John Henrich still remembers his last loss.
He was a freshman for Rapid City Stevens. It was in the semifinals of the South Dakota state high school wrestling tournament. The match was tied at 1-1 with 30 seconds left. Henrich took a bad shot and his opponent took advantage, getting the two points and the win.
The loss cost Henrich, who wrestled varsity for Stevens as a seventh and eighth grader, a shot at the state title.
“It’s just one of those things. That’s a really good learning moment of not forcing things and wrestling,” Henrich said. “Like every loss, I just try and take something from it because you don’t get better by winning all of the time. You have those people that kick your teeth in and that’s when you develop.”
Henrich must have learned a good amount from that loss because it was almost four years ago. Henrich’s family moved from Rapid City to Iowa, and he has been wrestling for Akron-Westfield the last three seasons.
He hasn’t lost since that moment, compiling 200-plus wins in his career and two state titles. Henrich, a Nebraska recruit, is going for his third state title this weekend.
“It would be nice to cap to my high school career (to stay undefeated). I started in seventh grade so it’s been a long and bumpy road. I wouldn’t change any of it,” Henrich said. “Every match is fun in its own way.”
Even with all of the wins he’s piled up, Henrich needed a new challenge. Along with going undefeated this season and winning a third state title, he set a goal of not allowing a point this season - from a takedown to an escape to any point whatsoever.
With the state tournament set to begin on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Henrich’s goal is still alive. No one has been able to score on him.
“Some people call it crazy but I have to wrestle for every situation and score points. I just force myself to settle for nothing less of dominant,” Henrich said. “I’ve always set a lot of high goals. If you don’t set high goals, you are never going to be where you want to be. I just think of it as why can’t the next match be the same way? Why can’t I force my will on my next opponent?”
Henrich has a 41-0 record this season. Out of the 41 wins, 34 have come by fall. He’s the top-seeded wrestler at 160 pounds in 1A and the top-ranked 160-pounder as well. He’s the only undefeated wrestler in his bracket.
Henrich is ready for the extra competition at state. He’s been preparing for it all season in the wrestling room.
“Every day in the room, I try and wrestle with the best guys and the coaches do a good job with that and telling me situations,” Henrich said. “I believe in myself and my coaches. I just try and go out there every time and just battle.”
Second-ranked Drew Venteicher, of Bedford-Lenox, is on the other side of the bracket at 160. Don Bosco’s Carson Tenold, ranked third, is also on the other side of the bracket. South Central Calhoun’s Chase McAlister, ranked fourth, is on Henrich’s side.
Henrich isn’t going to treat the state tournament any different. He has the same goals - stay undefeated and not allow a point at one of his favorite places to wrestle.
“It’s a lot of fun (at state). The tension is high and the lights are on. I don’t treat it any differently and I try not to treat it any differently,” Henrich said. “The emotions get a little bit higher but that’s what makes it fun. It’s a heck of a time to go out there and wrestle for your hopes and dreams.”