OMAHA – David Gross accomplished the ultimate goal last year.
The St. Paul senior set out to win a State Wrestling Tournament title last February at the CenturyLink Center. Gross claimed an ultimate tiebreaker decision in the Class C 160-pound final a year ago.
The return title match did not have the drama of last year. But it ended with the same result.
The top-ranked Gross capped a perfect senior season with an 8-4 decision over Mitchell junior Abe Hernandez in the Class C 170 final Saturday afternoon.
“The one last year was huge,” Gross said. “It was my goal my whole high school career. This year, I met a goal to win two state championships.
“The first time’s harder,” he said. “I tried to do the same thing each week and worked hard doing it. I don’t really worry about the ratings too much.”
That golden groundwork started two years ago when Gross finished fourth at Class C 145.
“I didn’t want to settle for fourth,” Gross said. “The next year, I stepped up.”
This year, Gross stepped all over the competition. Gross (48-0) led 3-0 after one period, then stayed on top and in control during a scoreless second.
“I was always trying to score,” Gross said. “It was hard to turn him. I had to change my goals and keep him down. I don’t like to sit on a lead.”
Gross took control with a reversal 8 seconds into the third period. He added an escape and a takedown after Hernandez closed to within 5-3 with 1:25 left.
That strong finish summarized Gross’ season.
“He came to practice and tried to get better,” St. Paul coach Sean Cunningham said. “He wanted to get to that level again and reach for the next level. He wanted a second state championship.”
Gross is not sure if wrestling is in his future. His college plans are undetermined.
“If it’s the end, I ended on a high note,” Gross said. “If it’s not the end, I will keep working.”
Cunningham had two titles to celebrate. Another top-ranked St. Paul wrestler, sophomore Tyler Cunningham, claimed a 6-2 decision over Battle Creek freshman Caydon McCracken at 106.
Sean Cunningham’s son dominated the match. Tyler Cunningham’s lone mistake occurred when he was caught on his back during a reversal with 1:19 left in the third.
“I didn’t give up anything too much,” said Tyler Cunningham, who finished fourth in this weight class last year. “I knew what I wanted to do.”
The key was to stay upright.
“He knew he could be strong on his feet,” Sean Cunningham said. “If he wrestled on his feet, he would have the upper hand.”
Tyler Cunningham will spend a few weeks away from the mat, then prepare for freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling season. Tyler was a double All-American a year ago.
“That’s his love,” Sean Cunningham said.
Coach Cunningham thinks it’s “very humbling” to leave Omaha with two state champions.
“You sit there, preach and preach, where you want them to get to,” he said. “I’m very grateful to be in this position right now.”