As if winning a state wrestling championship and state MVP wasn’t enough, Kenai Central’s Paul Steffensen has now added one more accolade — AKMat’s Wrestler of the Year.
The 5-foot-5 freshman was presented with the honor during Kenai’s recent year-end awards banquet, becoming the first Kenai wrestler to take home the golden pan trophy that has been given out for over 10 years now.
“It’s really cool,” Steffensen said by phone.
Steffensen, who displays a very humble personality, said he does not like to rank awards. But he did mention it’s among some of his top accomplishments.
“It’s up there, and it’s cool to be the first Kenai kid to get it,” he said. “It’s definitely a little tougher when you’re younger, but I don’t think age matters a whole lot (in the sport).”
The award is decided by local coaches and wrestling experts from around the state, and given to the top high school grappler. Paul’s father and coach Stan Steffensen said he and Paul were presented with the award just days before the Kenai banquet, but only had time to take a quick photo that was posted on the AKMat website.
Once Paul was acknowledged as the wrestler of the year at the banquet, however, it made the moment all the more special.
“It’s quite an honor,” Stan said. “The thing I really liked about it was I think our Kenai kids realized how much they contributed. They made it to the next level. It’s not their thing, it’s a team thing.”
Steffensen put together an unbeaten 36-0 season as a freshman and capped it off with a state championship at the 126-pound level — all with pins.
“Coaches and wrestling people, they said Paul was the man,” Stan said.
Even though the high school wrestling season is finished, Paul is still going strong, as he is competing at the USA freestyle tournament this weekend at Nikiski High School. Over 500 competitors are expected to wrestle.