St. Michael-Albertville head coach Dan Lefebvre smiled after he mentioned, fresh off winning the Section 7-3A team title, he hoped his Knights could push 14 wrestlers to the State 3A individual wrestling tournament last weekend, knowing how big of a feat that really could be.
A funny thing happened in Cambridge last weekend – the Knights, ranked No. 2 in Class AAA, almost pulled it off.
Instead, they’ll send six section champions, 12 total wrestlers and seven first-time state qualifiers to the tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, which begins this Friday.
“It’s one of the most competitive teams, top to bottom, I’ve ever coached,” Lefebvre, who has been the head coach of the Knights during this incredibly successful transition to Class AAA, said. “There’s no one here who isn’t willing to step in and do his part and get the win. They’re a very strong bunch.”
Capturing Section 7-3A championships were Patrick McKee (106), Mitch McKee (126), Jake Allar (138), Luke Jeske (152), Evan Ronsen (170) and Jordan Joseph (182). Finishing in second/true second were Zach Nygaard (113), Donnie Leuer (145), Mitch Zachman (160), Evan Foster (195), Jake Briggs (220), and Randy Anderson (285).
A breakdown of the action (complete brackets from the 7AAA individual tournament can be found here):
At 106, Pat McKee held serve as the highest-ranked wrestler in the field, an pulled off a 4-2 decision in the final to punch his ticket to St. Paul. It’s the freshman’s first trip to the state individual tournament.
Zach Nygard, who was not ranked (statewide) at 113 pounds, lost by fall in the final to Tyler Eischens of Anoka, who is ranked third in the state. Nygaard didn’t have to wrestle a “true second” match, having beaten the third place winner in the quarterfinal round.
At 126 pounds, Mitch McKee showed why he’s tops in the nation. The junior, who is Minnesota bound in 2016, won all three matches in the first period by fall, and was never challenged. He’ll head to his fourth straight state tournament this weekend, and is the favorite to win his second straight title at 126.
Jake Allar is ranked third in the state and was favored to win the section crown, but needed overtime to get past Aaron Wilson of St. Francis, who is ranked third in the state. The two could see each other again this weekend, and Xcel fans hope it’s as thrilling as the 4-2 overtime win Allar pulled off at Cambridge. He’s ranked first and will be seeded first at 138 pounds.
Donnie Leuer was not ranked going into the section tourney but won his “true second” match after falling in the final. He’ll head to his first ever individual state tournament at 145 pounds.
Luke Jeske is ranked seventh in the state at 152 pounds but has been “really impressive” lately according to Lefebvre. Jeske won an 8-0 decision to win the section championship and earn his first individual trip to the state tournament.
Mitch Zachman was unranked at 160 pounds but won his “true second” match after losing the final to Matt Njos of Anoka, who is ranked fourth in the state. Zachman will make his first trip to the Xcel.
Third-ranked Evan Ronson squeaked out a 3-2 decision over Cambridge-Isanti’s David Kent on Kent’s home mat in the final to win the title at 170 pounds. Kent is ranked fourth in the state, so the two young men could collide again. It’s Ronson’s third trip to state.
Jordan Joseph “majored” his way to the X, winning each of his three matches by major decision. Joseph, who is ranked No. 1 in the state at 182 pounds, will be the top seed in his fourth trip to the individual tournament. He won the final 13-5 over Mike Bothwell of Coon Rapids.
Evan Foster will make his second trip to the individual tournament, this year at 195 pounds. Foster lost a 3-2 heartbreaker in the section final to Tyler Berdahl of Coon Rapids, who is ranked third in the state.
At 220 pounds, Jake Briggs is making his third trip to state and is hoping to place for the third straight time. He fnished second to Jeremy Rodman of Anoka, who is ranked third at 220 to Briggs’ fourth. The senior lost the final 3-1 in overtime to Rodman.
Randy Anderson wrestled his way “back” to state at 285 after things looked bleak when he lost the quarterfinal match in an upset. The No. 10 heavyweight in the state won the “true second” match 6-2 to earn his first-ever trip to the individual tournament as a senior.
The Knights will be the No. 2 seed in the team tournament, set for Thursday, with a record of 28-2. Apple Valley is again the Class AAA top seed, while Willmar, at 27-0, is the third seed overall. STMA finished third in the team tournament last year.
The individual tournament kicks off Friday, Feb. 27 from the Xcel Energy Center, with Finals on Saturday.