10. But Ruffo’s victory fired up the home crowd, and that helped K-M sophomore Kail Wynia upset Miles Fitzgerald with a last-second takedown.
K-M won six out of the last seven bouts to nip Fairmont/MCW 38-25.
They had all the momentum, but it wasn’t enough as Shakopee’s loaded roster handed K-M a 51-24 loss in the championship match.
Still, K-M’s resiliency was admirable all day long. With just four seniors on the roster, finishing second among the nine-team Swalla Duals proved that K-M has what it takes to make another deep run.
Paulson was terrific, and he was one of three K-M grapplers to be named to the All-Tournament team, joining Ruffo and Bennett Berge. 285-pounder Anthony Moe-Tucker had a big pin in the victory over Fairmont/MCW. Wynia was a monster at 160 pounds.
Eighth-grader Dominic Mann competed admirably at 106 pounds. Joey, Jackson and Patrick Kennedy had some outstanding moments.
Still, Shakopee’s brilliance exposed some flaws in K-M’s lineup. Shakopee started the championship bout with pins in five of the first six matches.
“We have some boys who need to grow up a bit,” Heidt said. “We’re young, but they have to grow up in a hurry. The great thing about wrestling is that it resembles life in so many ways. When things don’t go your way in life, you get up and you pull your bootstraps up and go to work.”
Ruffo had a big bag of ice wrapped around his leg following the conclusion of the duals, but nothing was going to stop him from competing.
He might be the No. 1 seed, but he doesn’t act like it. K-M might be the No. 3 team in Class 2A, but they don’t act like it either.
They’re hungry for more.
“We’re on the come up,” Ruffo said. “We’re a young team. We’re right there. We’ve been training so hard. We’ll come out with a bang.”