What a year a difference makes for the Shakopee High School Wrestling team. Last year the team was plagued by a team wide skin infection forcing the already depleted team to withdraw from The Clash XVI after three matches and going 1-2.
This year the team hobbled into The Clash XVII hoping to improve on last season showing. Expectations were not high for the #1 Minnesota ranked Sabers and this tournament was going to be a test of their mettle.
“We have had some adversity due to injuries to some of our regular varsity starters, so we have to juggle our line up and lean on some younger inexperience kids to produce for us. So it’s a great opportunity for those younger guys to contribute but we have to remain measured knowing this will not be easy for them.”, said Head Coach Jim Jackson
Jackson knows the demands of The Clash well. An event that brings to Rochester Minnesota not only some of the best teams in the state but also in the country. Thirty-two teams travel to the annual event now in its seventeenth year. One of those teams is Vacaville, CA, which has attended all seventeen tournaments.
Jackson noted, “This is a great event here in Minnesota. It allows our team to compete against some of the nation’s best teams and wrestle against different teams we would not regularly meet up with during the season.”
This year Shakopee would not face any common Minnesota teams as they had in years past.
The Shakopee’s first action of the two-day event came against Grant, IL. Starting at 132 lbs. the Sabers jumped out to a quick 26-0 lead before dropping a match to Grant. From there the Sabers went on another roll winning the remaining seven matches for a 62-6 victory. Sabers registered falls from Cole Sutrick, Brandon Kidd, Joey Johnson, Tommy Johnson, Ben Lunn and AJ Smith.
Next up for the Sabers were the Bulldogs of Bettendorf, IA. The dual featured some back and forth matches with each team collecting up victories. It came down to the last four matches with Shakopee holding a narrow 26-21 lead. Starting with 106lbs. Pierson Manville, earning a 17-4 major decision, Paxton Creese with a nine second fall at 113 lbs., Ben Lunn adding a 4-0 decision and Christian Seals adding another fall to close the door on Bettendorf 45-21.
The last match-up of the evening was against number one seeded Waukee, IA of the C pool. Waukee got off to a quick start on the Sabers winning the first three matches to a 14-0 lead. Senior Brandon Kidd stopped the bleeding with a fall at 160 lbs. to shorten the deficit to 8. Waukee responded with another fall going back up by 14. Sabers feeling their backs up against the was came back with back to back decisions from Connor Raines and Joey Johnson and a fall by Tommy Johnson narrowing the score to 20-18.
After Waukee registered another fall at heavy weight to extend their lead to eight, Shakopee lighter weights got to work again as they did in the previous dual winning the remaining five matches with falls from Pierson Manville and John Kroll, Paxton Creese adding a technical fall and two decisions from Ben Lunn and Seth Bakken for a 41-26 win placing the undefeated Sabers in the Championship Round Robin the next day, a position Shakopee had never done before.
In the Championship bracket the Sabers did not have the day they were hoping for.
Up first for the Sabers was Vacaville, CA who won their pool with wins over North Scott, Eldridge, Apple Valley and Denver, IA. The dual started at 152lbs. with each team winning three of the first six matches with Shakopee holding a slight lead 12-10. Vacaville pulled ahead 12-13 with a decision at heavyweight and Shakopee responded with three wins in a row at 106, 113 and 120 to regain the lead 22-13. With four bouts remaining, Vacaville came away with wins in all four to steal away the win from Shakopee 22-28.
Assistant Marcus Levesseur offered, “This really hurts! We need to close it out when we are holding the lead. We have to do better”
WAVERLY-SHELL ROCK, IA
Hoping to rebound after the lost to Vacaville, Shakopee next faced a highly touted Waverly-Shell Rock squad from Iowa. In a match that featured four lead changes, the tightly contested dual featured hard-fought matches. Shakopee was able come back to build a twelve-point lead after losing 3 of the first 8 bouts with bonus victories from Creese, Lunn and Bakken and a AJ Smith receiving a forfeit at 132. With two matches remaining Waverly-Shell Rock needed two falls to tie the Sabers to win dual on criteria. Waverly-Shell Rock pressured hard picking up a fall at 138 to bring them within six and the improbable comeback. At 145 Shakopee sophomore Sam Treml held off the fall and kept the loss to a four-point major decision to Cayden Langreck, retaining the victory for Shakopee 34-32.
OAK PARK RIVER FOREST, IL
Sabers were facing an uphill battle vs Oak Park River Forest knowing they would have to forfeit two matches due to injuries giving up twelve points.
“This tournament sometimes becomes a war of attrition.”, said Assistant Coach Derek Hardwood. “It’s hard to stick with a team as good as OPRF and already be light, then lose a few more guys to injury.”, he added.
The Sabers just could not get anything going in the match winning just four of the fourteen match ups for a season worse 17-51 loss.
For their efforts Shakopee was able to earn a fourth-place finish in the 32-team tournament which was the Sabers best showing yet at The Clash.
“It’s tough to come in here and win in this tournament. We have been able to get by all season with some holes and everyone is stepping up. But we need to heal up and get back after it Monday as we begin to head into the final weeks of the season with some big match-ups for us in the next few weeks.”, added Jackson.
Tommy Johnson went undefeated for the Sabers winning all six of his matches.
Paxton Creese earned his 100th win with a Technical Fall 20-5 over Bailey Roybal (Waverly - Shell Rock)