The smiles were faint, the fan reaction polite, at best.
St. Michael-Albertville and Apple Valley battled to an unsatisfying 28-28 tie in the Class 3A championship match. By Minnesota State High School League rules, there is no tiebreaker in the championship match, meaning the 2013 record books will forever list co-champions.
"I'm not sure how to feel," said St. Michael-Albertville heavyweight Michael Kessler. "I'm happy, but it would have been nice to win it."
"We had a goal of becoming state champions, and that's what we are," said St. Michael-Albertville coach Dan Lefebvre with the aplomb of a politician. "People might not like co-champions, but these are two very good teams. We both wrestled well."
For most of the night, the match that high school wrestling fans had anticipated and argued about for an entire season lived up to its billing.
The Eagles, wrestling with an enormous chip on their shoulders and using expert tinkering from head coach Dalen Wasmund, fought off everything the No. 1-ranked Knights threw at them and emerged with their eighth straight Class 3A title.
"This was an epic battle between two great teams," Wasmund said. "We've been building up to this all season. Our guys came out on a mission.
As expected, St. Michael-Albertville led through the lower weights, building up a 19-7 lead. But Apple Valley dominated the middle weights and made Wasmund look like a genius when he bumped two of his best wrestlers, Mark Hall and Daniel Woiwor, up a weight. Both won, turning a three-point deficit into a six-point lead.
Apple Valley wrestled conservatively and intelligently thereafter, giving up close losses in three of the final five weights but holding on for the tie.
Perhaps the fans and the teams themselves were unsure how to feel in the aftermath, but Woiwor didn't care about not winning the battle. In his eyes, the Eagles won the war.
"The empire did not fall," he said. "When I look at the back of this medal, it says 'Class 3A State Champions'."
JAMES PAULSENClass 2A
Nobody to wrestle Sam Stoll in Thursday's final Class 2A match meant a Class 2A state title for Kasson-Mantorville.
Simley was forced to forfeit the 285-pound division for forfeiting a match earlier in the day, earning Kasson-Mantorville the freebie and six points it needed for a 30-27 victory.
Stoll didn't spend much time in the circle alone. He quickly returned to his coach and unleashed all unused energy with a big bear hug.
"We knew that was going to happen, but I don't think it mattered really. Our heavyweight has pinned every guy but one this year," 126-pound-winner Nate Thomas said.
The No. 1 seed won close matches and took advantage of defending champion Simley's absentee wrestlers. Simley's 106-pounder failed to make weight and was absent throughout the day. Per tournament rules, this forfeit requires another in the next round, which ended the Spartans' day the way it started -- forfeit.
Kasson-Mantorville built a 17-6 lead, but Simley used five straight wins to pull in front, 27-20. Jake Short (152 pounds) and Nick Wanzek (182 pounds) each collected pins for Simley. Kasson-Mantorville's Thomas and Corben Hansen arguably produced the most impressive wins of the night, though.
University of Minnesota-bound Thomas (126 pounds) held off former individual state champion Juan Torres 5-4. And Hansen (195 pounds) edged Chris Bauman 1-0.
"That helped us get the momentum," Thomas said. "You don't work so hard to be co-champs, you work hard to be state champs."
JASON GONZALEZClass 1A
The four fingers raised on Darick Vancura's hand predicted Jackson's County Central's spot in state history.
Jumping to his feet after pinning Frazee's Tyler Ziegler 5:10 into the 170-pound match, Vancura flung his hands into the air and celebrated a fourth straight Class 1A team championship. Though the Huskies hadn't yet won it, his six-point contribution to extend their lead to 34-10 had all but confirmed an eventual 38-22 victory.
Anything other than a pin by Frazee in the next match meant title No. 4 for Jackson County Central and Huskies' Nathan Guggisberg fulfilled the need.
"There is a new team in the house. ... It's JCC," senior Eliot Jurries said. "We're the only team to really repeat this year so I feel like we're the new dynasty in Minnesota."
Since the expansion to a third class, no 1A school has won four straight. Staples won six in a row (1980-1985) in the lower division of the two-class format.
No. 2-seed Frazee built an early 6-0 advantage over Jackson County. The Huskies responded with a 34-4 run including pins by top seeds Jurries (132 pounds), Luke Norland (152 pounds) and Vancura.
Jackson County now, without reservations, can claim the title as southern Minnesota's new wrestling dynasty.