Patrick McKee of St. Michael-Albertville, right, controlled Brady Gross of Apple Valley (David Joles/Star Tribune)
Patrick McKee’s 6-1 victory over Brady Gross of Apple Valley in the 120-pound quarterfinals not only lifted the St. Michael-Albertville junior into Saturday’s semifinals, it was also the latest salvo fired in what has become a friendly family rivalry.
McKee, whose older brother Mitchell graduated last year as a three-time state champion, said he had a little extra motivation to beat Gross.
“I wrestled him a while ago, but Mitchell and his brother [Seth Gross] have a rivalry so I can’t let the Grosses get this one,” McKee said with a grin. “Mitchell beat him last year in Las Vegas, but then beat him once and lost to him twice in Texas. And Seth beat him twice this year.”
Mitchell is currently a freshman 133-pounder at Minnesota while Gross is a sophomore at the same weight at South Dakota State. Gross is ranked No. 2 in the nation by Intermat.com
Patrick, who is ranked No. 1 at his weight and improved to 43-1, said Mitchell’s absence has forced him to mature as a wrestler.
“It has made me take more of a leadership role and helped me to grow up a little bit more,” he said. “I don’t always have a big brother watching over me and taking care of me as much.”
Loss still hurts
Two weeks ago, three-time state champion Brent Jones of Shakopee suffered an unexpected loss at 132 pounds to Apple Valley’s Sebas Swiggum in the Section 2 finals. Jones won his first match Friday by technical fall and beat Mitchell Wilson of St. Francis 6-2 in the quarterfinals but said the loss, which was crucial to Apple Valley’s victory, still stings.
“It was a heartbreaker,” Jones admitted. “I didn’t do what I was supposed to do. I use it as fuel. I’ve tried to be perfect after that.”
Jones is one of five Shakopee wrestlers still alive in the Class 3A tournament field, along with Aaron Cashman at 113, Carson Manville at 126, Alex Lloyd at 145 and Alex Crowe at 152. While the Sabers weren’t able to solve the Apple Valley conundrum (who has?), he admitted that this was the best high school team he’s been a part of.
“Never been on a better team in high school,” he said. “We’ve got some nationally ranked guys on this team. To have them all get this far is a big accomplishment.”
Apple Valley junior heavyweight Gable Steveson is clearly the most dominant high school wrestler in the state. He’s not only ranked No. 1 at his weight, he’s ranked No. 1 in the nation and has two World Cadet championships at 220 pounds to his credit. Steveson pinned all but one wrestler he’s faced this season; he earned a tech fall in lone outlier.
Following two more first-period pins Friday, Steveson said that, despite his obvious superiority, he never takes his opponents lightly.
“When it’s time for business, I’m in my mode, in my zone,” he said.
While he hasn’t wrestled a full six-minute match all season, Steveson said that his work in the wrestling room keeps him sharp.
“Even though I’m dominant, I still put in the work I need to,” he said. “I’m just trying to be more dominant through this tournament and next year.”
Having a blast
Perhaps no one in the meet is having more fun than Eastview senior 195-pounder Mike Delich. He won his first match with a 12-second pin and moved into the semifinals with his second pin of the day, sticking Anoka’s Ben Lathrop at 4:50 to improve to 34-0. This is Delich’s last go-round with wrestling — he’s accepted an offer to be a preferred walk-on with the Gophers football team next year — and he’s determined to enjoy every minute.
“There’s not pressure on me at all,” he said, beaming broadly. “I’m not worried about who I wrestle or anything. I’m just going to go all-out to the finish and have as much fun as I can.”
Centennial sophomore Emily Shilson was trying to become the first female wrestler to win a match in state meet individual tournament but lost to Sartell’s Patrick Hesse 7-4 in the first round of the Class 3A 106-pound bracket. Hesse lost his quarterfinals match, which eliminated Shilson from wrestlebacks.