3/3/2016 10:30:00 AM Ryan Epps is a state champion!
by Mike Dalton
Cannon Falls High School senior Ryan Epps capped off a perfect 43-0 season by winning the state class AA 145-pound wrestling title.
Epps was fourth last season, and second the season prior to that. He is the sixth state champion in school history, and the only the second to finish with a perfect season record.
Epps, a senior, opened the state tournament against Cade Mueller of Waconia. Mueller entered with a 15-6 record, and Epps beat him by 5-0 decision.
Next up was Josh Bernier of Thief River Falls, who won 40 matches leading up to state. Epps beat him handily, 7-2.
In the semifinals, Epps faced Patrick Kennedy of Kasson-Mantorville, and for the third time this season, Ryan came out on top. He beat Kennedy 5-1. Kennedy ended up finishing third, beating Ben Kelvington of Scott West.
The championship match was Epps' toughest of the tournament. He faced Logan Axford, a fellow senior from Tracy-Milroy-Balaton who sported a 44-1 record. The two were the top two seeds in the 145-pound class.
After a scoreless first period, Epps was able to gain a 1-point escape in period two. He held Axford scoreless in the third period to ride to a win.
"I knew Axford was strong, but I was confident I could beat him," Epps said.
Quiet confidence is one of Epps' strengths. "I always tell myself that I can do things; I believe in myself," he said. "Even if a goal is far away, just taking that first step is huge; even if you improve 1% each day, you're still getting closer to your goals."
Epps reached all his goals during the 2015-16 season: perfect record, section championship, and state championship.
"I trained the same way I've done the past few years, but I'm more mature now," he said. "I managed my weight better, and was really focused on meeting my goals."
Epps credits head coach Dudley Flodeen for much of his success.
"He's really calm, and he let me do my own thing. He knew I was going to push myself," Epps said. "He comes alive in big matches, though. He's a good coach, with good life lessons and good stories." Flodeen has also been on a good run lately; Cannon Falls has had seven different state champions, and Flodeen has coached six of the seven, including one each of the last four seasons.
Epps also gives credit to his mother, Dawn (Norstad) Epps. "It was pretty cool to give my mom a hug after I won," he said. "My mom does a lot for me."
While he hasn't yet picked a college, Epps plans on wrestling after high school. He's narrowed his school choices to Augustana, Augsburg, and UW - LaCrosse. He wants to get into a career involving science and the body, such as sports medicine or physical therapy.