The smiles were faint, the fan reaction polite, at best.
St. Michael-Albertville and Apple Valley battled to an unsatisfying 28-28 in the Class 3A championship match. By Minnesota State High School League rules, there is no tiebreaker in the championship match, meaning the 2013 record books will forever list co-champions.
“I’m not sure how to feel,” said St. Michael-Albertville heavyweight Michael Kessler. “I’m happy, but it would have been nice to win it.”
“We had a goal of becoming state champions and that’s what we are,” said St. Michael-Albertville coach Dan Lefebvre with the aplomb of a politician. “People might not like co-champions, but these are two very good teams. We both wrestled well.”
For most of the night, the match that high school wrestling fans had anticipated and argued about for an entire season lived up to its billing.
The Eagles, wrestling with an enormous chip on its shoulder and utilizing expert tinkering from head coach Dalen Wasmund, fought off everything the No. 1-ranked Knights threw at them and emerged with its eighth-straight Class 3A championship.
“This was an epic battle between two great teams,” Wasmund said. “We’ve been building up to this all season. Our guys came out on a mission.
As expected, St. Michael-Albertville led through the lower weights, building up a 19-7 lead. But Apple Valley dominated the middle weights and made Wasmund look like a genius when he bumped two of his best wrestlers, Mark Hall and Daniel Woiwor, up a weight. Both won, turning a three-point deficit into a six-point lead.
Apple Valley wrestled conservatively and intelligently thereafter, giving up close losses in three of the final five weights but holding on for the tie.
Perhaps the fans and the teams themselves were unsure how to feel in the aftermath, but Woiwor didn’t care about not winning the battle.In his eyes, the Eagles won the war.
“The empire did not fall,” he said. “When I look at the back of this medal, it says 'Class 3A State Champions.'”