March 3 was a night to remember for Micah Barnes, but it's March 5 that he reflects on the most.
"That's what motivates me every day," the senior Simley wrestler said.
The Spartans captured their fourth consecutive Class 2A state team title that Friday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Four teammates -- Kyle Gliva, Pedro DeLao, Jake Short and Nick Wanzek -- were crowned state champs two days later.
Barnes was not. He made a strong showing as a sophomore at the 2010 state tournament, battling all the way to the 152 finals and earning a runner-up finish.
"This past year, though, going in expecting to win it, and then not winning it," he said. "That didn't sit well with me at all."
Barnes remembers March 5 vividly, but not for reasons he's proud of. Coaches were screaming at him to get back to the center. He struggled offensively. He still reminds himself that "I rarely get taken down."
"I would definitely say it wasn't my best match. It was far from it," said Barnes, who added his second-consecutive runner-up finish last year, this time at 160. "But I learned a lot from it. As much as that hurt, I knew in the back of my mind that it would make me all the more better. I think it's starting to show; that loss may not be such a bad thing after all."
Barnes took first place at 182 in last weekend's 25th annual Minnesota Christmas tournament in Rochester. He was bumped up a weight class but might move back down to 170, his preferred weight. That will be up to coach Will Short.
This fall, Barnes committed to wrestle at Old Dominion next year. That says a lot, considering he was close to quitting the sport several times growing up. Micah's older brother, Jack, a Simley alum and St. Cloud State wrestler, got him into it.
"It was tough. I just wasn't good," Barnes said.
He spent the first six or seven years mostly on the losing end of the match. Barnes grew up honing his defensive skills, but began learning the offensive side of the mat with Simley. He started seeing some wins in eighth grade and then more in ninth before placing second in the state as a sophomore.
As a senior, "I want to leave Simley with an individual state championship, and I want to win the team state championship again and be a part of that. That's definitely my No. 1 goal," he said. "That's the main motivation."
Ranked No. 2 in the metro by the Star Tribune, Simley has the inside track on what would be its fifth consecutive crown and ninth in the program's history. But even with the four individual state champs returning, the Spartans know it won't be easy.
"If we would have wrestled a dual meet with Scott West this weekend, they would have beaten us," Short said of the team's performance in Rochester. "You can measure it right there."
Compared to the past few seasons, this group of Spartans is not as steady across the board. Throughout the 14 weight classes, there might be a handful of wrestlers who struggle to wrestle .500 with Simley's schedule.
"We for sure are not sitting on our hands. We understand that we are going to get a major push from Scott West, Foley and Kasson-Mantorville, like we have the last couple years," Short said. "If we sit around and think that everybody's just going to let us win, or we aren't going to work hard, that's crazy."