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Jake's Takes: Grappling Guru breaks down sections

The winter sports season always feels the longest. The cold weather and early nights sometimes make it all feel like a blur of games and matches as we enter the Willmar gymnasium for the 20th time of the season.

ACGC's Skye Powers, right, tries to gain position on Minnewaska's Tyler VanLuik during Thursday's Quad at ACGC High School. Jake Schultz / Tribune
ACGC's Skye Powers, right, tries to gain position on Minnewaska's Tyler VanLuik during a November 2017 quad at ACGC High School in Grove City. Jake Schultz / Tribune

The winter sports season always feels the longest. The cold weather and early nights sometimes make it all feel like a blur of games and matches as we enter the Willmar gymnasium for the 20th time of the season.

Don't worry, though. We've finally reached the point where it all truly matters and each match can end the season. Yes, Jim Mora, I'm talking playoffs.

Now, as the ironically nicknamed Grappling Guru, it seems only right that I break down the area's section wrestling tournaments for your reading pleasure. One caveat: Willmar is a virtual shoe-in for its seventh-straight trip to the Class AAA state tournament and is the top seed heading into Saturday's Section 8AAA tournament. For that reason, I'm just going to skip right over that tournament. Fingers crossed this isn't a jinx.

Section 4A

About a month ago now, I asked whether ACGC wrestling was "back." At the time I wasn't so sure, but these Falcons are out to remind people they are a premier program. ACGC has bounced in and out of the rankings all season and currently sit just outside of The Guillotine's top 12, nestling in as the top team in the Lean and Mean category, just ahead of KMS (more on them later).

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Sibley East is the top-ranked Section 4A team at No. 12 but that didn't stop ACGC from reaching the top seed in the tournament. In truth, it's a two-team battle for a trip to the state tournament, with no other team coming all that close to the top two. The Section 4A tournament takes place Friday in Norwood-Young America, meaning the Falcons will need to win three matches in one day to advance.

Sibley East is a formidable opponent but if you're rooting for ACGC, you may just be in luck. In the lone meeting between these two squads this season, the Falcons topped the Wolverines 34-29 on Jan. 16.

Section 5A

Of all of the section wrestling tournaments in the area, this one has my eye the most. It's the only tournament that's already underway, having started Tuesday with wrestle-ins and opening rounds going exactly as planned. The top four teams advanced, meaning KMS is taking on BBE and Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville will look to hold off Minnewaska.

LPGE/Browerville is the top seed and is ranked No. 5 by The Guillotine, just ahead of the Jaguars, who happen to have the two-seed. KMS makes it into the Lean and Mean category but this is a team with one top-ranked wrestler in Will Magaard and a pair of other ranked wrestlers, meaning the Saints cannot be overlooked.

The semifinal and final rounds take place Friday in Belgrade, meaning some of the top Class A wrestling talent will be on full display. The semifinal match between BBE and KMS is a local wrestling fan's dream with plenty on the line. KMS likely has the upper hand in the opening three or four weight classes but from 132 pounds to 195 pounds have the possibility of going either way. That's a wide range, sure, but I'm not a confident enough man to pick each individual match.

Whichever team advances to the final has to run into LPGE/Browerville, which holds the advantage with wins against both BBE and KMS so far this season. Just based on common opponent scores, KMS appears to have a slight lead over BBE but that is far from definitive. The Wolves topped the Jaguars 46-15 and defeated the Saints at the KMS Quad 34-28.

Also, don't forget about Minnewaska. The Lakers appear to be on the outside looking in but they still have a shot in the technical sense, taking on LPGE/Browerville in the semifinals Friday. The Lakers defeated Paynesville 42-31 to reach the semifinals.

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Section 3AA

We'll go quick here. United is the No. 2 seed in the north sub-section but they have quite the road ahead starting Thursday. Marshall is the top seed in the sub-section and has a 55-19 win on Feb. 8 to hold over United should both teams reach the sub-section final. Marshall will take on the winner of MAHACA and New London-Spicer, one of two wrestle-in matches kicking off a 6 p.m. Thursday in Marshall.

On the other side of the bracket is top-seeded Fairmont/Martin County West, the No. 6 team in the state according to The Guillotine. With no disrespect to United, who will likely have one or two wrestlers reach the individual state tournament, Section 3AA will probably prove to be too tough.

Section 6AA

The local team in this tournament is Litchfield and they sure have their work cut out for them Saturday in St. Cloud. The Dragons is the tenth-ranked team in Class AA and the two-seed in Section 6AA behind No. 5 Foley. This may be the deepest section tournament in the area, however, with Annandale/Maple Lake and Big Lake also earning spots in the Lean and Mean category. That doesn't even count Becker, who enters the tournament just ahead of Annandale/Maple Lake as the four seed.

Foley is the rightful No. 1 seed, having gone to the state tournament each of the last 10 years, but this could be the year of the Dragon. In one previous meeting this season, Foley emerged victorious by a narrow 30-25 margin. The match, however, featured five matches decided by two points or less. Litchfield won three of those five, but if one of the other two can also turn around to the Dragons favor then they could be statebound.

Before that, though, Litchfield will likely have to take down Dassel-Cokato, followed by either Big Lake, the three-seed, or Albany, the six-seed.

The Dragons are a deep team with five wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in their weight class by The Guillotine, including Ezra Kaping (126) and Logan Nelson (160), who are each No. 3. There is a pretty good chance the final match between Litchfield and Foley will be decided at 285 pounds between Foley's Mitch Trigg and Chase Liestman. Trigg is the No. 2 wrestler and Liestman is No. 8 and Trigg's ranking proved to be the correct one with a 3-1 decision over Liestman Feb. 1. That match, however, could change Litchfield's fate come Saturday.

Related Topics: WRESTLING
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