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Monson unbeaten heading into state wrestling tournament

Groton’s Dragr Monson, top, makes a move on Braden Le, of the Watertown junior varsity, during their 113 pound match at the Groton Wrestling Tournament earlier this season. Monson takes an unbeaten record at 113 pounds into the State B tournament in Rapid City. Photo by John Davis taken 1/30/2021

GROTON – Dragr Monson has rediscovered the joy of wrestling and in turn has made life miserable for his opponents.

The senior heads into this week’s State B wrestling tournament with an unbeaten 36-0 record. A big reason why has been his attitude, regardless of what transpires on the mat.

“I’m neverous about every match no matter what,” Monson said. “It could be against a kid that I’ve beaten 10 times and I’ll still have little nerves coming out.”

Groton coach Darin Zoellner helped his standout wrestler to be able to put fun back into the sport and that has made a huge difference.

“That’s when everything started coming back together,” Monson said, “and I was wrestling the way I should.”

It’s his demeanor, more than his moves, that Zoellner says sets Monson apart.

“He’s probably the most humble kid you’ll ever meet. Win or lose, he’ll come off the mat usually with a smile on his face. This is my fifth year working with him and that’s the one thing I admire about him.”

Of course Monson has plenty of moves to complement his positive attitude.

“No matter what type of position he gets in, he always thinks he can score from there,” Zoellner said, “which always makes him dangerous.”

As crazy as it sounds, Monson has been at the same weight class (113 pounds) all five years with the Tigers. How is that even possible? Well, it takes mental toughness and self-discipline for starters.

“I really did not think I was going to be this light at this age,” Monson said. “That’s just one of the things about the sport. If you want to be successful, you have to have the discipline and the mental toughness to do what it takes.”

The journey to the top hasn’t been smooth or easy, according to Zoellner.

“There’s been some bumps in the road. He hasn’t always had this success,” Zoellner said. “He’s had to work for every inch of it. To be where he is now is a testament to his dedication and his love for the sport. It’s not just something that happened overnight. He put in countless hours in the offseason.”

Because COVID curtailed wrestling activity last summer, Monson tried Jiu-Jitsu. It turned out to be the perfect fit to fill his competitive void.

“It feels just like I’m wrestling,” he said. “It’s something that I know I could do the rest of my life if I wanted to, so I’m pretty sure that’s probably going to be what fills any type of competition that I want to do.”

During the season, some of Monson’s toughest competition comes at practice. He often finds himself sparring with teammate Christian Ehresmann, who went from 106 pounds last year to 126 this season.

“I practiced with him about all year last year and kind of threw him around. He didn’t quite have the build he does now,” Monson said. “He is just a horse. He’s just strong. I threw him around last year. Now, I’m scared to go with him some days, because he’ll throw me around. It’s awesome to have a partner to push you in practice.”

Monson tries not to be consumed with thoughts of a possible state championship, but he knows the significance of that accomplishment. He knows that Dalton Locke in 2013 was Groton’s last state wrestling champion and that the last time the school had a state title of any kind was in 2014.

“That’s what I set my goal to be,” Monson said, “to be the first one in 7-8 years to get a state title for our school.”

Zoellner understands how difficult the climb can be to get to the pinnacle in the sport wrestling.

“We’ve had some very good wrestlers come through the program since (2013), but none of them were able to get to the top of the podium,” Zoellner said. “Hopefully, this year we can finally get to the top of the mountain.”

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