Tenacious Tiger: Howard's Jackson Remmers is the Mitchell Republic's 2024 boys wrestler of the year

Mar. 23—HOWARD, S.D. — Jackson Remmers appears quiet before stepping inside the circle, unfazed by his surroundings wherever he might be.

But the Howard wrestler has shown a drive that frustrates whoever stands opposite him when the official blows his whistle. The thought of losing a match? That's never an option.

"You can't go out to matches thinking you're going to lose or even entertain the thought," Remmers said. "Not really worrying about that, it's just going out there and trying to wrestle your best."

It turns out Remmers has wrestled at his best for a long time. Over the course of his prep career, he amassed a state record-tying 286 victories to only 29 losses wrestling for Howard and McCook Central/Montrose. Remmers shares the all-time wins mark with Winner Area's Kaden Keiser.

In his last four seasons, Remmers' match record was 187-7. He ended each year wrestling for a state championship in four different weight classes, taking home three Class B crowns. After his lone defeat in a title match to Keiser in 2022, he closed out his run on a 98-match winning streak.

For completing a 47-0 senior season en route to his third career championship — and second consecutive — Jackson Remmers was chosen as the 2024 Mitchell Republic boys wrestler of the year, receiving all four first-place votes. The award was selected by the newspaper's sports staff via a point-based voting system that awards five points to the top wrestler, four points to second on the ballot and so on.

Other wrestlers receiving consideration were Wagner's Jhett Breen and Gannon Knebel, Winner Area's Maxton Brozik, Kimball/White Lake/Platte-Geddes' Iden Myers and Kasen Konstanz, Wessington Springs/Woonsocket/Wolsey-Wessington's Holden Havlik, and Marion/Freeman's Brody Gossen.

Remmers' senior season was his first at Howard after spending five years wrestling for MCM, compiling a pair of state championships in 2021 at 132 pounds and in 2023 at 152 pounds. In three of those seasons, he won at least 50 matches.

However, following football head coach Shawn Flanagan's departure from MCM, Remmers and his brother, Weston, a junior who also wrestles, were given the option to change schools by their parents, and they decided to transfer to Howard. The move was tough considering Jackson's success as a part of the Fighting Cougars, especially on the wrestling side.

"It was tough," Remmers said. "You're leaving all those friends, all those relationships. I still have great relationships with them over there, but I really think coming here was the right decision."

Remmers credits his brother and his new teammates for helping him through the transition. He already established a rapport with them on the diamond, as they all played baseball together in Canova during the summers, giving him a sense of familiarity.

However, the big learning curve was learning the cadences of Howard athletics, starting with the football season, where he was a Class 9AA all-state running back, helping the Tigers reach the championship game. It was on the gridiron where Tigers coaches began to see Remmers' work ethic and motivation on display.

"He's really driven," Howard football coach Pat Ruml said. "He's quiet but confident in what he can do because he's got a lot of athletic ability. ... He was always the consummate team guy."

His athleticism easily translated onto the wrestling mat, as Remmers' presence infused a sense of optimism into Tigers wrestling. The way he carried himself and showcased a high level of respect to opponents gave wrestling head coach Corbin Surat the confidence he was going to fit in well.

"You can just tell that (Remmers) is a good individual," Surat said. "I try to get our kids to be good individuals as well as successful on the mat. I thought he would be a good addition to the team and would fit right in."

When Ruml first relayed news to Surat that Remmers was joining the Tigers' wrestling team, his initial reaction was one where he thought he was getting pranked. Upon learning his eventual arrival was legitimate, Surat's excitement peaked.

Having admired his skills from afar while Remmers wrestled with MCM, Surat knew the goal of working with a wrestler of his caliber was to help him repeat as state champion, this time at 157 pounds. Even with all the victories and the experience, the duo quickly went to work on finding improvement for Remmers.

"I had noticed there were times where he would win, but it would be a lot closer (match)," Surat said. "I always felt maybe he had more in there that he could get out and really open up matches against good opponents.

"I told him, 'My goal isn't to change anything about you. It's just to get you to open up and continue to score points and pour it on.'"

During practices and matches, Surat reminded Remmers to "stay on the gas pedal," and it translated into results.

Remmers executed nine technical falls on the year, tied for the third-best mark in the state. He also racked up 17 pins and nine major decisions, up from last year's marks of 10 and none, respectively. Those increases came despite wrestling seven fewer matches from a year ago when he went 54-0 en route to his second state title.

In addition, Remmers also recorded 110 takedowns while only being taken down once all season. His determination for continued improvement comes from keeping a level head and knowing there's at least one person out there who has the ability to defeat you at a moment's notice.

"I know there's somebody out there that's probably better," Remmers said. "It's all about trying to work up there and it's about making yourself better every day ... kind of seeing my picture on the wall, I wanted to get another number by my name. I think that's really helped out."

"He stays pretty even-keel," Ruml added. "You can tell when he gets angry, though, because he starts hitting a little bit harder. ... It was an overall great year for him, really positive, and he fits in like he's been here for five years."

Channeling all of those attributes into a single match, Remmers took control of matches from the opening whistle to the final one throughout the season. Lauded by Surat for always being in good positions, executing the first takedown proceeded to only get Remmers more locked in as the match went on.

"I try to wrestle a good match, and I like to dominate," Remmers said. "That's really what I was striving for last year, and this year too: not only trying to win matches but just trying to dominate."

Remmers' experience with wrestling goes beyond the six years where he qualified for the state tournament and placed no lower than sixth.

As a preschooler, he recalls his first moment going to wrestling meets with MCM. By the fourth grade, Remmers was a student manager, helping tape the matches and doing other jobs required from him. What he remembers fondly about that time was seeing the high school wrestlers and looking up to them as role models.

"That's really been a big part of making me love wrestling," Remmers said. "Being one of the managers, we go to every tournament, we're always beside the mat. We were right there and had good relationships with the high schoolers, and they're teaching you things throughout the day and at practice."

Having already established bonds with his teammates from the summertime, Remmers was instrumental in helping it grow stronger as the season went on. The fast bonds especially held serve with Howard's wrestling numbers having decreased from the previous year.

According to Remmers, what was lost in the number of wrestlers was made up in the quality of wrestlers. He and the rest of the team also found a way to make the long hours in practices and at meets worthwhile, even if the Tigers' finish wasn't the one they expected.

"You could tell that they were just enjoying (the experience)," Surat said, "and it didn't interrupt the task at hand for them to get better. But they could find a way to make it fun and enjoy it, and it was fun to watch and fun to be a part of watching them get after it day after day."

Being the complete cheerleader next to the mat for his teammates, Remmers even took their losses hard, wanting to see them succeed rather than himself. He'd sometimes try to end matches quickly just to be rooting on the Tigers whoever's match is next. It comes from witnessing the hard work they all put in during the year.

"You're always in the wrestling room together," Remmers said. "You're battling here, blood, sweat, and tears, getting each other better to go out there and succeed. I feel that's better than having myself see success."

It's the trait that will be missed most in Remmers' short time with Howard wrestling. He's still looking at schools and has contemplated continuing to wrestle upon reaching college, but nothing has been finalized. Remmers did say he wants to stay close enough to be able to attend Weston's meets next year.

"You can tell that his heart is so big, he wants things more for everybody else than he does himself," Surat said. "That's special, and it's something I've told him to hang on to and to never lose that."

Though the two of them never discussed the possibility of tying the all-time wins record this season, it was planted in the back of Surat's head by the time the state meet rolled around. At state, Remmers needed two quick pins, an 8-6 decision in the semifinals and a 9-0 major decision to reach win No. 286. Looking back on the tournament, the record and finishing as a state champion, it validates all the days spent training to achieve something special.

"We're always working, conditioning after practice almost every day and on weekends, and it all pays off," Remmers said. "Going out a champion is second to none. It's great."

Here's a look at the other wrestlers who received consideration, with their point totals in parentheses:

Jhett Breen, Wagner (15): After finishes of second and two thirds at the last three state tournaments, Breen, a senior, closed out his prep career with his first state title for the Red Raiders at 165 pounds in Class B. Finishing the year with a 39-3 record, Breen defeated region rival Lucas Lenz of KWLPG in the championship match by a 7-2 decision.

Maxton Brozik, Winner Area (13): Brozik returned to the top of the state medal stand in 2024 after falling in the quarterfinals last year, winning the championship at 126 pounds in Class B. Brozik, a senior who previously won the title at 113 pounds in 2022, went 38-3, defeating KWLPG's Gavin Braun by a narrow 3-1 decision.

Iden Myers, KWLPG (6): Myers, a junior, won the Region 3B title at 144 pounds and posted a 44-2 match record en route to a second-place finish in the state meet, bested only by Philip/Kadoka Area/Wall's Jace Blasius in the championship match.

Gannon Knebel, Wagner (2): In his sophomore season, Knebel posted a record of 36-2 at 190 pounds, finishing in second place at the Class B state tournament. Knebel was second only to Custer's Parker Noem, who won the title match by a 7-2 decision.

Kasen Konstanz, KWLPG (2): Konstanz, who won the 2021 Class B title at 106 pounds, capped his senior season with a second-place finish at 120 pounds to Custer's Trey Weiss at the state meet. Sporting a 42-3 record, Konstanz recorded 29 pins on the year.

Holden Havlik, WSWWW (1): Despite missing the first part of the season due to injury, Havlik didn't lose to an in-state opponent until the state championships, finishing second at 215 pounds to Parker's Levi Wieman in Class B. He finished his junior year at 26-2.

Brody Gossen, Marion/Freeman (1): Gossen, a freshman, reached the state championship match for the first time in his career, claiming second place at 113 pounds only behind Hamlin/Castlewood's Brody Randall. Gossen finished with a 47-3 record and had 28 pins for the season.