Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – More than a thousand matches took place at the State Wrestling Tournament last weekend at Xcel Energy Center, but most fans were left talking about one after it all wrapped up on Saturday.
Twenty four teams over three classes battled for championships, and individuals over 14 weight divisions in three classes all battled for gold over a hectic three-day event. At the end of the day Friday, it was a tie and co-championship that left people both satisfied and disappointed, if that’s possible, as they left St. Paul that night.
St. Michael-Albertville and Apple Valley entered the Class AAA team tournament as the top two seeds. Both teams did their jobs and met for the state championship in one of the most highly-anticipated match-ups in recent memory. The Knights got out to an early 19-7 lead with strong lower weights.
Apple Valley stormed back and led 28-25 going into the heavyweight match. St. Michael-Albertville’s Michael Kessler won that match in a 2-0 decision, putting the squads deadlocked 28-28 with the team match over. By Minnesota State High School League rules, there is no tiebreaker format in the state championship match. It meant the two squads stayed tied and will share the state championship.
While the match was intense and lived up to its season-long billing, both teams left the mat feeling satisfied and somewhat bittersweet. High school wrestling has a tiebreaker system, but for whatever reason it’s not implemented at the state tournament for championship matches. Tiebreakers are usually decided by margin of victory in certain matches or back points throughout the team match in the weight classes.
The bottom line is that we play sports for a reason: At the end there’s somebody who wins and somebody who loses. There should’ve been a single state champion at the end of the night instead of two teams sharing the title because of a tie. It would be one thing if there weren’t tiebreaker scenarios established in the sport, but there are and they weren’t implemented for the state’s biggest stage. That aspect makes little sense to me for two teams who put the work in all year to call themselves a champion when it’s over.
Sure, things could’ve happened in certain matches that the team match wouldn’t have resulted in a tie. St. Michael-Albertville won seven of the 14 matches, as did Apple Valley, so it was as even as the score would indicate. The unfortunate part of the whole scenario is now there is no clear cut front-runner as the top team in the state. We were hoping to get that resolution with either another title for Apple Valley or St. Michael-Albertville’s first as a Class AAA team.
This scenario certainly gives something for the MSHSL to think about in the future because ties happen so rarely in team matches. If you have a tiebreaker scenario, use it. Fans, athletes and coaches want a champion at the end of the day. A tie doesn’t give closure on the season, it leaves people to ponder “what if.”
In Class AA, Kasson-Mantorville ended Simley’s reign at the top with a thrilling 30-27 victory in that title match. That also featured one of the more unusual endings you’ll see in a playoff format. Kasson-Mantorville won at 195 and at 22 pounds, but still trailed Simley 27-24 going into the heavyweight. The Spartans either didn’t have a heavyweight or that athlete couldn’t wrestle, so they had to forfeit the match. That’s the same scoring as a pin (6 points), letting Kasson-Mantorville win the match and state title.
In Class A, Jackson County Central repeated as state champions with a 38-22 win over Frazee.
After a couple days off, Xcel Energy Center will be buzzing again this week with one of the best events of any state tournament season. The State Boys Hockey Tournament starts Wednesday with Class A quarterfinals. The WCCO Prep Blog will preview the action.