MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Christmas Day is almost here. The presents are under the tree for our family and friends, the stockings are up and the lights are on outside the house.

For most, the holiday season is a time to be with family and away from the stresses of everyday life. For high school athletes, the time after Christmas and before the start of the new year is among the busiest on the calendar.

Between the end of this week and the start of next week, teams in hockey, basketball and wrestling will be traveling across the state to compete in tournaments. It’s a great chance for some programs to face competition they wouldn’t otherwise see in the regular season. It’s also an opportunity for some of the best talent in the state to square off without the pressure of a postseason title at stake.

Here are some of our top bets for weekend holiday action, and with cheaper gas prices, they will be worth your drive.

Boys Basketball: Granite City Classic, St. Cloud (Dec. 27-28)

St. Cloud is the site for arguably the best high school basketball tournament offered within an hour drive of the Twin Cities over the holidays. It’ll be the host city for the Granite City Classic, where at least three of the top-five teams in boys basketball will be putting on a show. Unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Apple Valley has the toughest test, facing No. 5-ranked Maple Grove Friday night and No. 2-ranked Champlin Park on Saturday. Another featured game will be No. 8-ranked Roseville facing Champlin Park Friday night.

Others in the 14-team tournament include Rogers, Rocori, Big Lake, Providence Academy, Roseville, Monticello, Albany, Becker, St. Francis, St. Cloud Apollo and Sartell-St. Stephen.

Boys Hockey: Schwan Cup Gold Division, University Of Minnesota (Dec. 29-31)

The best holiday tournament with the most loaded field will be at the University of Minnesota early next week as Ridder Arena serves as the host for the boys Gold Division of the Schwan Cup. Of the eight teams in the field, seven are ranked in the top 15 in Class AA. And Monday’s match-ups are dandies with Edina facing Minnetonka, St. Thomas Academy facing Duluth East, Eden Prairie battling Hill-Murray and Eastview clashing with Burnsville.

It’ll be the best way to preview the state tournament in March. Eden Prairie and Duluth East were state tournament teams last year, and Edina won the AA state championship.

The championship for the Gold Division of the Schwan Cup will be Wednesday night, Dec. 31, at Ridder Arena.

Boys Basketball: Rochester Rotary Holiday Classic (Dec. 29-31)

One of the better basketball tournaments for boys and girls in Minnesota takes place in southeastern Minnesota as Rochester gets set to host its annual Rotary Holiday Classic. The event is early next week both at the Rochester Civic Center.

On the boys side, the teams competing include Rochester John Marshall, Osseo, Burnsville, East Ridge, Rochester Mayo, Woodbury, Goodhue, Lakeville South, White Bear Lake, Rushford-Peterson, Rochester Lourdes, St. Anthony Village, Bloomington Kennedy, Byron, Plainview-Elgin-Millville and Rochester Century.

On the girls’ side, the teams include Rochester John Marshall, Farmington, Chanhassen, Goodhue, Rochester Mayo, White Bear Lake, Chaska, Osseo, Rochester Century, Lakeville North, Plainview-Elgin-Millville, Woodbury, Red Wing, Burnsville, Rochester Lourdes and St. Paul Como Park.

Girls Basketball: St. Olaf Holiday Hoops Classic (Dec. 29-31

St. Olaf College in Northfield is hosting its annual holiday basketball tournament and has one of the stronger fields in recent memory. The field includes No. 1-ranked Eastview, No. 2-ranked Hopkins and several other competitive teams including Prior Lake and Holy Family Catholic. The event starts Monday, Dec. 29 and wraps up on Wednesday.

The featured game of the St. Olaf Holiday Hoops Classic will be at 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve as Hopkins and Eastview, the top two teams in Minnesota, meet at Skoglund Center.

The Clash National Duals (Rochester Community and Technical College, Jan. 2-3, 2015)

It’s not technically a holiday tournament, but one of the best wrestling tournaments in the country for high-schoolers is worthy of a heads-up. The Clash National Duals take place in Rochester Jan. 2-3 and virtually take over the city.

The event features 32 of the best high school wrestling teams in the country, and they’ll gather at Rochester Community and Technical College. It’s a two-day event with strictly dual meet matches. Teams score points based on how many matches they win in a dual, as opposed to how far their individual wrestlers would go in a individually-based tournament.

The best of the best travel to Rochester for The Clash. The Minnesota contingent includes state powers Apple Valley, Hastings and St. Michael-Albertville. The other teams there include Shakopee, Kenyon-Wanamingo, Simley, Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial, Totino-Grace, Anoka, Jackson County Central, Prior Lake, Adrian and Minneota.

Stay with WCCO.com and WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally to stay on top of all the holiday tournament action.

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