Gallery: State wrestling team championships
“Last year’s experience will help,” Jackson said Wednesday. “Every match matters. Every point matters. One at a time.”
Shakopee took a 13-0 lead in the final, only to see it evaporate when Stillwater, which entered the match undefeated, won five straight matches to take a 19-13 lead.
That’s when the Sabers turned momentum in their favor.
Shakopee 160-pounder Connor Raines battled back from an early deficit to beat Antony Tuttle 6-4, cutting the Ponies’ lead to 19-16.
Carson Manville, still struggling to overcome compartment syndrome in his left arm, came out with a furious assault at 170 pounds, pinning Hudson Day in only 38 seconds. Shakopee had the lead again at 22-19, and never gave it back.
“Carson was great, he really was,” Jackson said. “His arm injury was really serious. He was out for a long time. He didn’t start training again until Feb. 4. He’s got his confidence back.”
For Shakopee (40-3), the victory was the culmination of a season of dealing with high expectations and bad memories. The Sabers’ loss in the 2018 finals was never far from their minds.
“Redemption is a strong motivator,” said junior 120-pounder Ben Lunn, who won his match 4-0 over Stillwater’s highly regarded Javon Taschuk. “Last year, taking second place was not only hard on us, it motivated us to work harder.”
While his team shared hugs and high-fives in the wake of the victory, Jackson stood beaming, taking it all in.
“It’s a relief, it’s a joy, it’s everything you can imagine,” he said. “It’s kind of a new beginning for me. It’s great to share it with these kids and these fans.”
Shakopee defeated Northfield 48-15 and Bemidji 40-24 to advance to the championship.
Stillwater routed Suburban East Conference rival East Ridge 42-17 and slipped past defending champion St. Michael-Albertville 29-20 to reach Thursday’s final.
St. Michael-Albertville beat Bemidji 38-24 in the third-place match and Northfield beat East Ridge 40-25 in the consolation final.