Kasson-Mantorville lost by 19 points to Apple Valley on Dec. 7. Three weeks later, in The Clash Duals in Rochester, the KoMets again lost to the Eagles.
The difference, however, is in the details.
Apple Valley -- winner of seven consecutive Class 3A championships with an enrollment more than 1,000 students larger than Class 2A Kasson-Mantorville -- won by just one point in the second meeting. That, said KoMets co-coach Jamie Heidt, is the difference between another ho-hum trip to the state tournament loss and a state championship.
"That was a huge turning point for us," said Heidt, who, along with co-coach Paul Mann, leads the No. 1-ranked KoMets into Thursday's Class 2A wrestling state team tournament. "I saw a new level of fight and toughness in our team. I really saw a passion."
A group of small-town kids with big dreams and a need to prove themselves, Kasson-Mantorville has made the climb from wannabe to established power.
The KoMets haven't lost since that second meeting with Apple Valley. They took over the No. 1 ranking by beating Simley, the big dog on the Class 2A block, handily in late January, establishing themselves as a strong candidate to unseat the five-time defending 2A champion Spartans. The most recent poll on the InterMat wrestling website has Kasson-Mantorville at No. 20 in the nation.
All by a bunch of guys who see each other more as family than teammates.
"We've known each other since we were in kindergarten,and we've come up all the way through together," said senior Broc Berge, the defending state champion at 195 pounds. "All we want to do is wrestle. We're never going to quit. We're always going to keep attacking."
The KoMets' bond is evidenced by their records.
"This group has 1,280 wins together," Mann said. "The seniors alone have 972 wins. That shows how much time they've spent together."
Having qualified for four consecutive state tourneys, there is just one more step for the KoMets to take: ending Simley's reign.
Berge, for one, is anxious to make it happen.
"We are so ready to wrestle," said Berge, an Iowa recruit. "We just want to get on the mat and score points. We're going to have the biggest crowd and the most support there. It's going to be something no one's ever going to forget."