Coming off a state title the previous year, Gator 220-pound junior wrestler Dominik Vacura knew he would have a target on his back this season. He felt it at the state individual tournament, held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, February 28 and 29, specifically during his semifinal match versus Canby’s Shane Noyes. He didn’t let that stop him en route to another state title.
Leading 4-3 late in the third period of this semifinal match, Vacura would give up a point for stalling, tying the score 4-4 with 23 seconds left. Nearly giving up a takedown at the end of the period, Vacura would go into overtime and end the match about five seconds into the period after scoring a takedown, giving him an opportunity to clinch another state title.
“I knew kids were going to try to knock me off, like in the semifinals, that kid wanted to knock me off,” Vacura said. “I dug it out, took him down (in) overtime (and) won it. And after that, I knew, I was like I can win this. I know I can again.”
In the finals, Vacura would take on a wrestler he had defeated twice this season—the first time by pin and the second time by major decision— in Minnewaska Area, Glenwood’s Dylan Jergenson.
“When he (Jergenson) stepped on the mat, I knew he was broke,” Vacura said. “I’ve already beat him, majored him and I’ve pinned him, and now I decisioned him, but he was broke throughout the match. When I got on top of him, he didn’t want to wrestle.”
Vacura would score three takedowns— one in each period— and an escape in the second to pull away with the 7-0 decision. This would mark not only Vacura’s second straight state title, but the sixteenth individual state title in program history. Vacura also became just the second wrestler in program history to record multiple individual state titles.
As Vacura explained, he had to be strategic in this match, specifically in terms of the shots he took, after injuring his ankle in his 220-pound section title win the week prior.
“I had to pick when to shoot and when not to shoot. I think there was some times in my match where I shot where I probably shouldn’t have, but I think I shot at the right time also,” Vacura said. “And when I took him down, I had to ride him out and I used my weight to my advantage.”
Also referring to Vacura’s ankle injury, Gator Head Coach Isaac Novacek called Vacura’s performance in his state title match “gritty.”
“He got the job done. He was just, not so much being ‘rammie,’ but he was taking the points that were given to him, taking shots that were given to him,” Novacek said, “wrestling like a two-time state champ should— very smart, very classy, just very outgoing. Good job for him.”
After the final whistle blew and while getting his left arm raised, he put up two fingers on each hand to signify his back-to-back state titles.
“Back-to-back, there’s no better feeling. Winning a state championship was my goal this year,” Vacura said. “Obviously now, my other goal is to go three-time state champion.”
Before the semifinals, Vacura would record a pair of second period pins, the first over Medford’s Brennon Hoffman and the second over Springfield’s Mason Rummel.
Walking off the mat following his state title, Vacura hugged Coach Novacek and Gator Assistant Coach Cody Brazier after ending the season with a 52-1 record.
Asked how back-to-back state champion sounded, Vacura said, “Outstanding.”
Besides Vacura, four other Gator wrestlers punched their individual tickets to state, including Garrett Undeberg (132), Andy Dostal (152), Ethan Waage (160), and Jacob Bergsnev (195). These four wouldn’t reach the medal stand, but two would come one win short of this honor. To find out how these four individuals performed and the Gators as a team performed in the state team tournament, read the March 4 issue of The Tribune in print or online.