The Rosemount gymnasium kept getting warmer as the fans filed in, eventually leading to a standing-room-only crowd. Fans wanted to get a glimpse of the most anticipated section wrestling team championship match in recent memory.
The state’s two best teams in Class 3A — nationally ranked Apple Valley and Shakopee —were set to square off Feb. 17 for the Section 2 crown. It was a matchup more befitting a state final. Instead, only one would make the quarterfinal field in the state tournament.
“We have very little room for error,” Apple Valley coach Dalen Wasmund said before the clash. “We’re going to have to be almost perfect to beat them.”
His squad was just that, earning a few surprising victories for a 28-19 victory. It avenged a one-point regular-season loss to Shakopee, which is coached by former Apple Valley mentor Jim Jackson, in a South Suburban Conference dual.
“That’s what Apple Valley wrestling is all about,” Wasmund told Jim Paulsen of the Star Tribune after the victory. “We battle, we don’t go down easily.”
The victory spring-boarded Apple Valley to its 12th consecutive state championship and 25th overall with a 30-24 victory over Anoka in the finals. It marked the Eagles’ 35th consecutive trip to the state tournament, started during the 1982-83 season. That happens to coincide with the year Wasmund started his teaching career at Apple Valley.
“In the end, that’s what we expect,” Wasmund said. “My hat’s off to every guy on this team.”
Apple Valley junior heavyweight Gable Steveson continued his outstanding career by winning his third consecutive individual championship. His most jaw-dropping performance was his last, pinning Anoka’s Brandon Frankfurth in 11 seconds. Steveson, who committed to Minnesota, hasn’t lost a match since eighth grade.
Once again, Eagles best on the hardwood
It was an odd-numbered year, so you know what that means: another Class 4A state championship for Apple Valley’s boys’ basketball program.
The Eagles, seeded third, defeated the top two seeds to win their third crown in five years. The other championships were in 2013 and 2015.
Junior point guard Tre Jones concluded a phenomenal state tournament with 24 points, 18 rebounds and five assists in a 60-54 victory over No. 1-ranked and previously unbeaten Champlin Park in the finals. The victory avenged a regular-season, 91-84 setback to the Rebels back in December.
“He has the unique ability to dominate play and make a significant impact on the game offensively, defensively and on the boards,” Apple Valley coach Zach Goring said before the state tournament.
That came on the heels of a triple-double (19 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists) in a 77-54 triumph over No. 2-rated Maple Grove in the semifinals. He opened the tournament with 34 points, 12 rebounds and three assists as the Eagles (30-2) overcame a 12-point second-half deficit to beat Cretin-Derham Hall 76-67. Jones was honored as the state’s boys’ basketball Gatorade Player of the Year before the tournament.
“I’m still a little bit in shock that we were able to do this with a different group of kids,” Goring said after winning his third title. “I thought we could get to the state tournament this year. After that, I didn’t know.”
Back to prominence for Panthers gymnasts
Lakeville North’s gymnastics team returned to its glory years and gave an indication of what lies ahead in the near future.
The Panthers won the Class 2A state meet team championship with a score of 149.325, their first title since 2003, when the district was one high school. The district split into two high schools in 2005.
Coach Teri Homan’s squad had only one senior on its roster, and her score didn’t count in any of the four events — vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise — in the state meet. It was led by junior Delaney Gipp and freshmen Anna Altermatt, Ashley Goodlund and Rachel Steiner.
The Panthers won the Class 2A title nine times in an 11-year span from 1993 through 2003.
St. Paul United finishes second, again
St. Paul United, a combined program of St. Paul Academy and Visitation, was the runner-up to Blake for the second consecutive year in the Class 1A girls’ hockey state tournament. The Bears beat St. Paul United 6-2 in the finals.
Seniors Maggie Conners and Joie Phelps and junior Bergen Kobienia were named to the all-tournament team. Phelps was also named to the team two years ago.