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Wrestling: Determined Steffen secures state title

Zumbrota-Mazeppa's Caden Steffen gets his hand raised after beating Pierz's Brett Kapsner by pin in 1:33 in the Class 1A 182-pound championship match at the Minnesota state wrestling tournament Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)1 / 2
Zumbrota-Mazeppa's Caden Steffen gets a takedown on Pierz's Brett Kapsner during the first period of the Class 1A 182-pound championship match at the Minnesota state wrestling tournament Saturday in St. Paul. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)2 / 2

ST. PAUL – Caden Steffen walked onto the Class 1A 182-pound championship match determined. It was his match. His mat. Nothing was going to stop the Zumbrota-Mazeppa junior.

“To be 100 percent honest, my biggest fear was to finish second two years in a row. I didn't want that to happen,” said Caden, referring to his 25-12 major decision loss to Jackson County Central's Keegan Moore in 2016. “I worked all summer, all off-season to make sure that didn't happen. I just went out there and I wrestled my match. I controlled it and I just did everything the same, didn't change a thing.”

Like he did all tournament, Caden dominated.

Scoring three pins and a major decision over the span of four state matches, Caden became the Cougars' first state champion since Tyler Lindhart in 2008 after pinning Pierz's Brett Kapsner in 1 minute, 34 seconds.

“From the beginning of the year to the end of this year, he's a better wrestler at the end,” said Z-M head coach Link Steffen, Caden's father. “He's a kid that stays after practice every day and works hard. He does two workouts a day. He's just a phenomenal kid who loves wrestling and that's why he got better.”

Both the No. 1-ranked and top-seeded wrestler in the bracket, Caden put down New London-Spicer's Josh Soine with a pin in 3:30 in the semifinals for his second straight finals. On the other side of the mat was Kapsner, who was the second seed and the third-ranked wrestler at 170.

And, Kapsner was a wrestler that one of Caden's teammates had first-hand experience with. During the Class 1A team finals Thursday, Kapsner wrestled Z-M's Hayden Voxland, with Voxland securing a 5-4 decision. It provided a scouting report for Caden two days later.

“I talked to Hayden and he said he had a slide-by and Hayden said he had a lot better gas tank than him,” Caden said. “I just took that to my advantage. He's a tough wrestler. I've talked to him before and he's a great kid and a respectful guy.”

After a year in the making, Saturday was Caden's day. And in one fell swoop, he sealed his first state title with a quick take-down, half-nelson and a first-period pin.

“Caden was able to break through after a minute and 15 seconds. He went out of bounds on a take-down that Caden almost had and that created an opening and gave Caden a little confidence,” Link said. “Then in mid-air, he did his double-leg. He was able to put down the half-nelson on the guy and got the pin. He stuck the landing.”

Caden rounded out the 2016-17 season with a 46-4 record.

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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