Mike Kessler had dreamed of this moment.
With his team's back against the wall, trailing Apple Valley 28-25, the 285-pound heavyweight for the Knights had the state tournament team title in his hands. A decision over Lord Joshua Hyeamang would mean a 28-all tie, and a share of the state championship.
Kessler pulled through, getting a second period escape and scoring a point with his aggressive shots at Hyemang's legs, forcing the big Eagle into a stall, to earn a 2-0 win.
It was a fitting end with more than 15,000 fans watching the state's top two "big school" teams tangle.
Apple Valley, with its history, was admittedly "the underdog" much of the year. The Eagles, however, were everyone's champion in this theater until someone finally knocked them off.
STMA was the squad nationally recognized, considered the state's best after winning The Clash down in Rochester during the holidays, what seems like a lifetime ago.
The Knights started well. Mitch McKee picked up a pin at 106 pounds and STMA took a 6-0 lead. With Tommy Thorn's major decision at 120 pounds, it was 10-4, and Cole Sladek would make it 19-7 with a disqualification victory over Dustin Bethke, a match Sladek led 22-7.
The DQ turned out to be a key to the Knights' tie. A technical fall, which Sladek was obviously shooting for with his high point count, is just five points. Bethke's injury and disqualification gave the Knights six.
But as good as they felt at 138, the Knights suffered some tough losses. Lincoln Mallinger was dominated by Dayton Racer in a 16-0 technical fall, giving up five points in a match the Knights felt they could win, or at least challenge the Eagles.
And Mark Hall was dominant at 160 pounds for AVHS, as expected, getting a pin and giving the Eagles their first win at 160 pounds.
The Knights fell behind by six points when Jordan Joseph lost to Daniel Woiwor, and it seemed like the Eagles dominant run might continue with big hitters like Donald Johnson and Paul Cheney left to go.
But Jake and Ricky Briggs battled, Ricky getting a win and Jake losing by decision, keeping the lead within six.
And when Mitch Eull pulled out a 5-4 decision over Cheney in the second No. 1 vs. No 2 match of the day, it all fell to Kessler.
Unlike the regular season and other tournaments, the state tournament does not use criteria to break ties. If they had, according to former Knights head coach Gregg Greeno, STMA would've won.
"They had two six-point victories in their seven wins. The Eagles had ones. So, on a regular match, it's a win for STMA. Instead, it's the state tournament, so you have co-champs," he said on KRWC radio Thursday night.
Now, the Knights will gear up their individual wrestlers to shoot for individual glory beginning tomorrow at the Xcel Energy Center.