Apple Valley's wrestling team gathered for its traditional seniors' practice Tuesday afternoon, where family members showed up to send the team off to its 29th consecutive state tournament. At the end, the group was told by an assistant coach, "You have a chance to make some history."

Indeed, the Eagles are heavy favorites Thursday to win their 19th overall and fifth consecutive championship. The nation's top-ranked high school team also will have a representative in 13 of the 14 weight classes on Friday and Saturday during the individual tournament.

Among them is the wrestler who has been most impressive of all, the one they call "The Franchise."

Destin McCauley moved to Apple Valley from South Dakota before seventh grade. He has a chance this weekend to win his fifth state championship in the six years since that arrival.

"The seniors looked so big back then," McCauley recalled. "I thought it would take forever to get here. For me, this week is a big deal. We want to be on top."

That's been a familiar spot. McCauley, the nation's No. 1-ranked high school wrestler at 152 pounds, has been a success from the moment he arrived in Apple Valley.

He became Minnesota's first seventh-grade state champion when he won at 103 pounds in 2006.

He broke the state's career wins record when he notched victory No. 263 in January, and added the all-time pins mark (184) last month in Apple Valley's regular-season finale.

McCauley has committed to the University of Wisconsin but will put off enrollment until 2012. He leaves March 21 for a stint at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado with sights on the 2012 Olympics in London.

McCauley will finish his high school courses on the Internet and return for graduation ceremonies -- and maybe even prom -- at the school where he's clearly left his mark.

"He was given a lot of God-given talents, but he's enhanced that by working hard," coach Jim Jackson said. "He's one of a kind, and we're very fortunate to have been a part of him. He's such a great athlete. I guarantee you he could play defensive back, running back -- anything he wanted. He chose wrestling, and he's made everyone around him better."

Through all the wins, pins and championships -- he also has a pair of U.S. junior titles to his credit -- perhaps the best thing to happen to McCauley was his loss to Bloomington Kennedy's Robby Fischer in the 2009 Class 3A final.

"That's been pushing me; I look back at that all the time," McCauley said. "Whenever I'm getting tired or don't want to work hard, I'll think back to that and be like, 'Do I want that again?'"

McCauley hasn't lost since.

"I want to get one percent better each day," he said. "If I do that, how can anyone hang with me? I can only grow."