Either call it a blessing or an additional hurdle to overcome, but Minnesota high school wrestling presents a challenge other sports do not.
A week after being upset in the Section 1AAA team tournament, the Faribault wrestling team returns to action a little more than a week later Thursday in the Section 1AAA individual wrestling tournament at Rochester Century High School.
Many Falcons have the potential to wrestle against the same wrestlers from Albert Lea that ended their team season March 10.
“That’s what’s tough about our sport," Faribault co-coach Jared Simon said. "You go compete against a guy in a team tournament and then you have to go compete against him again the next week in an individual tournament. With what happened last week Wednesday, it was an eye opener for some of our kids that we have to keep the gas pedal down until the end of the season and we have to keep training as hard as we can until the last practice of the year.”
This season, the individual wrestling tournament changes formats. In past years, wrestlers that either won a section championship at their weight class or won a "true second" match advanced straight to the state tournament.
This season, in an attempt to trim down the pool of wrestlers advancing to state, anyone that advances to the section championship or a third-place match the advances to a regional state preliminary tournament Saturday at Farmington High School against the top four wrestlers from Section 2AAA in that weight class.
There, brackets are reseeded based first on if a wrestler was in the championship or third place match, and then by a wrestler's seed entering the section tournament. In the first round of the state preliminary, the top seed from Section 1 wrestles the fourth seed from Section 2 and vice versa, with the second and third seeds from opposite sections matching up.
Before any Falcons start that process, however, they need to advance out of a deep Section 1AAA.
“Out of the 12 guys we have registered for sections, we feel like 10 of them have a solid chance of advancing to Saturday," Simon said. "I felt our seeding went really well, and unfortunately some of the other teams are in the same situation we are where they have a guy out here or a guy out there. Some of the weight classes were a little surprising.”
The situation Simon is referencing is two varsity regulars for Faribault that are ineligible to wrestle at sections due to quarantining from a possible COVID-19 exposure.
"Pretty frustrating when you get kids working hard all year long to accomplish their goals and have to sit out for circumstances outside of their control,” Simon said.
Of the Falcons wrestling Thursday, nine enter as top-four seeds, while JT Hausen is seeded first in the 113-pound weight class, and Elliot Viland (120) and Gael Ramirez (145) both earned No. 2 seeds.
Outside of Cooper Leichtnam moving down a weight class to 152 and Cael Casteel doing to same down to 160, Faribault is also slotting its wrestlers into the weight classes they primarily competed in throughout the regular season, which sets the stage for some interesting rematches.
“We’re going to wrestle some boys that we’ve wrestled two or three times throughout the year already," Simon said. "That can be a tough task when someone has seen you two or three times throughout the year and they start to learn your style of wrestling and they prepare for that style of wrestling.”