This time, there was nothing to share.
St. Michael-Albertville won its first outright state title since a Class 2A championship 2007, upending top-seeded Shakopee 30-25 in 3A on Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center.
In 2013, the Knights had been declared co-champions after tying with Apple Valley in the team final. This one was much, much sweeter.
“No sharing this time,” Knights coach Dan Lefebvre said. “We’ve had a lot of seconds. This feels good to win one outright.”
Cast in the role of giant-killer after ending Apple Valley’s bid for a 36th straight state tournament berth, Shakopee garnered the No. 1 seed in the Class 3A bracket. But St. Michael-Albertville outdueled the Sabers at the lower weights, getting a 9-5 victory from Brandon Pysk at 113 pounds followed by back-to-back pins at 120 from Nathan Nygaard and at 126 from superstar Patrick McKee to build a 15-3 lead.
“That got the ball rolling,” LeFebvre said. “When you get ahead, the other guys start feeling better about themselves.”
Shakopee managed to close within one point, 18-17, after a pin at 152 by Alex Lloyd, but St. Michael-Albertville answered when Carl Leuer outfought Connor Raines for a 5-1 victory at 160.
The Knights clinched the victory at 220. Leading 27-22, senior Nolan Schmitz built a 6-0 lead and held off Tommy Johnson for 6-3 victory, giving the Knights an insurmountable lead.
When Schmitz’ match was over, the St. Michael-Albertville fans went wild, cheering and hugging, while the Knights themselves had to rein in their emotions because there was still one match left.
“That was the coolest feeling ever,” Schmitz said. “It was so awesome.”
McKee, who has won two individual state championships and will follow his older brother to the University of Minnesota, sophomore Mitch, said winning a state team title is a far better feeling.
“I haven’t felt this before,” he said. “It feels different because you win it with all of your buddies and you best friends. With this the whole team is just feeling awesome. You can share that feeling.”
A feeling, yes. But not the title. Not this time.
• St. Michael-Albertville won Class 2A titles in 1996, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. And the Knights, making their 28th state appearance since 1975, have been state runners-up 10 times.
LeFebvre, the Knights coach, said he thought his team might face Anoka in the semifinals, so he got to scheming for the matchup weeks ago.
LeFebvre’s prescience proved helpful as the Knights, the No. 3 seed, slipped past the second-seeded Tornadoes 31-29 to reach the final. St. Michael-Albertville loaded up on the lighter weights and built a 21-0 lead. The Knights’ Schmitz lost his 195-pund match, falling 9-8 to Richie Hammonds, but his ability to not give away bonus points clinched the victory.
Top-seeded Shakopee was extended by Willmar but got the requisite eight match victories to defeat the Cardinals 32-30. D.J. Smith’s pin at 195 pounds provided the match-winning points for the Sabers.