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Minnesota’s Rogotzke risked chance at 2nd title, bumped up to take on U.S.’s No. 1
Photo: Ryder Rogotzke (left) pinned 45 of 50 opponents this past season, including Marco Christiansen of Minnetonka in the Minnesota Christmas Tournament last December to earn a second straight Junior Schalles Award. (Jeff Beshey photo)
By Mike Finn
Statistically, Ryder Rogotzke did not have the season in 2022-23 that the wrestler from Stillwater (Minn.) High School enjoyed a year earlier when he won the 182-pound Minnesota state championship and posted a 56-1 record as a junior. He also pinned 44 of 47 opponents that he actually wrestled and was named the 2022 Junior Schalles Award for pinning.
But personal statistics did not mean as much to Rogotzke, who was 52-3 and finished second in the 2023 state tournament to end his high school career.
It should be noted that two of Rogotske’s three losses came against the nation’s top-ranked 195-pounder, Max McEnelly of Waconia High School, including in the finals of the state tournament. Rogotzke had wrestled 70 percent of his matches at 182 pounds before moving up to take on an even tougher task in the postseason … even though his normal weight was 190 pounds. (The other loss was an injury disqualification against Rogotzke for an illegal mat return.)
“I was en route to just pin every single person in the season,” said Rogotzke. “We have something called the Pony Stampede, but everyone backed out because we always have the toughest teams in Minnesota there like Waconia. We knew there was a chance I could face McEnelly so we decided give people a match. I had nothing to lose so I bumped up. I ended up losing by two points and was put in the position (to) either stay in my 182 route or set another goal and go get him again.”
Despite losing again to McEnelly in the state finals, Rogotzke actually broke his own single-season state pin record with 45 pins (in the state semis, among the 50 actual matches that took place). And for a second straight year, Rogotzke has won the Junior Schalles Award … given annually to the nation’s top high school pinner.
“Ryder is so much fun to watch, he’s unconventional and exciting,” said Wade Schalles, the namesake of the award who was a two-time NCAA champ from Clarion, pinning 109 of his college foes. “I don’t think any wrestler is safe when they’re on the mat with him. He takes risks, he’s bold and he doesn’t just win, he pins. I seem to remember someone else having a similar style and attitude!”
Overall, Rogotzke earned 193 career pins, two off the Minnesota record; just one more personal statistic or record that the future Ohio State wrestler was willing to give up when he moved up weight classes.
“If I didn’t move up, I believe I would have broken that record,” said Rogotzke, whose only “disappointment” came from not tying his brother, Roman (a freshman at South Dakota State this past winter), who won two Minnesota state titles.
A year ago, Ryder called his wrestling/pinning style “funky.” This year, he felt like he was setting traps against opponents who knew Rogotzke was a pinner but could not stop Stillwater prep from still getting the fall.
“For the most part, I would say I calmed it down to where I go through the motions a little bit slower and (I’m) not flying all over the place and giving up stupid points.
“I started working a series of moves where I could go for this near-side-like stack where I pull his head towards it,” Rogotzke said. “If I can’t get that stack, I’m firing right across with a cross-face and I’m going to the far-side cradle. And if that doesn’t work, I’m hooking the ankle and pulling his head back down. I had a series of things but everything was random. There was no plan.
“If I have them on their backs, I’m going to pin them. I’m working nonstop, super hard to lock up a cradle or whatever works.”
Ryder expects to compete as a starter for the Buckeyes at 184 pounds next winter and would like to take his pinning attitude with him to Columbus.
“I’m extremely excited,” said Rogotzke, who first considered wrestling at Navy before opting for Ohio State. “People were surprised when (the Buckeyes) finished third when most people thought they were a year away from such success. I was not surprised. I signed there because I knew it was coming.
“And next year’s team is going to have (2022 Junior Hodge Trophy winner) Nick Feldman at heavyweight to go with someone like (2021 Junior Hodge recipient) Jesse Mendez (a 2022 All-American at 133 pounds).”