St. Michael-Albertville head wrestling coach Dan Lefebvre consistently refers to Section 7-3A as “the gauntlet.”
It’s an affectionate term, really. Lefebvre knows his team wrestles in the toughest section of high school wrestling’s top class, and 2014 was no exception.
Section 7 featured three of the state’s top five teams, with No. 2 STMA battling No. 4 Cambridge-Isanti (also a conference rival), No. 5 Anoka, and “Lean and Mean” squads Coon Rapids and St. Francis, as designated by The Guillotine
“You know you’re ready for state when you get done with these two weekends, because it’s some of the toughest competition you’re going to have all year,” Lefebvre said entering the 2013 tournament. “Year in and year out, it’s the best in the state.”
Valentine’s Day weekend, the Knights dished out the love Friday night with a trouncing of ninth-seeded Blaine, handing them a 57-10 loss. In the semis, Coon Rapids, with a half-dozen ranked wrestlers on its squad, put up a solid fight, but the middle of St. Michael’s lineup was too strong, and paced the Knights to a 42-24 victory.
In the finale, STMA squared off for the second time this season with Cambridge, and the two squads that have perennially met for the Section 7 championship put on another show. After falling behind 6-3 in the early going, top ranked Mitch Mckee and Tommy Thorn (120 and 126 pounds) each earned major decisions, putting STMA up 11-6.
The match turned with a big win by Donnie Leuer at 138 pounds, as he topped Reegan Lane in a decision, 5-1. Mark Voss followed that with a technical fall at 145 pounds and Luke Jeske dominated Tanner Togerson to stake STMA to a 23-10 lead.
After Evan Ronsen fell to the Jackets’ Cody Skog, the Knights got on another run. Evan Foster won the match of the night at 170 pounds with a 15-13 overtime victory. Ryan Jones won by decision and Jake Briggs pulled out a 3-2 win over Dakota Johnson. The nine-straight points put STMA in control at 32-16, and into the state tournament.
STMA will, most likely, be seeded No. 2 for the State 3A team tournament, behind co-defending champs Apple Valley. But the Eagles have had some controversy in the last two weeks, with some top wrestlers leaving their club, including state-ranked Dayton Racer. The Eagles showed no signs of backing down, however, cruising to the Section 3-3A title.
The Knights headed into the Section 7-3A Individual tourney with a total of five ranked wrestlers, three of them No. 1: Aaron Dick, 106 (fifth); Mitch McKee 120 (first); Tommy Thorn, 126 (first); Mark Voss, 145 (first); Jake Briggs, 195 (fourth).