Dairy kids win

Farm athletes across the region compete at state level

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BLANCHARDVILLE, Wis. — Dairy farm wrestler Aidan Gruenenfelder racked up 53 wins and one loss in the regular season and had an undefeated postseason to secure champion in the Division 3 106-pound weight category.

“It was a lot of mixed emotions,” Gruenenfelder said. “It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt. It was awesome. It was just all that hard work had finally paid off, and I was just super excited and grateful for the moment.”

The junior at Pecatonica High School placed second at state last year.

“I just love every part about wrestling and getting better every day,” Gruenenfelder said. “I like seeing myself progress and get better and beating guys that have beaten me.”

Gruenenfelder is the son of Farron and Jessica. The Gruenenfelders own a 140-cow robotic dairy farm and 500-600 acres of crops.

Gruenenfelder has wrestled since he was in kindergarten.

“It just always has been a part of my family,” Gruenenfelder said. “I got into it early and loved it. It was competitive. It was a one-on-one sport.”

Personal tragedy is the biggest thing Gruenenfelder had to overcome this season. In December 2023, his grandfather died.

Gruenenfelder attends wrestling practice, lifts every day and participates in club wrestling 3-4 days a week year-round to stay conditioned for his sport. He also is active on his family’s farm.

Each day, Gruenenfelder gets early work release from school and goes home to haul and scrape manure.

Gruenenfelder said he has learned work ethic and determination on the farm.

“A lot of the other kids don’t have to do chores and get up early,” Gruenenfelder said. “It definitely helps separate you from other people.”

At New Richmond High School, dairy farm athlete Lane Van Dyk competed at the state level in powerlifting.

The freshman placed 14th of 17 in the 114 weight class at state.

Van Dyk is the son of Chris and Rikki. They have a dairy farm near New Richmond where they milk 70 cows two times a day and have 300 acres.

Van Dyk was named the most-improved male on the team. He increased his weightlifting by 41.9% over the season.

Van Dyk started his season lifting 130 pounds in the deadlift and finished lifting 270 pounds. For the squat, he started lifting 90 pounds and increased to 170 pounds at the end of the season. In the bench press, he started by lifting 70 pounds and finished at 95 pounds.

Van Dyk participated in four regular season meets. The last meet was for powerlifters who were within 10% of the amount of weight needed to qualify for state.

To qualify in his category, Van Dyk, who weighs 112 pounds, had to lift 515 pounds from the combined weights of his lifts in the deadlift, squat and bench press. Van Dyk qualified at the final meet.

“Emotions matter,” Van Dyk said. “If I believe that I can get something, I’m more than likely going to get it.”

Self-doubt was the biggest obstacle Van Dyk said he encountered.

“I didn’t believe I could make state, and I almost didn’t,” Van Dyk said.

Van Dyk is active on his family’s farm where he helps bed, feed and milk cows. During the powerlifting season, he tries to get as much of his chores done as possible before practice.

Van Dyk said a lesson he has learned on the farm is to never give up and try his hardest.

Across the river in Minnesota, junior Keegan Kuball wrestles for the Grizzlies, a co-op team encompassing two districts, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown and Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton. He won his second consecutive first-place state champion title for heavyweight wrestling.

“I felt a lot of pressure go off my shoulders,” Kuball said. “I had a lot of pressure to win it again, because I’m supposed to be the best one in the bracket. ... It was fun because I love doing it, and it’s pretty rewarding.”

Kuball is the son of Nate and Shannon, who milk 240 cows near Waterville, Minnesota. The Kuballs also farm 1,100 acres for feed and as cash crops.

Every day after practice, Kuball works in the shop. On weekends, he works as well, including milking on Sunday nights. In the summer, he helps with fieldwork, milking, feeding and work in the shop.

The heavyweight champion was 40-4 in the regular season. Kuball has wrestled for 13 years.

“You’re the only one out on the mat,” Kuball said. “You’re the one winning, but you’re also the only one out there when you lose too. ... You have to put a little pressure on yourself to win, but you also don’t have to rely on a whole team to be really good.”

In Willmar, Minnesota, wrestler Cavin Carlson won third place in the 133-pound weight category at the state tournament.

Carlson is the son of Carl and Kellie of Carlson Dairy near Pennock, Minnesota, which milks 2,000 cows. It was the sophomore’s third time competing at state but his first time placing.

Carlson’s record was 39-4 in the regular season and 12-1 in the postseason.

“I love wrestling,” Cavin said. “It’s just something I really care about. ... I like to call it a legalized fight. ... You get to go out there and impose your will on another guy. ... There’s some fun about that and then going into a room every day with a team and having them behind your back.”

Cavin helps on the farm about two days a week. He helps his dad with whatever is needed, including sorting and finding cows, administering vaccinations, moving feed and moving tires.

“There’s always work that has to be done (on the farm), whether you do it now or you put it off,” Cavin said. ... “With wrestling, I’ve just made that a thing where ... I might as well put in the work now. ... This work will pay off eventually.”

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