St. Michael-Albertville coach Dan Lefebvre started the season with a simple mantra of his team: New year, same success.
That gets put on the line tonight, his Knights play host to the marquis wrestling tournament of the year with the Section 7-3A meet tonight at St. Michael-Albertville High School.
To say Section 7 is tough is a massive understatement. It’s equivalent to, perhaps, the Lake Conference in hockey, or the Classic in football.
It’s a true gauntlet.
With St. Michael-Albertville ranked No. 3 in the state as the top seed, the section also includes challengers Cambridge (No. 4), Forest Lake (No. 6) and Coon Rapids (No. 7).
The quarterfinals start today at 4 p.m.
“The winner is very much up in the air,” said head coach Dan Lefebvre. “To have the home mat advantage is, I think, going to be huge. But we need every wrestling fan we have to show up out here for us tonight.”
The Knights will return to full strength for the first time since the holidays, when Nick Edling, the top-ranked wrestler at 220 pounds, went down with a hand injury.
Bennie Wilson has been filling in capably, and the junior will probably fill in for some of the early rounds during the team tournament. Wilson almost had the upset of the season against Foley, but fell in Triple OT.
Now 24-6, the Knights have picked up wins over Cambridge and Coon Rapids along the way this season, but they lost to Forest Lake, their probable opponent in a 6 p.m. semifinal at the high school.
Forest Lake picked up a 12-0 lead behind four straight decisions to start their match at the Coon Rapids Invite last December, before the Knights broke that string with a decision. FLHS led by as much as 21-3 before the Knights roared back, falling just short at 30-24.
The dual, if it happens, would feature 15 ranked wrestlers. STMA would be strong in the low and two highest weight classes (Edling and Mike Kessler), but needs to pick up wins in the middle.
Guys like Cole Sladek, Lincoln Mallinger and Ricky Briggs–who is returning from injury–would be key in that dual.
“We have a couple of kids banged up but they’ve been cleared to compete and they’re anxious to go,” Lefebvre said.
Action starts at 4 p.m. with the quarterfinal, with the semifinals at 6 p.m. The finals will be held at 8 p.m.
Individuals will wrestle next week in the Section 7 Tournament, to be held in Elk River Friday and Saturday.