Mark Hall celebrates after winning his sixth state title (Matt Blewett, Special to the Star Tribune)
Apple Valley senior Mark Hall stood center mat, his arm raised in victory by the referee as the Xcel Energy Center crowd gave him a standing ovation Saturday night.
He had just become the first wrestler to win six individual championships, beating Hastings’ Austin Eichmann with a second-period technical fall for the Class 3A 170-pound title. His 12 championships overall (including six team titles with Apple Valley) are also a state record, as is his career winning percentage of 98.57 (277-4). In six years, he never lost a match at the Xcel Center.
“Not a lot of people can say they never lost at the X,” Hall said. “That’s history. Something no one has even done before.”
Yet, for all of the superlatives and spectacular wrestling moves, Mark Hall may be best defined by a quiet exchange in the bowels of the arena hours before his championship victory.
A young wrestling fan and his father were seeking an autograph. Hall bent down and emptied his backpack on the floor, looking for a Sharpie he remembered having. “I know I have one here somewhere,” he said.
There he was, one match away from history, and his sole focus was satisfying the request of a fan.
“I can’t turn kids down,” Hall said. “I don’t want to be the kind of guy that dads turn their kids away from because they’re not humble.”
As a seventh-grader new to Minnesota in 2011, Mark Hall remembers having to win over the state’s loyal wrestling community. He beat Forest Lake’s Ben Morgan in the Class 3A 130-pound semifinals that year, a tense, four-overtime victory that became a springboard to his first championship.
“A lot of people probably wanted to see me lose that match,” Hall recalled. “I think I’ve gained people’s respect, gained their love because I’ve shown love for them, for the fans who come out year after year and the other wrestlers who have committed their lives to wrestling.”
Hall’s mixture of wrestling skill, work ethic and down-to-earth nature has since won wrestling fans over.
“We are lucky to be able to see a kid like that,” said Frazee coach Clay Nagel, whose son Matt was the first state wrestler to win five individual championships. “He’s humble, he’s classy and he gives young guys something to aspire to.”
Hall’s career in Minnesota is over. He has no relatives in Minnesota and will wrestle for Penn State next year and possibly in the Olympics one day. But, Hall said, nothing will ever compare to his years at the high school state meet.
“I’ll definitely come back for [it],” he said. “It’s the most fun I’ve ever had wrestling. It’s electric. You can feel the electricity going through your veins, and it makes you want to go out and wrestle as hard as you can.”