After a dynastic run of five consecutive Class 2A state wrestling championships from 2008-2012, Simley fell to Kasson-Mantorville 30-27 in the finals last spring.
Nearly a year later, coach Will Short reflected on the loss and their opponent.
“If somebody’s good enough to beat us, then we celebrate that,” Short said. “We know how hard we work. We know how hard we train. We also know how hard it will be for someone to beat us. If they beat us, they have to be doing the work we’re doing.”
This wouldn’t be the downfall of a wrestling powerhouse. Simley has won nine state championships. It has finished in second place six times and third place twice.
This season, they’re back atop the rankings, even after losing seven starters.
Simley won the Class 2A, Section 4 team wrestling meet on Feb. 15 to advance to the state tournament again. It was their seventh consecutive section title. The team did it with ease, cruising over South St. Paul by a final score of 46-18.
“We’re excited to be back,” Short said. “We weren’t sure we’d be back. We didn’t take it for granted.”
Simley’s only dual meet losses this season came against Cambridge-Isanti and St. Michael-Albertville, two powerhouse Class 3A teams. The Spartans are ranked No. 1 in Class 2A and have garnered the tournament’s No. 1 seed.
One eighth-grader and two seventh-graders start at the Spartans’ first three weights. Their youth notwithstanding, they have held up impressively in pressure situations.
Thirteen of the 14 starters are homegrown kids who have been brought up through the youth and middle school programs. Eight Spartans are ranked in the top 10 individually.
Mack Short took second place at 145 pounds last year. He’s currently the top-ranked wrestler at 152 pounds.
“We’ve been leaning on Mack all year,” Will Short said of his nephew. “Mack’s been a guy we’ve used at dual meets to matchup against tougher wrestlers.”
Eighth-grader Jake Gliva is ranked No. 4 at 106 pounds. Jake is the younger brother of three-time individual state champion Kyle Gliva, who is now a freshman wrestler at North Dakota State University.
Anthony Jackson, a seventh-grader, is ranked eighth at 113 pounds. Senior Cortez Arredondo is ranked fourth at 126 pounds. Arredondo has been phenomenal this year, registering a 23-2 record in his last 25 matches.
“He’s been lights out for us,” Short said.
Kyle Nordstrom, Trom Peterson, Chris Baumann and Jack Ryan are the other top-10-ranked individuals.
In the state tournament, Simley’s first-round opponent — Dawson-Boyd — will prove to be a tough challenge, Short said.
“The Simley Spartans are not looking by anybody,” Short said. “We know we need to perform at our highest level if we’re going to advance.”
The Class 2A team state tournament meet is Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center.