Sports

Tanner Sloan adds U23 freestyle national title to wrestling resume

Former Alburnett prep poised for big season with South Dakota State

Alburnett's Tanner Sloan celebrates pinning Sibley-Ocheyedan's Hunter DeJong in the Class 1A 195 pound championship matc
Alburnett’s Tanner Sloan celebrates pinning Sibley-Ocheyedan’s Hunter DeJong in the Class 1A 195 pound championship match of the 2018 State Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on, Saturday, February 17, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Tanner Sloan added another accomplishment to his wrestling resume.

The South Dakota State sophomore also earned a bit of revenge in the process.

In his first competition in more than eight months, Sloan went 3-0 to capture the 213-pound freestyle title at the United World Wrestling U23 National tournament Sunday at CHI Health Center in Omaha, Neb. The former Alburnett two-time state champion defeated West Virginia’s Noah Adams in the last round, avenging a loss to Adams in the Big 12 finals in March.

“Finally, we had something in sight that we had to perform for,” said Sloan, who was named second-team All-America by the National Wrestling Coaches Association after going 21-6 last season. “It felt good to go out and wrestle. It was nice to be able to strap up and wrestle someone else besides your own teammate.”

Sloan wrestled folkstyle primarily as a prep. Since joining the Jackrabbits he’s added notable freestyle feats, earning a spot on USA Wrestling’s Junior National team in 2019 and a UWW Pan American Championships crown.

“He believes and trusts in what we’re doing,” SDSU Coach Damion Hahn said. “If you look at what he’s been able to accomplish in a short period of time.

“Someone who has never wrestled freestyle and being able to go out there and compete at the world stage, he’s come a ways. I don’t believe we’re done. He’s not done with what he’s going to be able to do.”

Sloan opened the tournament with a 9-6 victory over Oklahoma’s Jake Boyd. He beat Central College’s NCAA Division III All-American Duncan Lee in the semifinals, coming back for a 15-4 technical fall. It set up the rematch with Adams. Coaches spurred him on with the idea that no one has beaten him twice in a row.

“It gave me a little extra drive that this was going to be my match and I’m going to wrestle my style,” Sloan said. “I was going to take control from the beginning.

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“When I realized he was in the bracket, that was the match I was focused on but I had to get through the rest of the bracket to make sure to get my shot against him.”

Adams scored the first points, but Sloan stormed back. He built a 7-2 lead after the first of two three-minute periods and extended his lead to 9-2 after the break. Adams rallied for the final five points, but Sloan managed the 10-9 victory.

The difference was wrestling through positions until he secured points, instead of letting up and expecting Adams to concede them.

“I don’t think he was going to let that be the case,” Hahn said. “There was one scramble and Noah Adams had gotten behind him. Adams thought he had a takedown and Tanner hit a switch, got into a scramble and came out on top.”

Hahn praised Sloan for his coachable attitude. He noted that Sloan has been like a sponge, soaking in knowledge in an attempt to learn and improve each day. Hahn has seen the confidence grow in practice and the win over Adams provides a little momentum for whenever the Jackrabbits get to start the season.

“It’s those little things that add up,” Hahn said. “In his mind, where he finished on top in a couple positions definitely gave him the edge.

“I know it is a different style. We’re not in the collegiate season. It doesn’t matter (but) anytime you pick up a win that is confidence. This was nice. It was big for him. I’m super proud of him.”

Hard work during a difficult time paid dividends. The COVID-19 pandemic prematurely ended last season, causing students to leave campus. Sloan returned to a familiar face, working out in a barn owned by Brett Shulista, who was an Alburnett assistant and whose son, Conner, was a teammate of Sloan.

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Once a satisfactory training facility was available Sloan went back to Brookings, S.D. They gained access to the weight room a couple weeks before school started in August.

Things aren’t ideal, yet, but they are making the most of what they have.

“We’re taking what we can get,” Sloan said. “When someone takes what they can get and make the best out of it, you can still improve.

“It’s shown. It’s still wrestling. We have room. We have a mat and two guys. That’s what matters.”

Sloan has developed a strong rapport with Jackrabbits assistant Cody Caldwell, a former University of Northern Iowa wrestler and Waverly-Shell Rock three-time state champ. He has gravitated to Caldwell and his tutelage has been beneficial.

“He is my guy,” Sloan said. “He is who I go to for anything – school, wrestling, life. It’s nice to have a guy like Cody, who is going to sit and listen to me and give me the best advice. It is up to me whether I take it or not, he says. He’s always pointing me in the right direction. I appreciated all the work he has done for me in that aspect.

“Working with him is a lot of fun. Every time I’ve had the chance to get better I’m with Cody. He’s always having me do the things he believes are going to have me at the top of the podium.”

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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