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Zane Peterson, left, who is on winter break from Ridgewater College in Willmar, Minn., wrestled with his younger brother Tommy Peterson during practice at Lakeville South. Photo by Bruce Bisping • bbisping@startribune.com

Every coach wants a natural leader. An outstanding athlete who's vocal, leads by example and puts up strong numbers to back it all up.

Someone like Tommy Peterson, senior captain of the Lakeville South wrestling team.

"You just can't coach a kid to do that," coach Nate Moudry said. "I know other programs are more used to having kids like that. This is really the first time we've had a vocal leader in our room that's been as successful as he has been."

Peterson, who won the Class 3A 195-pound state title last spring at Xcel Energy Center, brings the competitive spirit to the room.

"He's the marquee guy," Moudry said. "He sets the tone for the work ethic."

It rubs off on everybody. Peterson lets teammates know that when they're not working hard, it's time to work. He's also the positive motivator who can rally a squad to victory.

"Yeah, I enjoy yelling at everybody," Peterson said.

With a record of 11-0 this season, he's ranked No. 1 at 195 pounds in Minnesota and has been ranked as high as 15th in the nation. Peterson, who has committed to North Dakota State University, captured win No. 100 as a Cougar at home against Eagan on Dec. 6. None of it has made him complacent.

"I kind of wish I would have gotten it my junior year so I could go for 150, but it was still pretty neat," Peterson said.

His coach can see it in his eyes.

"Just looking as tough as ever," Moudry said. "He's just really focused in on winning another state title. He doesn't look at it as 'guys are out to get me.' He's looking at it as 'I'm going to defend my title.'"

Moudry has been with the program since its inception when the school opened eight years ago. He spent six years as an assistant before taking over two years ago. Lakeville is unique from a wrestling standpoint because its youth and middle school programs still feed both Lakeville North and Lakeville South high schools. That can create a bit of inconsistency from year to year.

This season appears to be an up year for the Cougars.

One newcomer is Shamar Williams, who previously wrestled for Apple Valley and took fourth at state at 126 pounds last year. Williams, whose parents moved into the district last year, has since bumped up to 145 pounds but could move down to 138.

Dalton Peterson also brings a big boost to the Cougars. The sophomore was 13-0 last year heading into the holiday break before a broken hand sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Peterson is currently wrestling at 138.

Junior heavyweight Alonte Alexander placed third in the section last spring. He's a solid 5-8, 235-pound running back on the football team who returns to the lineup.

Austin Britnell, another Cougars running back, was a state wrestling entrant two years ago. He battled injuries all last year but is looking strong at 170 pounds this winter. Britnell is also a 100-match winner for Lakeville South.

With Peterson and a team full of unknown warriors, the Cougars are turning into quite a handful for opponents.

"From a coaching standpoint, we're glad we know what we know. We just don't want anybody else to know," Moudry said. "We're seeing progress in the room. They're turning the corner. They're a year older, a year stronger and a year more dedicated."

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