With 21 state team titles and two national titles to its name, Apple Valley wrestling has come to be synonymous with winning.
“But you always worry if they’ll get complacent,” coach Dalen Wasmund said.
Fortunately for Apple Valley — and unfortunately for its competitors — this year’s squad contains a strong senior class and an overall veteran-heavy crew to lead the way toward a shot at state crown No. 22.
“To have kids that have been there and done that is always helpful,” Wasmund said. “This year, we have plenty of kids that have done that. There’s good leadership here. They’re strong workers and they help everyone fall in line.”
Wasmund is in his second year as head coach of the Eagles after replacing legend Jim Jackson, who registered a 619-26-3 overall mark with the program. Wasmund, a two-time state champion from Worthington High School, served as an assistant at Apple Valley for eight years until taking the head coaching job at Eagan in 1990. After 10 years at Eagan, he returned to Apple Valley as an assistant. He was named the 2011 National High School Assistant Wrestling Coach of the Year.
In his first year at Apple Valley, the Eagles wrestled St. Michael-Albertville to a tie at Xcel Energy Center last March, earning both programs the honor of co-champion. Apple Valley claimed seven individual state championships that weekend.
“I thought it was a great battle,” Wasmund said. “It was fun and exciting. We’re just hoping to get back there again and prove that we’re up to the task.”
The Eagles, who battled through some key injuries last year, are coping with injuries again. But they hope things won’t be as bad. The Eagles flexed their muscle against No. 2-ranked Prior Lake with a 57-9 victory on Dec. 6.
Apple Valley boasts 12 wrestlers who are ranked in the top 10 in their weight class.
Kyle Rathman is ranked fourth at 103 pounds. Gannon Volk is second at 120 pounds. Zach Chytka is sixth at 126. Maolu Woiwor, a two-time state champion, is second at 132.
Senior Seth Gross, a two-time state champion who signed with national wrestling powerhouse Iowa, is the state’s top wrestler at 138 pounds. Brock Morgan is fourth at 145 pounds. Dayton Racer, Mark Hall, Bobby Steveson and Paul Cheney are all No. 1 in their weight classes. Hall is going for his fourth state title. Racer, Steveson and Cheney are defending champions. Trom Peterson is ranked sixth and Lord Hyeamang seventh.
“We’ve got some good strong kids returning,” said Wasmund, a former Gophers All-America. “They’ve done a great job committing this year and putting in some extra time during the offseason. We’re a little bit more cohesive this year.”
Most important, he thinks this group has the attitude for its ninth consecutive title.
“It’s the tradition of the whole room,” Wasmund said. “I think they believe in that. The kids, the coaches and the program have done it before, so they ask for that.”