The Simley wrestling team won its seventh Class 2A title in the past eight years on Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center, defeating Albert Lea 34-21.

But it was the first title for the program since the passing of head coach Will Short’s father, Jim. The legendary head coach, who had his hand in the school’s previous 10 championships, lost his battle with cancer in May.

“I know he was here tonight,” said Simley senior Jack Ryan, who concluded the final with a pin at heavyweight. “There’s a reason things went the way they went.

“He’s looking down on us and saying, ‘Ata way Simley.’ We’re not the only ones enjoying this. I’m sure he’s enjoying this, too.”

Honoring Jim on their T-shirts and socks all season, the victory didn’t begin well. The Tigers jumped out to a 12-4 lead over the Spartans with pins in two of the first three matches by Albert Lea eighth-grader Zach Glazier and sophomore Garrett Aldrich at 106 and 120 pounds, respectively.

Simley responded by winning the next four matches to take an 18-12 lead, including major decisions at 126 by eighth-grader Anthony Jackson and at 145 by senior Rodolfo DeLao.

The Spartans took the lead for good on wins by senior Mikie Kubes at 160 and sophomore Zach Moon at 170.

“Those were question marks at the beginning of the year,” Short said of the 160 and 170 weights. “They really came at the end of the year.… I’m really proud of how they performed.”