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Three-time state wrestling champ Kevin Steinhaus addresses the student body and faculty Wednesday at KMS HIgh School in Kerkhoven after being named Mr. Minnesota Wrestler. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

Steinhaus is state's top wrestler

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KERKHOVEN -- It started out like any other day for Kevin Steinhaus. He woke up, looked at the light snow on the ground, shrugged his shoulders and headed off the school in Kerkhoven to work out.

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"Nothing special," he said. "Just like any other day exeept when I looked out and saw we had snow which I wasn't all that excited about."

Steinhaus, who is in track and field in the spring for Benson/KMS, would work out for a while at the school with some of his teammates, shower and then head off to his first class. He knew there would be some type of lyceum in the gymnasium at 8:20 a.m. as was announced on the intercom the previous day.

"I saw my mom and dad coming into the school so I figured it might be something to do with our wrestling team," said Steinhaus, by telephone Wednesday morning. "I didn't stop to ask them what they were doing there so I wasn't sure what was going on."

Steinhaus sat in the bleachers with the entire student body and saw that his wrestling coaches were there. At the podium was Bill Schmidt of the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association and Steinhaus noticed a rather large trophy up there with him. Steinhaus figured the team would be receiving an award of some kind after winning the Class A state title two weeks ago at Xcel Energy Center.

First, KMS juniors Kurt Timmons and Tyler Carlson were recognized for their courage throughout the season.

Timmons, a 103-pounder, has been battling cancer. Carlson, a 112-pounder, has been grappling with Crohn's Disease.

Then the team was recognized for winning the state title and a few words were spoken by head coach Wes Haglund.

"Then they started to talk about the outstanding wrestlers in the state and that's when I thought maybe that's what the trophy was for," said Steinhaus, who knew he was one of the finalists for the award. "I thought that would be so cool if I had won that. But I remembered they weren't going to announce the winner (of Mr. Minnesota Wrestler) until the Hall of Fame banquet in April."

Sure enough, the smalltown boy harvested the biggest prize. Steinhaus became only the second area wrestler to win the award for the state's outstanding wrestler of the year (Chad Carlson of Willmar won the inaugural award in 1990).

The announcement was made Wednesday at Haglund's request because Steinhaus will be in Virginia for the Senior National Tournament during the Coaches Association Hall of Fame banquet in Willmar on April 4. Former KMS coach Lynden Nelson will be among the inductees.

Steinhaus recently won his third straight state title, finishing a perfect 50-0. He went 246-12 in his career with 95 pins. Besides his three state titles, he was third as a freshman and second as an eighth-grader (to former five-time champion Zach Sanders).

"This is huge," said Haglund, the day before the announcement was made public. "As a coach, to have your team win the state title, five kids making state individually, three win state titles (Mitchell Hagen and Joel Bauman the others), and now having the best wrestler in the state. And there are some very good wrestlers in the state. All that from such a tiny community. It's a credit to our program and the hard work these kids have put in."

Steinhaus was such a dominating wrestler that he was taken down only twice all season and reversed only once. In his last three years of competition, in which he never lost a match, he was taken down a total of four times and reversed only three times.

"He got in a mode where he was going to dominate every opponent," said Haglund. "He would try to build up enough points for a technical fall and then try to pin them. That way, if he didn't get the pin, he would still earn the team five points. He was just on a mission in every match."

Steinhaus has signed a letter of intent to wrestle for the University of Minnesota next season.

After the ceremony, Steinhaus handed the trophy to his parents, Mike and Suzanne, to bring home.

"I didn't want to carry it around all day in my backpack," he laughed.

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