As a mere fourth-grader, Tyson Sauser made school history, becoming the first Bloomfield youth to step onto a competitive wrestling mat.
Fittingly, the now-sophomore made even more history Friday during his first state appearance when he set the school record for most wins in a season (43), breaking the mark held by state runner-up Ethan Poppe in 2018.
“It’s been my dream for a long time to get down here,” Tyson said Friday afternoon just a few feet away from where he lost in wrestle backs. “It came to an end early, but I’m focused on getting back here.”
That determination is what has helped Crofton/Bloomfield build a successful program in just six years. Of all the wrestlers who have graduated in that time, only two never made it to the state tournament.
“There are definitely good things going on with Crofton/Bloomfield wrestling,” said Todd Sauser, who helps coach the high school team, including his son Tyson. “And it’s only going to get better.”
When Todd and Minnie (Schmeckpeper) Sauser returned to Bloomfield, the community didn’t have a wrestling program, which was difficult for Todd, who was a three-time state qualifier as part of the Pope John wrestling dynasty. He would have been a four-time qualifier if not for dislocating his shoulder at districts his senior season.
“When we moved to Bloomfield, they didn’t have wrestling. I didn’t push any of the kids to go out because it wasn’t an option,” said Todd, a 1995 Pope John graduate. “I got word that people wanted to start something, so we started a youth program.”
At the high school level, Bloomfield began co-oping with nearby Crofton, where some big names hit the mats as freshmen, including Poppe, Jaden Janssen, Quinten Moles and Reece McFarland. As seniors, all four qualified for state with Janssen winning the 152-pound title, Poppe runner-up at 182 and Moles sixth at 170.
With most eyes on the varsity level, there was a fourth-grader that Todd was helping just as much — his son, Tyson.
“We practiced and practiced until our first tournament, and Tyson happened to be the first Bloomfield wrestler to step onto the competition mat,” Todd said. “It was at Canton, S.D., and he happened to be the very first wrestler to compete that day, becoming the first for our new program.”
The program continued to grow, especially as Crofton/Bloomfield saw success. After an 11-place finish at state in 2018, team began rebuilding and didn’t qualify anyone in 2019. But this year saw three qualifiers and several others who just missed the mark.
“Last year we didn’t qualify anyone, and we were disappointed, but that just fueled the fire to keep us going,” Tyson Sauser said. “But next year, we hopefully will get even more kids down here and get to the state duals. Just keep pushing.”
That’s something Todd said he doesn’t have to do with Tyson. He never has to push his son to work harder; Tyson has his own internal desire.
“I have to give him credit. He’s one of the hardest-working kids on the mat,” Todd said. “I’ve never had to get him up in the morning to go lift and never had to get him to practice. He’s honestly the hard-working kid I’ve ever coached, and I’m not saying that as a dad, that’s as a coach.”
But as a father/coach, Thursday and Friday were grueling for Todd, especially the second round of consolations. With Tyson wrestling on Mat 10, Todd was in the front row of the end stands, yelling advice to his son and watching every move.
“Wow, the butterflies in my stomach,” he said. “It’s different when it’s your kid. You just want the best for him even that much more. When they make it this far, it’s awesome. But you do want to get at least one win under your belt when you get down here. I’ve been down here, so I know what it feels like.”
Although Todd wrestled in Lincoln at the Devaney Center, he did know exactly what his son was feeling, which Tyson admitted was beneficial for him. Whenever he has a question, Todd has been there to answer and help every step of the way. But most of all, he offers support and encouragement.
“He helps me a lot and answers all my questions,” Tyson said. “Every day I wake up and want to be on the mat. I want to get down here and win a state championship.”