Simley’s wrestling program isn’t dropping off any time soon. It’s built for the present and future.
The Spartans will be appearing in their 10th consecutive Class 2A state tournament Thursday through Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. They have won seven championships in that span.
“It is not easy to win a section title and qualify for the state tournament,” said Simley coach Will Short, who oversees a program making its 23rd appearance (all since 1987) in the state tournament.
“We have only one starting senior, so we knew we had to work hard all year to win.”
The Spartans rolled over South St. Paul 52-17 in the Section 4 finals. They defeated the Packers 47-13 during the regular season.
“South St Paul had a very good team this year, and most of the state didn’t know about it,” Will Short said. “It had a great senior class and very good junior class. I believe our section final performance was our best team performance of the year.”
Their regular-season victory over the Packers led Simley to its 16th consecutive conference [Metro East and Classic Suburban] championship, which includes 115 consecutive dual meet victories.
“It’s nice to be able to go out having won every conference meet,” said Spartans captain Zach Moon, the lone senior in the Spartans’ lineup. “I think they can keep the streak going for a couple of more years. We have good young wrestlers coupled with good young kids coming up.”
Junior Jake Gliva and sophomore Daniel Kerkvliet, two of the team’s three returning individual state champions, are also captains. The other defending state champion on the team is sophomore Anthony Jackson.
“Before the season I knew we had some very talented young wrestlers,” Will Short said. The Spartans graduated five startersand lost two-time state entrant Anthony Dawson, whose family moved to Georgia. “I knew we had six weights with wrestlers who had less than 10 varsity wins in their careers. With so many young wrestlers and half your weights with very little experience I was hoping for the year we are having, but I had my doubts.”
The Spartans also have two eighth-graders who have registered over 30 victories this season in Quayin Short and Ryan Sokol. Sophomore Jacob Hageman is closing in on that total.
“With four eighth-graders and two ninth-graders in the starting lineup, I can’t think of two better leaders than Zach and Jake for young wrestlers to try and emulate,” Will Short said. “They are outstanding role models and they have led this team by hard work and dedication. They come to practice every day and give everything they have to get better.”
Kerkvliet, the program’s best wrestler, was added as a captain after the Cheesehead Invitational in January. He already has committed to the Gophers.
“His conditioning and work ethic are as good as I have seen and maybe the best,” Will Short said. “For a young man at just 16 to be that powerful and that skilled as a wrestler is amazing.
“His life is wrestling. Daniel wants to be the best wrestler in the world. He has his sights set on the world championships this summer. I believe he is the best sophomore in the United States, and we will find out if he is the best 16-year-old in the world this summer.”
For now the focus for the entire Simley program is regaining the team championship trophy at the state tournament. It finished fourth a year ago after winning the title back-to-back years in 2014 and 2015.
Kasson-Mantorville won the crown in 2013 and 2016, and is ranked No. 1.
“I hope we get another shot at Kasson-Mantorville,” Moon said. “When we’re healthy I think we matchup well with them, and can push them
“We have high expectations. We want to be our best at the end of the year, so we can win state. We want to get to the big stage, and finish on top.”