Weighing in Three wrestling storylines this winter
1. Season of the Sabers: It’s been impossible to pay attention to wrestling and not hear about Shakopee. The Sabers, now in their second season with former Apple Valley coach Jim Jackson at the helm, had two wrestlers sign with Minnesota in early November: 138-pounder Brent Jones, a three-time state champion, and 145-pounder Alex Crowe. Shakopee also has the talented Alex Lloyd, the defending Class 3A 145-pound champ, at 152 pounds. It bolstered its lineup with the addition of junior Aaron Cashman at 113 pounds and eighth-grader Carson Manville at 120 pounds. With a roster that loaded, it’s no surprise that Shakopee pulled off the biggest regular-season victory in school history when it defeated 10-time defending state champion Apple Valley 29-28 in the season opener. Can the Sabers ride that momentum all season?
2. What to make of Apple Valley? Seems that every couple of years, a team rises up to challenge Apple Valley and speculation begins about the end of the Eagles’ dynasty as champions. The Eagles’ lineup is still mighty, despite the graduation of Mark Hall, the best high school wrestler in state history. The Eagles boast the perhaps the toughest individual wrestler in the nation in junior Gable Steveson, a two-time state champ at 220 pounds. He hasn’t lost a match since eighth grade and added his second world championship last August. No matter what happens during the regular season, the Class 3A championship undoubtedly will run through the Valley.
3. Leaving home: Basketball is not the only sport where the top prep athletes in the state are seeking greener pastures — or at least newer mats. Mark Hall rejected Minnesota for Penn State. Kasson-Mantorville senior 160-pounder Brady Berge, a three-time state champion considered pound-for-pound the best wrestler in Minnesota, elected to become a Nittany Lion. All eyes have turned toward Steveson, whose brother Bobby wrestles for Minnesota. The younger Steveson has rebuffed constant queries into his mind-set, declining to answer questions about his college preference.