Every time Apple Valley appears vulnerable, the Eagles show why they have made state tournament appearances a yearly event and state championships almost as common. Shakopee defeated Apple Valley in an early December dual meet and was ranked No. 1 in Class 3A for much of the season. But Apple Valley leaned on big-match experience and pulled out a 28-19 victory over Shakopee in the Section 2 final, qualifying for its 35th consecutive state tournament. The Eagles are the clear Class 3A favorite. ... No. 2-seeded Anoka, with the best shot at upending the Eagles, lost 34-15 when the teams met in The Clash Duals in late December. ... Never count out No. 3 St. Michael-Albertville, which has wrestled Apple Valley in the final six times in the past seven years, including a 28-28 tie in 2013 that resulted in co-champions being named.
Inside talk: Don’t be surprised if a well-known head coach steps down at tournament’s end.
A strong case can be made to call Apple Valley junior heavyweight Gable Steveson the best high school wrestler in the world. Steveson, a two-time 220-pound state champion, hasn’t lost a match since eighth grade. He also has won two consecutive World Cadet Freestyle championships at 220.5 pounds. ... Shakopee senior 132-pounder Brent Jones is seeking his fourth state championship. Jones, who has committed to Minnesota, has won titles at 106, 120 and 126 pounds. ... Jones’ teammate, Alex Lloyd, is hoping to defend his 2016 145-pound title. ... Another Shakopee wrestler, 113-pounder Aaron Cashman, finished second at 106 pounds last year wrestling for Mound Westonka ... Cashman lost to St. Michael-Albertville junior Patrick McKee, who is seeking the 120-pound title. ... St. Michael-Albertville’s Jake Allar (38-2) won the 152-pound championship last year and will wrestle for the 170-pound crown. Allar’s only two losses this season are to Kasson-Mantorville’s Brady Berge.
106: Reid Ballantyne, Stillwater, 41-0; 138, Tyler Eischens, Anoka, 42-0; 145, Peyton Robb, Owatonna, 33-0; 182, Brandon Moen, Owatonna, 30-0; 195, Mike Delich, Eastview, 32-0; heavyweight, Gable Steveson, Apple Valley, 35-0.