Navarro, the headline maker; Schunke closes out historic prep career with notable gesture

Tom A. Savage, Contributing writer

Jill Meier/BV Journal

Navarro Schunke unlaces his wrestling shoes for the last time after winning his fifth state title as a Brandon Valley Lynx. 


In following tradition, Schunke left his shoes on the mat. They are the same shoes his elder brother, Damion wore as a Lynx, and will now be passed on to younger brother, Elijah.  

Navarro Schunke has certainly grabbed headlines during his high school career at Brandon Valley, and they weren’t just local.

His success on the football field and wrestling mat even made national headlines over the last five years. 

His initial decision in August of last year to pursue football over wrestling in college was an attention-getter. Along with his success on the wrestling mat on the high school level, Schunke is also a national champion in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling.

Three months after announcing he was choosing football over wrestling, his final decision to attend Kansas State this fall for football also made headlines.

That decision to pursue football over wrestling in college made February’s state high school wrestling tournament in Sioux Falls even that much more special for Schunke. He entered the tournament tied with six other Class A wrestlers with four individual career state titles each.

But Schunke’s 6-2 win over Micah Hach of Watertown in February set him apart, winning his record fifth state individual title.

The win was clearly an emotional one for Schunke. The heavyweight fought back tears as he stood on the edge of the mat following his record-breaking victory.

“I did there a little bit,” he said when asked if tears ever actually surfaced. “When I stood there and looked around, I knew it was the last time I would be competing on the mat. I took a second, it was a moment. Just seeing my brothers from my team, and my little brother.”

He may not have known it at the time, but Schunke’s little brother – Elijah – played a pivotal role in a move Navarro made after his win over Hach.

Following the match, Navarro made his way back to the center of the mat, unlaced his shoes, took them off, and left them under the bright lights of the Sanford Premier Center for the thousands in attendance to witness.

There, the shoes sat for several minutes before finally being retrieved and sent back to the Schunke family.

They’re the same shoes that Navarro’s older brother – Arizona State wrestler and three-time South Dakota high school individual champion Damion – wore while at Brandon Valley. The same shoes will now be worn by Elijah for his junior and senior seasons with the Lynx.

The gesture to leave his shoes at center mat is a traditional one when a wrestler’s career comes to an end. Navarro said he remembered Minnesota’s Gable Steveson doing the same thing – also an emotional few moments – after he won the 2022 NCAA Division I individual title signifying his retirement from amateur wrestling.

“Competitively, I’m done wrestling,” Navarro said. “I’ll maybe go to practice every once in a while. But wrestling, it’s a part of me, so it’s not like I’m saying I’ll forever be leaving it, but I’ll never compete again.”

Navarro finished his Brandon Valley career winning the individual wrestling title in 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024.

He broke the record of four individual titles held by Nash Hutmacher (2017-2020, Chamberlain), Rick Jensen (1971-74, Watertown), Nick Smith (2001-04, Yankton), William Turman (2015-18, Pierre), Dustin Walraven (2004, 2006-08, Huron), and Seth Lange (2007-10, Sturgis).


The Brandon Valley Journal


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