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Eric Miller Minnesota wrestler and KMS grad Kevin Steinhaus wrestles against Iowa on Jan. 26 at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.

College wrestling: Steinhaus cheering on KMS

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Former Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg wrestler Kevin Steinhaus has almost 90 collegiate wins and is a star for the University of Minnesota, the nation’s No. 4-ranked team. He won the Big Ten’s 184-pound championship last year, placed fifth in the NCAA national championships and he is ranked No. 5 in his weight class this season.

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And yet his college biography lists winning the 2009 team state championship with the Saints as his greatest sports thrill.

So with a week off before this weekend’s 2013 National Duals at Williams Arena, Steinhaus wasn’t about to miss watching his KMS protégés go for the Section 3A championship Saturday at Benson High School.

He wasn’t surprised the Saints delivered, defeating Wabasso/Red Rock Central 30-26 to earn their first trip back to the Minnesota State Wrestling Tournament since Steinhaus helped lead them there four years ago.

“I had fun,” Steinhaus said as the Saints and KMS fans celebrated the victory. “You could see it on their faces; they were pumped to do this and be the ones to get back there (state).”

Steinhaus knows full well what it means for wrestlers to compete at the highest levels.

The Gophers’ red-shirt junior is third all-time in Minnesota prep history with 246 wins. He won state individual championships his final three years (at 145, 152 and 160 pounds) and he didn’t lose a match his final three years. His 50 wins as a senior stand as a state record.

For the Gophers, Steinhaus won 20 matches in open meets as a red-shirt freshman, then was 34-12 his second season, taking second in the Big Ten and eighth at the NCAAs.

Last year, he was 34-6 and he heads into this weekend’s National Duals with a 19-1 mark, the only setback coming against fourth-ranked Steve Bosak of Cornell, who clipped Steinhaus 2-0 in the 184-pound semifinals of the Southern Scuffle in early January.

”This year’s been going really well,” Steinhaus said. “I’ve been wrestling well at the end of the year, working on things and getting better. I think (the 13-2 Gophers) are peaking at the right time.”

The Big Ten Championships are March 9-10 at the University of Illinois and the NCAA Championships are March 21-23 in Des Moines, Iowa.

After his senior season next year, Steinhaus will consider if he wants to continue his career, with the Olympics as a possible goal. But he will graduate in the middle of the four-year Olympic cycle and, most importantly, the International Olympic Committee is planning to drop wrestling from the Games.

Steinhaus said he’s “still up in the air” about a post-college wrestling career but he definitely supports wrestling proponents’ fight against the IOC decision.

“It’s frustrating because it seems like it came out of nowhere,” Steinhaus said. “It seems uninformed. But there’s a lot of buzz about it right now. It’s one of the original sports – it’s been there from the beginning, so we’ll see what happens.”

BOX INFO

2013 NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals

Friday-Saturday, University of Minnesota

Featuring 8 of NCAA’s top 10 teams:

No. 4 Minnesota

No. 2 Iowa

No. 3 Oklahoma State

No. 5 Ohio State

No. 6 Missouri

No. 7 Cornell

No. 8 Illinois

No. 10 Virginia Tech

Quarterfinals: 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Friday

Semifinals: 1 p.m. Saturday

Championship: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

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