While the sport of wrestling is still strong and vital at the high school level, this season marks the first since 2011 when the state can't boast of having a wrestler of national, and even international, acclaim. Starting with Apple Valley's Mark Hall in 2011, through teammate Gable Steveson, Kasson-Mantorville's Brady Berge and Simley's Daniel Kerkvliet, Minnesota could claim having arguably the best pound-for-pound prep wrestler in the nation.
All are gone from the high school scene now, but that's not to say the hopper is empty. Kasson-Mantorville's Patrick Kennedy is the No. 1-ranked 170-pounder in the nation according to the wrestling insider publication WIN. Simley's Ryan Sokol is No. 2 at 138 pounds. In all, 19 Minnesota wrestlers made the national rankings.
Does class matter?
Defending champion Shakopee is once again ranked atop the Class 3A poll, led by two pairs of highly touted brothers: Pierson (126) and Carson (170) Manville, and twin brothers Joey (195) and Tommy (220) Johnson. Don't overlook the Sabres' best overall wrestler in 120-pound senior Paxton Creese, the defending champ at 113.
But it's likely that the best team in the metro is in Class 2A. Simley, despite losing the amazing Kerkvliet to graduation, has top-line talent throughout the lineup: Chase DeBlaere at 126, Sokol at 138, Cael Berg at 145 and Quayin Short at 195 are all ranked No. 1 at their respective weight classes by theguillotine.com. Four others are ranked No. 2 or No. 3.
Who's the best?
The mantle of best pound-for-pound wrestler in the metro is wide open.
It could be Sokol, the junior 138-pounder who is committed to Iowa. He won the Class 2A 132-pound title with a 51-0 record last winter. He is adept at freestyle and Greco-Roman, having won Minnesota Junior titles in both last spring.
Or perhaps it's his teammate, Short, who won the same two junior titles last spring. There's Shakopee's Creese, coming off a terrific junior season, or Stillwater junior Reid Ballantyne, who's won three consecutive Class 3A titles (106, 120 and 126) and has a record of 123-3 over the past three seasons.