Alex Lloyd, an adopted Russian orphan, is repaying his American parents on the mat.
Alex Lloyd lay on his back on a sweaty, crowded wrestling mat underneath the Xcel Energy Center seats after his Class 3A 145-pound semifinals victory Saturday, exhausted and satisfied at the same time.
This certainly wasn’t an extravagant place to lay his head. It may not even have been comfortable. Considering Lloyd’s past, however, there was no place he would rather be.
The heavily muscled Shakopee junior later won his second consecutive 145-pound state championship, worlds away from the Russian orphanage in suburban Moscow where he spent the first six years of his life and where Bill and Karen Lloyd found him and his younger brother, Jake.
“I’m very lucky, very fortunate,” Lloyd said. “If I hadn’t been adopted, I don’t know where I’d be.”
Lloyd, whose given name is Denis Alexandrovic, remembers little about life in Russia. He has no inkling who his parents were or why they chose to give him up.
“I remember three buildings at the orphanage and in between two of them was this big flower garden, surrounded by metal cages and stuff,” he recalled. “When my dad came to adopt us, I remember going on a bunch of bike rides with him.”
Bill Lloyd was a wrestling coach, so he introduced Alex to wrestling in second grade.
“For the first year, year and a half, I was very bad,” he said. “But my dad and I kept working and I loved it and just wanted to keep getting better.”
Lloyd has spent most of his American life in Shakopee, assimilating so well that most in the community have no idea about his past. He has no accent and speaks very little Russian.
“Most people don’t know I grew up in Russia,” he said. “They don’t know how great this community has been for me. I feel appreciated here.”
He acknowledges that there are some areas in which his genetic background stands out from the rest of the family.
“I’m more athletic than they are. And I’m pretty outgoing, pretty social. I don’t mind going up and talking to anyone,” he said.
Lloyd faced one of his best friends, Peyton Robb of Owatonna, in the 145-pound final on Saturday evening, pulling out a dramatic 5-4 victory with a takedown in the last 15 seconds.
Robb handed Lloyd his only loss of the season in the Minnesota Christmas Tournament. Both Robb and Lloyd have committed to wrestle at South Dakota State once their high school careers are over.
“He’s my boy,” Lloyd said. “But once we hit the mat, it’s a battle.”
Win or lose, Lloyd said what he’s accomplished on the mat is his way of repaying his parents for what they’ve done for him.
“Whenever I’m in a tough spot, I say, ‘I’ve got to get through this because they’ve been through everything for me,’ ” he said. “That shows that I care and that I’m thankful for that.”
106: Reid Ballantyne, Stillwater
113: Aaron Cashman, Shakopee
120: Patrick McKee, St. Michael-Albertville
126: Carson Manville, Shakopee
132: Brent Jones, Shakopee
138: Tyler Eischens, Anoka
145: Alex Lloyd, Shakopee
152: Alex Crowe, Shakopee
160: Kenny O’Neil, Prior Lake
170: Jake Allar, St. Michael-Albertville
182: Brandon Moen, Owatonna
195: Samuel Grove, Moorhead
220: Cole Fibranz, Sartell-St. Stephen
285: Gable Steveson, Apple Valley
106: Matthew Petersen, Byron
113: Charlie Pickell, Mankato West
120: Garrett Vos, Waconia
126: Jake Gliva, Simley
132: Tucker Sjomeling, Delano
138: Keaten Schorr, Kasson-Mantorville
145: Tyler Wagener, Waconia
152: Anthony Jackson, Simley
160: Brady Berge, Kasson-Mantorville
170: Patrick Kennedy, Kasson-Mantorville
182: Jared Florell, Totino-Grace
195: Daniel Kerkvliet, Simley
220: Noah Ryan, Kasson-Mantorville
285: Mitch Trigg, Foley
106: Blake Legred, United South Central
113: Jeron Matson, Kenyon-Wanamingo
120: Hunter Burnett, Pipestone Area
126: Michael Suda, Pipestone Area
132: Tanner Pasvogel, Sibley East
138: Lane Heim, St. Charles
145: Jake Mandt, Chatfield
152: Tyler Ryan, Kenyon-Wanamingo
160: Bailee O’Reilly, Goodhue
170: Alex Erpelding, Staples-Motley
182: Caden Steffen, Zumbrota-Mazeppa
195: Christopher Bain, Grand Meadow/L-O/S
220: Reid Seelhammer, Dover-Eyota
285: Trent Esping, Minneota