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Chris Murphy, Published February 26 2014

Border West wrestler Sykora, who has 3 state titles, is looking for No. 4 and even 5


Wheaton High School (Minn.) wrestler Cameron Sykora does not keep track of his win streaks.

The junior shakes off questions about wins, either not caring or not realizing he’s lost just once in his last 122 high school matches. The only thing he cares about is that he lost.

“I moved up and wrestled the state champion at 113 when I was at 106, Shane Novak of New York Mills, in the team sectionals,” Sykora said. “I lost to him in overtime. That left a sour taste in my mouth. I got him later, though. ”

That 4-2 overtime loss was Feb. 18, 2012. Sykora, who wrestles with the Border West co-op, hasn’t lost since, winning two of his three Minnesota Class 1A state titles along the way, beating Novak the next season.

Only 14 Minnesota high school wrestlers have won four state titles in their career. Sykora wants to join that club at the Minnesota state individual wrestling tournament today through Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

But he wants to go a step further. He wants to do what just four other Minnesota high school wrestlers have done before him. He wants to win five state titles.

“I think it’s really possible,” Sykora said. “I know I’ve put in the work. I’m really confident in myself to get the job done.”

He’s been putting in the work ever since he was 4 years old and his dad – a three-time Minnesota wrestling state qualifier, who took third at state his senior year, with Browns Valley High School – took him to wrestling practice.

Sykora’s competitiveness began with wanting to be the best in his family.

With cousin Brady Sykora, who qualified for state three times with Wheaton-Herman-Norcross, and cousin Ben Johnson, who won two state championships in South Dakota, it was stiff competition. Put that together with his dad and uncles, all of whom wrestled, and to beat the blood, Sykora was going to have to give a lot of it.

“He started off as a guy who just couldn’t get enough of it,” said Border West coach Paul Frisch, who has coached Sykora for 10 years. “He wanted more opportunities to wrestle and get better as he became a seventh-grader. He was still a little small for the varsity, but he wasn’t going to let that hold him back. He took a couple of lumps as a seventh-grader, but he was constantly trying to develop ways to improve the way he wrestled.”

Sykora capped his wrestling season as an eighth-grader with a state title at 103 pounds, finishing 46-4 on the season. His only loss as a freshman was to Novak, as he finished 49-1 and with another state championship at 106 pounds. Sykora was perfect as a sophomore, going 41-0 and picking up his third state title at 113 pounds.

“I love the sport,” Sykora said. “I know there are kids out there that are working really hard, so I have to get up every morning and try to outwork them. You get what you earn. If you work the hardest you can go out and win every single match.”

That’s exactly what Sykora has done this season. He’s 31-0 and ranked No. 1 at 120 pounds heading into his fourth trip to the individual tournament. It’s why he runs or lifts every day in the offseason sprinkled in with two-hour wrestling practices.

Sykora’s break from wrestling is running on the cross country team.

“He’s constantly worked to get better not only as a high school wrestler, but as a wrestler who wrestles all over the nation,” Frisch said. “He’s always seemed to find that button to drive him and keep him hungry to get better. That’s the thing that sets him apart.”

Sykora says he’s always wanted to be the best. Three state championships aren’t proof enough for him.

“I want to finish out my career with five state titles, I want to win a couple national titles and I want to be a four-time all-American in college at the Division I level,” Sykora said. “If I can do all that, I think I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548