It’s difficult to determine exactly what makes Apple Valley wrestling special — ask a dozen people, get a dozen different answers. What motivates the Eagles is much easier to pin down.

The Goliath of Minnesota wrestling crushed three consecutive Davids to win its ninth consecutive Class 3A team championship, outscoring its opponents 185-16, capped by a 56-9 victory over No. 3-seeded Prior Lake in the finals.

So Apple Valley sits atop the Minnesota’s wrestling world again, weathering storms and withstanding controversy, almost as if it were too big to fail — which just may be the case.

“We take [the state tournament] very seriously,” said senior heavyweight Lord Josh Hyeamang, who didn’t wrestle in the finals because the outcome was already decided. “It’s all about getting better, improving. We never want to be stagnant. This year, our goal was to show everyone just how big the gap still is.”

Hyeamang is an intelligent young man; he’s committed to play football at Columbia in the Ivy League. He understands the importance of the state meet but also knows that to stay on top, goals must be set unusually high.

“Winning the state tournament is our goal, but we judge ourselves more against teams nationally,” he said. “We don’t overlook anyone, though. You can’t win a national championship if you don’t win the state.”

For junior 182-pounder Bobby Steveson, who moved with his family from Indiana to Minnesota last spring, being a member of an elite program like Apple Valley has revitalized him.

“Here, everyone loves wrestling. Even if it’s 90 degrees outside, the wrestling room is packed,” he said. “I feel refreshed here.”

Lest anyone think the Eagles are an emotionless machine, senior 138-pounder Seth Gross proved otherwise. “It’s all about the guys in the room,” Gross said, his voice cracking. “We push each other and lean on each other.

“That’s what this is all about.”