by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Holton Lubinski is one of the best wrestlers in Minnesota who has not yet earned a trip to state. The Elk River senior is determined to shed that distinction this year. Last weekend he served notice that he’s a threat to not only reach state but to place there.
Lubinski, ranked No. 7 at 145 pounds in Class AAA by The Guillotine, beat the No. 4 and No. 2 wrestlers for a hard-earned gold at the Cambridge-Isanti Invitational. His career win total is 111, against 58 losses over six seasons.
“This is Holton’s last year and he wants to go all the way,” said coach Paul Nelson. “He had a great tournament at Cambridge.”
Lubinski is 13-2 this year, both losses coming in the 56-school Rumble on the Red hosted at North Dakota State, including one to a ranked wrestler.
Known for his low-single leg takedown, he’s one of the reasons the Elks are ranked No. 11 in Class 3A, and contending for the NWSC title again.
Introduced to wrestling in first grade by his dad, Joe, a two-time state runner-up at Minneapolis Edison, he has been a mat zealot ever since. He also plays football and lacrosse.
“Holton has a real passion for the sport, which is important because wrestling takes a big time commitment,” said Nelson. “He works hard on technique. He is very quick. He has good power for his weight, too – he can bench over 200 pounds and he only weighs 145.”
A varsity starter in seventh grade, his career highlights include six individual tournament titles (two for each of the past three years) and helping the Elks tie for the conference crown last year, when he had a 25-6 overall record.
What Lubinski has not done yet is bust through the grueling Section 7AAA tournament– packed with perennial state powers each year, currently with five of the top 12 teams in the rankings – to earn that elusive state trip. He has placed third at his weight the last two years, with the top two advancing. He lost a true-second match each year.
“This year my goal is to be a state champion,” said Lubinski. “I have to focus on this year and put all that out of my mind. In the section right now, I should be seeded first.”
His favorite mode of attack from his feet is the low single-leg takedown. Failing that, he likes to use a “slide-by,” or dragging the guy’s arm to get behind him. On the mat his favorite move is the “baseball bat” in which he crank’s the opponent’s arm to turn him.
Nelson also appreciates his team-first attitude. “He’s always willing to go up or down depending on what the team needs,” said Nelson, who has deployed him at 140 to 160.
One of his Elk teammates is his brother Jory, who’s a year younger but much bigger and handles the 215-pound slot. The brothers spar for fun sometimes. “He’s got the size, but I’ve got the quickness,” says Holton.
Lubinski started at strong safety in football the past two years. His position coach, Mark Leland, said Lubinski is a “fearless player” and “probably the best tackler on the team,” due in large part to his wrestling skills.” The position is a combo of safety and linebacker skills which he handles well.
The ERHS coaching staff includes four ex-Elks. Lubinski says he respects and appreciates all the coaches’ efforts and wants to join them. He lists his career goal as: “To teach in Elk River, I don’t know what department, and be Elks’ head wrestling coach someday.”
THE LUBINSKI SCORECARD
Personal file – Age: 18 … Family: parents Joe and Peggy; brother Jory, 17; sister Madison, 15 … Sports: wrestling, football, lacrosse … Academics: 2.4 GPA …. College plans: undecided where; wrestle, education major
Favorite stuff – Classes: Media Literacy, Strength and Conditioning … TV show: “Family Guy” and “South Park” … Music: rock and hip-hop, especially Eminem and Sum 41 … Food: anything at Taco Bell … Drink: Gatorade and Powerade … Team: Vikings … Athlete: George St. Pierre … Kickback: playing XBox … Place he’d like to visit: Mexico