Coming into high school Silverton High freshman Kaden Kuenzi, who has been wrestling competitively since he was 6, had a goal of winning a state title. He just didn’t think that it would happen so soon.
Feb. 25 at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland turned in a historic performance for the Foxes. The No. 4 seed at 106 pounds, Kuenzi took down top-seeded and defending Class 5A champion Zeth Brewer of Crater in the semifinals and pinned No. 6 Landon Robinson of Redmond in the final.
Kuenzi, who avenged previous losses to the two wrestlers, became the first Silverton wrestler to win a state title as a freshman.
“It’s always been on my mind,” Kuenzi said, “but I knew there were going to be challenges.” Such as an 8-4 deficit against Brewer heading to the third and final round. Kuenzi rallied to within 11-10 and then took down Brewer on the way to a 14-11 win.
“Zeth is an amazing wrestler with very effective moves,” Kuenzi said. “But I knew he was getting tired. So I put pressure on him and started attacking him, doing what I do best.”
Kuenzi was dominant in the final, taking a 7-1 lead on Robinson before pinning the Redmond sophomore. “All of the hard work paid off,” Kuenzi said. “The coaches pushed me every day to be the best I can be. It was such a joy to win a state title.”
Kuenzi was quick to credit coaches Keegan Davis and Stryder Davis as well as junior teammate Jacob Whitehead, the Foxes’ 113-pounder who finished second at state to help Silverton finish 13th in Class 5A.
“We all pushed each other in practice and made each other better and mentally stronger,” Kuenzi said. “Jacob’s a tough kid. We usually go back and forth. It helps that he has a little more weight to put on me.” He said that facing heavier foes will serve him well later this year when he looks to qualify for a U.S. junior national team.