Wrestling: Dineen delivers at nationals
Benson standout goes 6-0 to win 195 junior bracket at NHSCA National Championships
After finding success at the high school level with two state wrestling championships, Benson’s Thomas Dineen made his name on the national stage.
Competing for Team Minnesota in the 33rd Annual National High School Coaches Association High School Nationals, Dineen won the junior national championship at 195 pounds. The tournament took place on March 25-27 in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“It’s just been really cool to see all the time and sacrifices I’ve made that it’s all coming to fruition,” Dineen said. “I don’t have any regrets; it’s really cool.”
Dineen has wrestled for Team Minnesota through the years but hadn’t had that breakout showing. In the US Marine Corps Jr & 16U National Championships last July in Fargo, Dineen reached the round of 16 in the junior men’s freestyle but didn’t finish on the podium.
“I had a tough second match after my first loss (in Fargo),” Dineen said. “Hopefully, I have a better go at it this year. There’s so many guys you’ve never seen before; there’s good wrestling there.”
Fresh off his second straight Class A 195 high school state championship in March, Dineen was confident heading into Virginia Beach.
“The junior team division is a big deal with the college attention you get and the guys out there are top of the line,” Dineen said.
He was one of 45 Minnesota wrestlers competing. Along with Dineen, local wrestlers included Willmar’s Joe Kallevig (170 senior) and Morris Area/Hancock/Chokio-Alberta’s Tyce Anderson (113 junior) and Caden Rose (145 junior).
Helping matters was that the tournament was in folkstyle, the wrestling discipline used in high school, and what Dineen believes is his strongest wrestling style.
“I was confident I could wrestle with anybody,” said Dineen, who ended up being the top seed in his bracket. “I didn’t think much of (being seeded first) because anything can happen. I just wanted to take it one match and one takedown at a time.”
Like he did throughout the high-school season, Dineen dominated.
He opened the tournament with a 7-1 decision over Pennsylvania’s Jacob Bobersky, followed by a fall in 3 minutes, 11 seconds on Massachusetts’ Nathan Leach. To get into the round of 16, Dineen picked up an 8-2 decision over Georgia’s Logan Eller, who was a state runner-up at 195 in 2022 and a state champ at 160 in 2021. In the quarterfinals against Kansas’ Matthew Marcum, Dineen got a 6-2 decision.
Just like Dineen, his final two matches came against two-time defending state champions. That extra bit of competition seemed to light a fire under the Benson standout.
“I felt my best in those two matches,” Dineen said. “In those two, I could score from almost any position.”
Dineen made the finals after beating North Carolina’s Caleb Beaty in a 13-3 major decision.
Preparing for the finals, Dineen was getting some help from back home as he prepared to face Georgia’s Luke Cochran.
“My (high school) head coach Scott Thompson streamed the matches and he told me to watch out for this,” Dineen said. “He said on the last kid (Cochran) that he’s got a nice double-leg (takedown).”
That double-leg almost got Dineen early on in the finals. But Dineen was able to shake off the attempt. And it wasn’t about to happen again.
“He almost got a takedown on me but I was able to bounce off my hip and I started to scramble,” Dineen said. “Usually after I see a move once or he tries to hit it once, I know when it’s coming,
“I changed my stance a little bit in the final match and that helped tremendously.”
Taking away his opponent's one big shot, Dineen rolled in the championship to a 12-2 major decision.
“It was a crazy feeling,” Dineen said about the finals win. “I was very grateful for everything that happened out there. There was a lot of great people and that was a great way to close out the weekend and a long trip.”
Dineen was just one of two national champions for Team Minnesota, joining Kimball’s Carter Holtz (182 senior). Also medaling for Team Minnesota were: Sibley East’s Drayden Morton (second, 145 senior); Chatfield’s Grady Schott (second, 182 senior); Crookston’s Ethan Boll (third, 220 junior); Bemidji’s Seth Newby (fourth, 170 junior); Chatfield’s Kailan Schott (sixth, 170 sophomore); and Kimball’s Ashton Hanan (seventh, 182 senior).
This spring, Dineen will run track and field for Benson/Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg. His next wrestling tournament will be a freestyle tournament in May at Wisconsin Dells as a tune-up for Fargo in July.
As far as college looks, Dineen said it was quiet prior to Virginia Beach. Since then, it’s picked up substantially with Division I schools showing interest.
“After the Virginia Beach weekend, it’s been crazy,” Dineen said. “I got a lot of opportunities and I’ll see what’s best for me. I’m looking to wrestle in college.”