After a holiday tournament week filled with exceptional games and unique matchups one might never have imagined, it's time to get down to the basics of the winter season: two months of conference play designed to determine who plays whom when the postseason rolls around.

Perhaps the most highly anticipated event takes place Thursday, when the Apple Valley wrestling team, fresh from a fine showing in The Clash Duals in Rochester over the weekend — including a victory over Class 3A, No. 1 St. Michael-Albertville — travels to Shakopee to take on the Sabers. It's not what might happen on the mat that is generating interest, it's who will be sitting in the head coach's chair for Shakopee that makes this one notable.

Jim Jackson, who compiled a remarkable 618-27-3 record (a 95.3 winning percentage) and headed up 14 state championship teams in 17 years as Apple Valley's head coach, is in his first year as the head coach at Shakopee. This will be the first time Jackson, whose Sabers are ranked No. 5 in 3A, is pitted against his former team.

The match starts at 7 p.m. Expect a packed gym at Shakopee High School.

jim paulsen

Elsewhere this week

Nordic Ski Racing

Saturday: Mesabi East Invitational at Giants Ridge Ski Area, Biwabik. The largest high school Nordic ski racing meet in the nation has become so popular, meet organizers have been forced to refuse potential entrants, setting a cutoff at 1,300 boys' and girls' participants. Boys: 5K classic, 10 a.m.; 5K freestyle, 1:30 p.m. Girls: 5K classic, noon; 5K freestyle, 3 p.m.


Saturday: Edina vs. Hill-Murray at Aldrich Arena, 7:30 p.m. Two traditional powers meet in a rematch of a game played Wednesday in the final round of the Schwan Cup tournament, won by Edina 5-4 on a late goal by Bram Scheerer.


Saturday: Two of the biggest meets of the season just happen to take place on the same day. The 16-team Minnesota Girls' Gymnastics Officials Association (MGGOA) meet at Roseville High School features both defending 2015 state champions, Roseville (2A) and Detroit Lakes (1A). The Faribault Invitational, another 16-team affair, also boasts a top-notch field, including four ranked Class 2A team — No. 2 Owatonna, No. 4 Rosemount, No. 7 Cambridge-Isanti and No. 8 East Ridge. Both meets begin at 11 a.m.