Sometimes it’s a rout. Other times, it’s much closer. The circumstances may change, but the result rarely does.
Apple Valley survived a serious challenge from St. Michael-Albertville, getting a pin from freshman Gable Steveson in the final match to pull out a 36-30 victory for their 10th consecutive Class 3A team championship.
The match was every bit as tight as expected. With both lineups speckled with elite-level wrestlers, it came down to just a few matches with evenly matched wrestlers. Apple Valley won two of those, with Nate Larson getting a pin at 106 pounds and Andrew Walock toughing out a 4-3 decision at 160 pounds. Those wins trumped a 2-1 overtime victory by St. Michael-Albertville’s Zach Dehmer at 120 pounds.
“We thought it might come down to some of the tossup matches,” St. Michael-Albertville coach Dan LeFebvre said. “They got them at 106 and 160, but we got one at 120. It’s disappointing, but it was great competition.”
It was the second time in three seasons that St Michael-Albertville fell just short of winning an outright title. The two teams were declared co-champions in 2013 after tying 28-28 in the finals.
Steveson, who is undefeated and ranked No. 1 in Class 3A at 220 pounds, found out late that he was being bumped up from his normal weight to heavyweight. Not that it mattered. The score may have been tied at the time, 30-30, but to Steveson, it was just another match.
“I didn’t know about it until just before [the 220-pound match]”, Steveson said. “I said ‘It’s go time’. That was fun. I just had to do what I had to do.”
None other that Mark Hall, the superstar junior 170-pounder who is considered the top overall high school wrestler in the country, was amazed that someone so young could be so calm under such extreme pressure.
“He takes it all so well,” said Hall, who won his match with a pin at 1 minute, 2 seconds. “He’s got a swagger to him, an aura. I know, if I was a freshman and they asked me to do that, I would have been shaking.”
Steveson is the younger brother of Bobby Steveson, a 195-pounder who will wrestle at Minnesota next year. Along with Brock Morgan, that gives Apple Valley a stable of four horses who are rarely beat. All four won their matches easily.
St. Michael-Albertville countered with three of the state’s best: 120-pounder Mitchell McKee, 138-pounder Jake Allar and 182-pounder Jordan Joseph. They all registered pins, but it was not enough.
“I really thought we competed well with them,” said Joseph, who will play baseball at Minnesota next year. “But they’re an incredible team and they deserved to win.”