When it comes to Minnesota wrestling, Apple Valley is likely the first school that comes to mind. The powerhouse program has been unstoppable, entering Thursday’s Class 3A state team tournament at the Xcel Energy Center with 11 straight championships.
The Eagles, ranked No. 1 once again, got one of their biggest tests in the title match Thursday night against No. 2 Anoka. The Tornadoes entered the state championship for the first time in 27 years after taking third place last year. They got there by defeating Stillwater 48-13 in the quarterfinals and St. Michael-Albertville 38-26 in the semifinals.
Anoka kept Apple Valley on the ropes, holding a 24-20 lead with a Ben Lathrop decision at 195 pounds. But Apple Valley’s Tanyi Besong tied the dual at 24 with a major decision at 220 pounds and Gable Steveson, one of the top heavyweights in the country, picked up a pin in 22 seconds to give the Eagles a 30-24 dual win and their 12th consecutive title.
“I am so proud of our boys, their fight and drive,” Anoka head coach Todd Springer said. “We have fought through so much adversity with injuries and everything else. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Anoka fell behind 11-0 after the first two weight classes. Two straight wins by Colby Njos and Dylan Droegemueller got the Tornadoes back into it. The Tornadoes and Apple Valley began splitting matches from there.
Anoka was able to pull out close wins to stay within a few points.
Tyler Eischens picked up a key overtime win at 138 pounds and Jason Rollins scored a takedown right before the third period buzzer to win 4-2 at 152 pounds.
The Tornadoes still trailed 17-13 at that point. Calvin Germinaro-Nahring changed that quickly with a 19-4 technical fall for five team points at 160 pounds.
The back-and-forth battle continued with Apple Valley retaking the lead, 20-18, at 170 pounds with a narrow Jalen Thul 7-5 win. Dalton Miller gave the lead back to Anoka with a decision at 182 followed by Lathrop’s decision at 195.
Down 24-20, Apple Valley needed a win at 220 pounds or else Anoka would seal it with at least a seven-point lead. Besong got the job done and Steveson, who is undefeated this season, did his thing at heavyweight.
“He’s an amazing wrestler,” Springer said on Steveson. “We have an amazing heavyweight and he kind of just played with him there. But it puts a lot of pressure (on us). We knew we’d probably have to be up by at least 9-12 points near the end.”
Anoka finishes its team season 25-3 in duals.
“Amazing season,” Springer said. “This group has been together for awhile. They’ve been ninth grade state champions. They were Rumble on the Red national champions. They wrestled since kindergarten. (I’m) so proud and I can’t believe it’s done.”