Hastings was hoping that the third time was indeed charmed. A magical comeback indicates it was.
The Raiders trailed defending champion St. Michael-Albertville 32-9 with five matches remaining and won all five, the final three by pin, to the pull out an improbable 33-32 victory over St. Michael-Albertville and win the Class 3A team championship at the wrestling state meet. Blake Clemons' pin of Logan Torkelson at 1:04 of the heavyweight match was the finishing touch on the remarkable comeback.
It's Hastings second state championship. The first came in 1996.
St. Michael-Albertville (27-2) had defeated Hastings (37-5) in two previous matches this season.
"That was awe-inspiring," said Hastings coach Tim Haneberg. "Three pins at the end to win it. That was pretty wild."
Hastings took an early lead, as has been its custom all season, thanks to the Beissel brothers, Trey at 106 and Blake at 113. Each is ranked No. 1 in his weight class, and each won, giving Hastings a 6-0 advantage.
That lead evaporated quickly when St. Michael-Albertville's Mason Mills, the defending state champion at 113 pounds, won by fall at 2:11 of the 120-pound match, evening the match 6-6.
Mills' victory started a run by St. Michael-Albertville, which won six of the next seven matches. The Knights earned 14 bonus points during that run, building a 32-9 lead that, at the time, seemed insurmountable.
Hastings' comeback began when Ian Pepple pulled out a 3-1 victory over Noah Torgerson at 170. Pepple had been defeated handily by Torgerson during the season.
After Jericho Cooper's victory made it 32-15, Hastings went on its own run. Derrick Steinke and Austin LeFlay each picked up unexpected pins, setting up the finish.
LeFlay, a senior 220 pounder, said needing a pin to stay alive required a large helping of self-motivation. "I just get to a level of [anger] that I can't come back from," he said.
Clemons, a senior heavyweight, said knowing he needed a pin to clinch the match actually took a little stress off him. "You can do anything you want because the only thing that's going to win that match is a pin," he said. "It frees your mind a little bit."
Haneberg admitted that he didn't see the result happening until it actually happened.
"When our heavyweight put him on his back," he said. "That was the time when I first saw this could happen. I'm still super shocked. I can't really take it in right now."
Simley's wrestling team has been so dominant all season that the question typically has been not who won but by how much.
That remained true Thursday. The Spartans, their depth proving too much for New Prague to overcome in the final, won their fifth consecutive Class 2A championship, 46-20.
It's the 16th state championship for Simley (30-0).
Austin Grzywinski started things for Simley with a tight victory at 106 pounds, getting a point for an escape for a 2-1 UTB (ultimate tie breaker) victory over New Prague's Lawson Eller.
That was as close at the Trojans (30-3) would get. Simley earned seven points in its next three matches — a major decision at 113 and pins at 120 and 126 pounds — to open a 20-0 lead.
The Spartans bumped their lead to 28-0 before New Prague's undefeated Koy Buesgens, who will wrestle at North Carolina State in college, picked up a 25-9 technical fall at 145, giving New Prague its first team points of the match and making the score 28-5.
New Prague's spirits were buoyed after Buesgens' victory. The Trojans ripped off three more victories, cutting the deficit to 28-14. But it only delayed the inevitable. Simley is at its best at the upper weights and closed out the match with three pins in the final four matches.
The key to staying focused when you have a target on your back, as Simley had all season, is never looking too far ahead, said senior heavyweight Soren Herzog.
"The biggest thing was getting our minds prepared to perform," he said. "If we were all mentally out of it, that's when we were going to see holes that could cause us to lose."
Senior 220-pounder Gavin Nelson was a running back and linebacker on Simley's Class 4A football state championship team in December.
"It's been so much fun getting a state championship in football and then in wrestling," he said. "The most fun season I've ever had. And the fastest. It's gone by so fast."
Jackson County Central coach Nate Hanson knew that he'd need to put his team through the wringer if he wanted it to be ready to defend the Class 1A state championship.
So he scheduled the toughest teams he could. The Huskies lost seven times during the season, but all of them came at the hands of exceptional opponents. Four came to teams from outside Minnesota and the other three to some of the best teams in Minnesota.
It paid off Thursday with a 43-19 victory over Caledonia/Houston for the Huskies' second consecutive 1A title and the ninth in program history.
"We wrestled a really, really tough schedule," Hanson said. "I think we wrestled six nationally ranked teams during the year. So we've been through some wars. It's a been a tough fight."
Jackson County Central (21-7) also spent the season battling injuries.
"We've been banged up all year," Hanson said, "We didn't wrestle our full lineup until the section finals."
Tied 10-10 after four team matches, Jackson County Central took control with four straight victories from 132 pounds through 152 pounds.
"That stretch, those were all toss-up matches on paper, where both wrestlers were either ranked or had very similar records," he said. "That was big. That kind of turned the tide."
After taking the lead 22-10, the Huskies hit the throttle, winning four of the last five matches, three by pin.
Hanson said Jackson County Central's victory proves his team is right there with the other bluebloods of the wrestling world. "This is our ninth title," he said. "We are a hardworking bunch of guys. We're right there with all of them."