The biggest match of the high school wrestling season usually takes place in the state tournament at Xcel Energy Center, but this year it might happen at Rosemount High School.
Rosemount is the site of the Class 3A, Section 2 team tournament Friday, Feb. 17. Four teams in the top 11 of the Class 3A rankings are in Section 2, but barring a major upset, No. 1-ranked Shakopee and No. 2 Apple Valley appear destined to meet in the championship match. If the Sabers or Eagles win the section, that team would go into the state meet as a heavy favorite.
Shakopee represents the biggest threat in years to Apple Valley’s 34-year streak of state team tournament appearances. Apple Valley also has an 11-year streak of Class 3A state championships.
The Sabers, coached by former Apple Valley head coach Jim Jackson, were undefeated in South Suburban Conference matches. The only one that was close was their 29-28 victory at Apple Valley on Dec. 1. In that match Shakopee had to forfeit a team point because one of its wrestlers had “unsecured shoelaces.” One Apple Valley wrestler had to mid-match because of an injury, which probably cost the Eagles several team points.
If the teams meet again Friday – which seems likely – expect it to be close.
“We’re pretty anxious. I think we’ve trained hard enough to get that chance again, and hopefully we’ll get it done this time,” said senior Jalen Thul, one of the Eagles’ captains.
Seventh-ranked Prior Lake probably will get the No. 3 seed. Eastview, ranked 11th in Class 3A, Lakeville North and Rosemount also are in the Section 2 tourney. Lakeville North defeated Eastview 36-35 on criteria Jan. 12.
Apple Valley is 16-2 in dual meets, with the only losses to Shakopee and St. Edward of Ohio, the nation’s third-ranked team. The Eagles powered past Prior Lake 50-12 in their final regular-season match Feb. 8. The Eagles won at seven of the first eight weights, and after the match, coach Dalen Wasmund pronounced them ready for the postseason.
“We have had some changes,” Wasmund said. “We’ve had a couple of our lightweight guys go down a weight class. We had two or three of our guys in the middle who were out for five weeks. The guys who filled in, filled in really well and got some good experience. Now we’re getting healthy again and that’s a good sign.”
Thul said the Eagles looked playoff-ready against a quality opponent.
“We had some guys who were losing and came back and won,” he said. “We had a lot of guys with close matches. The biggest thing about this year is we all need to do our jobs.”
Quarterfinal matches in the Section 2 team tournament start at 4 p.m., with the championship match scheduled to begin about 8.
It won’t get any easier the following weekend in the Section 2 individual tournament at Prior Lake High School. The tournament is loaded with ranked wrestlers. Four Shakopee wrestlers are ranked first in their weight classes by theguillotine.com. Apple Valley has one, undefeated heavyweight and two-time state champion Gable Steveson. Eastview’s Mike Delich is undefeated at 195 pounds. Lakeville North’s Wade Sullivan is a former state champion. All have to get through the Section 2 tourney.
“There are a couple of weight classes with three or four kids in the top seven or eight (in the state rankings), so it’s going to be tough,” Wasmund said. “We’ve got some guys who maybe could place in the state tournament but might not make it there. We’re hoping we’re on the good end of things.”
Eagan, ranked 10th in Class 3A, will compete in the Section 3 team tournament Friday at Hastings High School. Eighth-ranked Hastings will have the team tourney in its home gym; the other ranked team in the field is No. 12 Woodbury. Last year Hastings defeated Eagan 43-21 in the section final.
Farmington is the two-time defending champion in Class 3A, Section 1. The Tigers, plagued by injuries and illness, have dropped out of the Class 3A rankings. Seventh-ranked Owatonna goes into the Section 1 tourney as the favorite. Lakeville South also will seek the Section 1 championship.
Section 1 quarterfinals will be Thursday, Feb. 16, with the higher-seeded teams at home. Semifinals and finals will be Saturday, Feb. 18, at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.
Contact Mike Shaughnessy at [email protected]