High school wrestling offers plenty of diverse and compelling story lines. Here are three of many worth watching this season:
Apple Valley: new coach, steady course
When longtime wrestling legend Jim Jackson stepped down last spring as the Eagles' coach, he did so knowing he had a capable replacement ready to take over. Dalen Wasmund, an assistant at Apple Valley since 1982 save for a decade-long stint as Eagan's coach in the 1990s, is Jackson's successor.
Wasmund's wrestling expertise and his familiarity with the program should ensure continued success at Apple Valley, home to eight consecutive Class 3A state championships and national championships in 2010 and 2011.
"I learned along the way the things that work pretty well," Wasmund said. "We'll do a lot of the same things, keep the focus on the kids and try to keep things fun."
Are the defending champs vulnerable?
It's not that Apple Valley and five-time Class 2A champion Simley are down this season. In fact, both are ranked among the top 10 in the nation by InterMat (www.intermatwrestle.com) and have lineups filled with defending state champs, led by two of the most highly regarded wrestlers in the country. Apple Valley's Mark Hall is ranked No. 1 nationally at 152 pounds, while Simley's Jake Short is No. 1 at 145. But both the Eagles and Spartans will face a serious challenge come state tournament time.
St. Michael-Albertville also is ranked among the top 10 in the nation. Coach Dan Lefebvre believes the Knights can make a run at Apple Valley. "Potentially, this is one of our best teams ever," Lefebvre said. "We have a better chance than we ever have."
Ditto for Kasson-Mantorville in Class 2A. The KoMets are ranked No. 17 by InterMat and have the No. 2-ranked 195-pounder in the nation in defending state champ Broc Berge.
Having already won state championships in seventh and eighth grades, Hall, a freshman, will pursue his third and has a shot at becoming the first Minnesota wrestler to win six state titles. Short, a senior, will be shooting for his fourth state title, as will St. Cloud Apollo senior 145-pounder Mitch Bengtson.