Bennett Berge has been preparing for this moment his entire life.
It doesn't matter if it's a regular-season dual or the state championship bout. His mindset remains the same: dominate.
Every day in practice leading up to Friday's Class AA state wrestling tournament, Kasson-Mantorville head coach Jamie Heidt had Berge repeating the same phrase over and over: "182-pound Class AA state champion."
The KoMets work tirelessly for the big moments. The mental aspect is almost as important as the physical. Heidt wants them to be mentally tough, and he also wants them to envision dominating on the biggest stages.
Berge did just that on Friday at St. Michael-Albertville High School, the makeshift home of the Class AA individual state wrestling finals. Berge ran roughshod through the quarterfinals and semifinals before beating Becker's Caden Dewall 7-3 in the 182-pound state championship bout. It's the fourth state title for Berge.
"I’m kind of onto next year if I'm being honest," Berge said. "Next year, we have two titles to win. A team title and an individual title. I definitely will enjoy it though. There were definitely more points to be put on the board in the finals, and that grinds my gears sometimes. But it's the state tournament. If you win by one point, I guess it doesn’t matter."
But that in and of itself explains Berge's mindset perfectly. He's one of the best wrestlers in the entire country, and sometimes, his biggest competition is himself. He's always challenging himself to bring it at a higher level. To dominate in a greater fashion. Berge didn't go crazy and jump into Heidt's arms after winning a fourth state title. Instead, he walked off the mat like business as usual.
"Every kid that was coming to state, their goal was to come home with a state title," Berge said. "That’s our goal and we didn’t expect anything less. When you win a state title, we aren’t surprised. That’s what we train to do. That’s why we work so hard."
As a team, the KoMets didn't have the season they wanted. They fell to Lake City in the Section 1AA semifinals which was a far cry from a state team title that they pushed so hard for. That rubbed Berge the wrong way. At his core, he loves winning state individual titles. But a team state title? That's his No. 1 goal.
K-M fell short and it gnaws at him.
"That irritates me more than anything I do individually," Berge said. "I like the team aspect. I want our guys to do better than I do. If everyone on our team was a state champ and I wasn’t, that’s what I want. Next year, we have a lot of work to do. Simley loses a big class but they’re still going to be good. But we’re going to give them a run for their money. We aren’t going to take the foot off the pedal at all this summer."
But it still doesn't make a fourth consecutive individual state title anything less special.
Overall, it was a terrific day for the KoMets. Berge left a state champion. 145-pounder Logan Vaughan placed second in Class AA. 170-pounder Kail Wynia had one of the toughest draws in the entire state, but Wynia battled his way to a third-place crown which might have been the most impressive performance of the day. Cole Glazier (third place at 160 pounds) and Anthony Moe-Tucker (fourth place at 220 pounds) were also terrific as well.
"Yeah, it’s cool, but we wanted all five of us in the finals," Berge said. "All five of our guys are capable of winning the whole tournament. Obviously, we have a lot of room to improve as a team and as the five we brought up here, so it’ll be a fun summer and we’ll get after it."
Bennett's older brothers, Broc and Brady, got to celebrate with him. Broc is on K-M's staff and he was a big reason why Bennett has transformed into one of the best wrestlers in the country. Brady –– a Penn State wrestling stud –– was home from college and was able to watch Bennett win another state title. They can celebrate together tonight as a family.
Then, tomorrow, Berge will get back to work.