With 34 consecutive years of state tournament appearances as a foundation, Apple Valley showed Shakopee just how hard it is to knock the Eagles off their throne.
In one of the most highly anticipated Minnesota wrestling matches in recent memory, Apple Valley avenged a one-point early-season loss to Shakopee with a gritty defensive effort and a few surprising victories to defeat the Sabers 28-19 in the Class 3A, Section 2 finals.
The victory Friday at Rosemount High School extends Apple Valley's state tournament streak started in the 1982-83 season. The Eagles have won 24 state titles, including a current streak of 11 in a row.
"That's what Apple Valley wrestling is all about," Eagles coach Dalen Wasmund said. "We battle, we don't go down easily. In the end, that's what we expect. My hat's off to every guy on this team."
Shakopee, coached by former Apple Valley coach Jim Jackson, suffered its first dual-meet loss of the season. The Sabers' downfall was not getting the points they expected from their big guns.
Aaron Cashman moved up to 120 pounds but only managed a one-point victory. Alex Crowe and Alex Lloyd also had closer-than-expected victories. Most surprising, however, was three-time state champion Brent Jones, who was counted on to win comfortably, losing to Apple Valley's Sebas Swiggum 7-5 in overtime at 132 pounds.
"No question, that was the key match," Jackson said. "We needed those points, and it was big for them when [Jones] went down."
Swiggum said his unexpected victory was the product of his head as much as his body.
"I wrestled smarter," Swiggum said. "My conditioning was good, and I didn't take any bad shots. When overtime started, I felt great. It gave us all a lot of confidence."
Wasmund agreed that Swiggum's victory set the tone for Apple Valley.
"That was really a key match," he said. "And we held on for a victory at 152 and salted it away at 195. All tough matches."
Wasmund was referring to Devin Roberts' 4-3 victory at 152 over Sam Webster, another Shakopee wrestler who moved up in weight, and Tyler Kim's thrilling last-second 5-4 victory over Abe Ngaima at 195.
"I've wrestled him three times and never beat him," Kim said. "I had to do it once before he graduates."
Jackson took the blame for Shakopee's loss, saying he might have fiddled with the lineup a little too much.
"I went against my principles and moved too many guys around," Jackson said. "But looking forward, I think this was a great learning experience. We wrestled hard, but we're not there yet."