Hastings had high hopes coming into this wrestling season. But after the team’s performance at The Clash National Wrestling Duals in Rochester in January, others around the sport also discovered that the Raiders had huge potential.

Competing in the toughest high school team tournament in the country, the Raiders made it to the final bracket. They defeated some highly ranked teams and competed well against some of the country’s finest, including Oak Park-River Forest of Illinois, Bergen Catholic of New Jersey and in-state powerhouse Apple Valley.

“It told us that we can compete with the best,” senior captain Dan Marquette said. “If we wrestle well, we can definitely beat anyone.”

It sent a message.

“No one expected us to do much there,” senior captain Luke Rowh said. “I thought we just came together as a team, and we got bonus points when we could and saved them when we needed to. Everyone was just supporting each other and we were there for each other. We know we put in all the hard work for it. So why not us? We all came together and did what we needed to do.”

Hastings has been doing what it needed to do all season. The Raiders went undefeated in conference dual meets this year, and again won Suburban East Conference crown. They fielded more all-conference wrestlers this year than the past handful of years. In its closest dual meet this season, Hastings still won by more than 15 points.

“We really dominated again this year,” Rowh said. “That’s another confidence booster.”

The Raiders were the No. 1 seed going into team sections this past weekend and the No. 6-ranked team in Class 3A. But Owatonna, a Class 3A Section 1 rival, recently was ranked eighth in the state.

Hastings wrestlers believe they have what it takes to take another step this year. Rowh is ranked second in the state at 132 pounds. Rowh made it to the semifinals of the 132-pound class at last year’s state meet, where he lost to eventual state champion Seth Gross from Apple Valley. He will wrestle on scholarship at the University of Wisconsin.

Marquette is ranked fifth at 160 and is being recruited hard by George Mason and North Dakota State.

Sophomore Austin Eichmann is ranked eighth in the state at 138 pounds. Junior Jake Anderson is a returning state qualifier and ranked No. 8 at 145. Senior Daryale Harris, No. 10 in the state at 195 pounds, made it to the state semifinals last year, where he fell to eventual state champion Tommy Peterson of Lakeville South.

Hastings, after graduating only one starter from last year’s team, knew it could be a special 2013-2014 season. Each wrestler put in the work to improve over the summer. The Raiders barely lost to Owatonna last year, so they’re champing at the bit for another chance in sections.

“We’re right on track for where we need to be,” Rowh said. “We’ve been wrestling tough all season, but it just seems to me that [coach Josh McLay] just has us peaking at the right time. I just think that we’re going to be ready to go. We’re doing the right things.”