NEW HAMPTON — A morning after navigating the challenging 145-pound bracket at last weekend’s 31-team Cliff Keen Independence Invitational, Michael Blockhus was ready to continue his training.
“One may think he’d take the day off, but at 8 a.m. I woke up to a text from him wanting to work out,” New Hampton-Turkey Valley wrestling coach Nick Hemann said. “He’s real motivated. He loves the process and the process has rewarded him so far.
“I think he just embodies the whole sport and how if you want to be successful you need to get something out of every day. You need to be a student of the sport. You need to have a good diet, a disciplined social life. Michael brings that to the table.”
Blockhus (formerly known as Michael Millage) has entered his senior season with two individual state titles in three trips to the finals. After winning 2A’s 106-pound championship as a freshman at Crestwood, he climbed back to the top of the podium with a 126-pound title as a junior in his first season with New Hampton’s program.
“I think the biggest thing was getting on the right track, staying there and being consistent,” Blockhus said, addressing the gains he made to win a second title. “State tournament finals night you really separate yourself from a lot of competitors out there.”
Blockhus built on the confidence gained from that second state championship and found summer success on the national stage where he earned All-America honors in Fargo.
“I got to finally wrestle those bigger names and see that I’m right there,” Blockhus said. “It’s just a matter of doing it when you’re competing.”
Off the mat, Blockhus’ character and generosity were revealed with a gesture in the face of tragedy that spoke volumes. After Logan Luft, a 15-year-old from Charles City, lost his life in a summer ATV accident, Blockhus decided to donate his state championship medals to be buried with his former club teammate.
“I wrestled him since I joined Elite Takedown Club in seventh grade,” Blockhus said. “He always had a good attitude and was one of the hardest-working kids. It was just a way of giving back somehow.
“The big thing is just seeing what I can do for others now. You’re not worried about yourself anymore, and you live your life to your fullest because you never know what will happen each day.”
That unselfish mantra is part of what has driven Blockhus to be a valuable team-first leader within the merged New Hampton-Turkey Valley wrestling room. Beyond the individual drive to win a third state title, Blockhus appears more concerned with helping put the pieces of the puzzle together within his team.
“We’ve got each other’s back no matter what,” Blockhus said. “That’s what being a team is really about. It’s not about winning everything, but overall becoming one.
“Once you gain their trust, then you can work with them to have a stronger mentality and help them with their wrestling and life and they begin to listen. That’s my ultimate goal this year is getting the team all together and competing in February.”
New Hampton finished just one-half point shy of Solon for 2A’s traditional championship last season and returns several key leaders in addition to Blockhus. Among his veteran teammates is Noah Fye, a childhood friend who grew up with Blockhus in Cresco.
“I’d go over to his house and we’d strap on singlets and wrestle in the living room,” Blockhus recalls. “We’ve been wrestling each other since we could pretty much walk. ... We’re able to push each other.”
As the season progresses, Blockhus looks to add more offense and dictate pace. During Saturday’s championship run in Independence his stingy side was revealed as he made his opponents fight for every point, compiling bonus point wins before defeating Joshua Saunders of Missouri’s Christian Brothers College, 5-3, in the final.
With Blockhus determined to get back to work, Hemann knows his senior’s wrestling path remains on an upward trajectory.
“He improves every day and I don’t see that ever stopping,” Hemann said. “The ceiling isn’t there. There’s some time to get better and he knows that. He’s not going to get complacent.”
Blockhus has high goals beyond high school.
“I’m excited to join UNI,” Blockhus said. “Coach (Doug) Schwab and all the other coaches, they’re going to help me achieve my goals of becoming a national champ, world champ, whatever it is.
“That’s where I need to be and I see myself reaching those goals. I see a lot of what I see in New Hampton, also. That team is kind of like a big family, and all as one.”