The most anticipated Minnesota high school wrestling championship evening in recent memory was set up for Thursday evening at Xcel Energy Center. All three defending team champions made it through to the finals, as did the challenger in each class with the best chance to win.
In Class 3A, seven-time champion Apple Valley downed Prior Lake 36-19, pulling away with a 17-0 run in the middle weights thanks to consecutive pins from Dayton Racer (145) and Mark Hall (152) followed by a technical fall victory by Daniel Woiwor (160).
The Eagles will face their biggest challenge of the season in No. 1-ranked St. Michael-Albertville, which beat Owatonna 40-21 on the strength of its upper weights. The Knights won four of the last five matches, three of them by pin.
Expectations will be just as high for the Class 2A final, where five-time champion Simley, a 42-23 victor over Foley, will meet Kasson-Mantorville, which downed New Prague 37-18. No. 1-ranked Kasson-Mantorville beat Simley 37-22 in the finals of the Swalla Duals on January 26.
In Class 1A, Jackson County Central remained on pace to earn its fourth championship in a row, beating Chatfield 39-25. The Huskies will face No. 2-seeded Frazee, which beat Sibley East 40-16.
Earlier in the day, the Class 3A and 2A brackets played out as expected, while Class 1A provided some first-round upsets.
St. Michael-Albertville, Apple Valley, Prior Lake and Owatonna easy advanced in Class 3A. STMA and Apple Valley each only surrendered nine points to their opponents.
Class 2A's No. 1 Kasson-Mantorville and No. 2 Simley each comfortably moved into the semifinals. Totino-Grace and New Prague challenged No. 3 Foley and No. 4 New Prague, but the higher seeds did enough to get by.
Pierz's 10th state tournament appearance ended early. Class 1A No. 2 seed Frazee cruised to the semifinals with a 47-12 victory. Jackson County Central also easily advanced.
No. 5-seed Chatfield upset No. 4 Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg 38-24 in the quarterfinal round. Unseeded Sibley East also provided an upset, defeating No. 3 Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City 30-24.