MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Xcel Energy Center is the epicenter of Minnesota high school wrestling this weekend with the state championships being held in St. Paul.
Apple Valley continued its Class AAA dominance in the team tournament with a state championship Thursday night. The Eagles beat St. Michael-Albertville in the championship match 49-24. In the other classes, No. 1-ranked Simley won another state championship with a 36-22 win over No. 2-ranked Scott West. Jackson County Central won its third straight state championship with a 35-28 win over Kimball Area.
On Friday, it’s all about the individuals as hundreds of wrestlers will hit the mats for the state individual tournament. In three classes, there are 16 wrestlers each in 14 weight classes that are all battling for one honor: To be standing on the championship podium on Saturday.
It’s also our featured event for WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally. There are storylines everywhere in these types of tournaments. Some have winning streaks on the line, others have career milestones to achieve and consecutive state championships to win.
Apple Valley has 12 out of 14 weight classes represented, and many of them are ranked at the top of their weight class. One of their best is at 160 pounds, that’s Brandon Kingsley, who is 41-1 on the season and is one of the top wrestlers in the country. The good news for everybody else: He’s finally a senior. Look for Kingsley to be a state champion again by the end of the weekend.
In Class A, there’s quite a bracket at 126 pounds. One of the favorites is Hayden Rouser out of Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City. He’s got 200 career wins and 100 career pins. Perhaps a sleeper in Class A is 113-pound wrestler Bryce Bruner out of Minneota. He’s 28-11, but beat some of the best in the state to get to the Xcel Center.
A total of 20 state champions are back to defend their state titles, five in Class A, 10 in Class AA and five in Class AAA.
Boys Hockey: Roseville (17-8-2) vs. Hill-Murray (21-6)
Hill-Murray takes on Roseville Friday night for the Section 4AA title and a trip to the Xcel Energy Center next week. The Pioneers are a staple of the boys state hockey tournament and are favored in this game. They shutout Stillwater 4-0, while the Raiders beat St. Paul Johnson 7-3. Roseville will be competitive, but Hill-Murray has too much firepower and great goaltending. I’ll take the Pioneers.
Boys Hockey: Blaine (18-9) vs. Maple Grove (23-2-2)
The top two seeds in Section 5AA will battle Friday night for a trip to the state tournament next week as Blaine takes on Maple Grove. The Bengals have been a traditional power in high school hockey, while the Crimson are on the rise. Both teams are loaded with talent, making this a tough one to pick. The Bengals beat Anoka to get to the section final, while Maple Grove beat rival Osseo. I’ll take the No. 4-ranked Crimson to advance to state.
Boys Hockey: Totino-Grace (18-9) vs. St. Thomas Academy (22-4)
It should be a great battle at Aldrich Arena Friday night as No. 2-ranked St. Thomas Academy faces No. 6-ranked Totino-Grace in the Section 4A final. Both teams are filled with quality players, and the Cadets seem to contend for a state championship almost every year. St. Thomas Academy was the runner-up in the Classic Suburban Conference, while Totino-Grace finished second in the North Suburban Conference behind Benilde. St. Thomas Academy has too much firepower for the Eagles in this one and I expect them to advance.
Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally Friday night as Mike Max, Frank Vascellaro and John Lauritsen will have all the action covered.