In recent years, Gator Head Wrestling Coach Isaac Novacek just knew his team was in good shape to win a dual if it led going into the 220-pound weight class. Why?
He was sending out a now two-time state champion Dominik Vacura.
Unlike those Gator dual victory chances going into 220, it chances of wrestling this winter are not as certain. Regardless of what happens this winter, it is certain that Vacura, a senior, will be taking his wrestling talents to North Dakota State University in Fargo next year after signing his letter of intent to wrestle for the NSDU Bison, a Division I program, in the Greenbush-Middle River School gym on November 18.
Vacura’s family, including grandparents, parents Jon and Lisa, younger brother and Gator teammate Caleb and sister Kayle, attended the signing event. Former Gator Head Wrestling Coach Todd Bergeron and current Gator Head Wrestling Coach Isaac Novacek also attended the event, sitting beside Vacura when he signed the official papers. Gator Activities Director Sharon Schultz and elementary Gator wrestlers also witnessed the event. Due to COVID, Vacura wasn’t sure when this official moment was going to come.
“I’ve been waiting to sign those papers for a long time,” Vacura said. “… I wish the NDSU coach would have been there, but due to COVID stuff here (he was) not allowed to be there. But it was still a special thing to officially become a Bison.”
Coach Novacek congratulated Vacura on this accomplishment.
“It’s always good, especially from a coaching aspect to see your athletes go not only to college, but to a D-I program.”
A Gator Wrestling state champion and a former Division II wrestler at Minnesota State University Moorhead, Coach Novacek also gave Vacura some perspective from a wrestler standpoint in terms of taking that next step to the college level.
“You got to stay focused, and you got to really revamp your goals and stick to it,” Coach Novacek said.
Heading into his final season as a Gator wrestler, Vacura has over 100 career pins and is currently sixth in all-time individual program wins, at 179— 26 wins from breaking the record for most wins in program history (204), set by Wayne Mooney in 1995. After capturing his back-to-back individual Class A 220-pound state titles the past two seasons, Vacura also is just the second wrestler in program history with multiple state titles; four-time state champion Gabe Mooney was the first (2001-04).
Asked what has allowed Vacura to become one of the most successful wrestlers in program history, Coach Novacek pointed first to Vacura’s dedication, mentioning how summer wrestling makes winter champions.
“When you go on the wall of fame is what I call it, the pictures on the school (wall) of all the state champions, and you go through and you look at them all that wrestled in the summer, 60, 70% of them did. So that goes a long way.”
Asked about the time he has dedicated to the sport, Vacura pointed out how in about the fifth and sixth grade he and his brother Caleb, a junior this year, couldn’t find a lot of competition in the area, so began wrestling out of state as well, including at national tournaments.
He then entered the high school program and earned a spot on the Gator Varsity wrestling team as a seventh grader. That year, Vacura had some challenges, wrestling against older and more experienced wrestlers. That year, he finished fourth in the section at 170 pounds.
In eighth grade, Vacura said he made a large jump. That year, he made his first state tournament after clinching his first individual section title, this one at 195 pounds. At state that year, he finished fifth.
He would go on to win, three more individual section titles and three more individual state tournament berths, all at 220 pounds. As a freshman, he would finish sixth at state and then as a sophomore and junior would capture his two state titles.
Despite all those individual accomplishments, when asked what he was most proud of looking back at his Gator career, Vacura first pointed to a team accomplishment— his team’s section team title over Frazee in 2019. In that dual, Vacura would defeat a familiar opponent, in Luke Tweeton, 3-2, to give the Gators a 31-27 heading into the final match; the Gators would win this dual 31-30.
“That’s the highlight of my high school career probably so far. That was by far the funnest dual I’ve ever been in (in) my entire life,” Vacura said. “And I’ve been on national teams and we won national titles before, but (for the) senior high school team (to) win something so big like that and going to the tournament, that was fun.”
The following season, Vacura would help the Gators clinch back-to-back section team titles for the first time in program history. That year, he would pick up a first period pin in the team section championship match versus Frazee, giving the Gators a 35-30 lead in the team’s eventual 41-30 win. That season, the Gators would finish sixth at state as a team.
He also is proud of those two individual state titles and hopes for a third.
“The first one was, going out there on (the) Xcel Energy Center (floor) in front of all these people winning a championship, that was really cool,” Vacura said. “… The second one was (the) same thing. Not every day you get to step on a mat and win back-to-back championships.”
To see the complete story, read the November 25 issue of The Tribune in print or online.