I like to describe the state wrestling tournament as equal parts state fair, family reunion and Super Bowl. The event always draws a gigantic and enthusiastic crowd, and that’s certainly the case this week at Xcel Energy Center. From the first whistle of Thursday’s opening matches, the big barn in downtown St. Paul was raucous and rocking.
With eight mats filling the floor of the arena, there is no shortage of excitement. Thursday was devoted to team competition, with Apple Valley in Class 3A winning its ninth consecutive state championship, Simley winning in 2A and Chatfield claiming the 1A state championship.
The action will turn to the individuals beginning Friday morning, culminating with state championship matches on Saturday night.
Some sights and sounds from day one of the state tournament …
--Running into Grand Meadow police chief Jim Richardson, who is known in the wrestling world as The Unit. Jim is a large, chiseled man who is an assistant coach for the Grand Meadow/LeRoy-Ostrander/Kingsland team. His son Wyatt, a junior 195-pounder, has qualified for state. Or as Jim referred to Wyatt, “Little Unit.”
--Fans from Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City sing-songily chanting “A! C! G! C!”
--A giant cluster of blue clothing in the middle of the lower level on one side of the arena … turns out it was fans from both Foley and Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus.
--In the most exciting finish of the day, Scott West led Foley 24-23 in the Class 2A team semifinals with only the heavyweights remaining. After the match was scoreless into the third period, Scott West’s Josiah Schatz won by fall to boost the Panthers into the state championship match. Bedlam ensued.
--A homemade sign in the Kasson-Mantorville stands, carrying one word: “SAM.” Except the “S” was in the form of a Superman “S” … signifying Super Sam Stoll, the KoMets senior heavyweight who is undefeated and has pinned 58 opponents in a row dating back more than a year.
--The voices of public-address announcers Frank Whitcomb, Steve Heslop and Paul Leifeld seamlessly keeping everyone informed of match scores, team scores and what will happen next.
--Hearing an already screaming crowd crank it up a few notches when the referee slaps the mat.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE
--The boys state swimming and diving championship began Thursday with diving preliminaries in both Class 1A and 2A at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. Swimming prelims will be held Friday and championships will be decided Saturday.
--The fields for next week’s boys state hockey tournament are starting to take shape. In section finals Wednesday, Hermantown in Class 1A and Edina, Eden Prairie and Roseau clinched spots at state in 2A.
Nine more section finals were held Thursday night …
1A/ New Prague 3, Mankato West 2
2A/ Orono 2, Breck 1
3A/ Luverne 6, New Ulm 1
5A/ Chisago Lakes 5, Princeton 4
6A/ St. Cloud Cathedral 2, Alexandria 1
8A/ East Grand Forks 3, Warroad 2 (2 OT)
1AA/ Lakeville North 6, Farmington 0
3AA/ Eagan 4, St. Thomas Academy 2
7AA/ Duluth East 3, Elk River 2 (OT)
The state hockey fields will be set after Friday’s section finals …
4A/ Mahtomedi vs. Totino-Grace
4AA/ Stillwater vs. Hill-Murray
5AA/ Centennial vs. Blaine
And on the basketball court at Greenway High School in Coleraine, Chisholm and Cherry met in the boys Class 2A Section 7 playoffs. Chisholm coach Bob McDonald is in his 59th and final season, and his Bluestreaks pulled out a nail-biter against Cherry, winning 55-54 on a buzzer-beater.
What a day!
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 347
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,452
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn