By Gary Larson
Mille Lacs County Times
In sports, as in life, there are challenges. And, there are really big challenges.
Milaca’s wrestling team will be looking at one of those really big ones when it begins its 10th appearance at the Class AA State Wrestling Team Tournament Thursday (today) at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
The Wolves, champions of Section 7AA, will be facing top-ranked Simley of Inver Grove Heights.
Describing Simley as a very good wrestling team falls quite a bit short. The Spartans are an awesome wrestling team.
•Simley enters the state meet ranked No. 1 in The Guillotine magazine’s Class AA poll.
•Simley, which is seeking its fifth Class AA state title in a row, is seeded No. 1 in the AA meet.
•The Spartans won the Section 4AA crown by shutting out all three or their opponents.
•Simley has 11 individuals ranked in their respective weight classes by The Guillotine. Six Spartans are ranked No. 1.
•Simley, 25-3, hasn’t lost to a Minnesota team this season. Its losses came at The Clash Dec. 30-31 at Rochester, perhaps the toughest prep tournament in the country. And, those setbacks were by narrow margins.
“No doubt, we’re facing a tremendous team and we’re a huge underdog,” said Milaca Coach Randy Zimmer. “All we can do is give it our best shot.
“The four teams that were seeded stand out above the other four teams, so we would be an underdog no matter who we faced. If we fall back into the consolation bracket, we’ll look at that as an opportunity.”
The Wolves, making their first state trip since 2010 when they stunned favored Scott West, are 28-9. They scored victories over two teams who advanced to the state team tournament, Pierz (Class A) and Little Falls (Class AAA).
“It’s been a good season,” said Zimmer. “The team worked hard to improve and we peaked at the right time. One of our goals was to get to the state tournament and we did.”
Milaca’s tentative lineup for the state meet will have:
•Sophomore Ray Hoffman (22-14) at 106 pounds.
•Junior Joey Curtis (37-3) at 113. Curtis is ranked No. 8 at 113 in the latest Guillotine rankings.
•Senior Joe Moscho (35-5) at 120.
•Senior Chris Newgard (32-10) at 126.
•Junior Jonah Gahm (36-4) at 132.
•Junior Mike Hoffman (7-8) at 138.
•Ninth-grader Aaron Moscho (2-5) at 145.
•Ninth-grader Austin Weidner (13-11) at 152.
•Ninth-grader Josh Otten (16-11) at 160.
•Senior Jake Earl (32-9) at 170.
•Senior Josh Majerus (11-17) at 182.
•Senior Justin Ladehoff (22-1) at 195. Ladehoff is ranked No. 4 at 195 in the latest Guillotine rankings.
•Sophomore Brandon Merten (22-14) at 220.
•Senior Jordan Ahner (28-13) at heavyweight.
Gahm has been hampered by a shoulder injury and his status was uncertain heading into the state meet. He placed fourth at 125 pounds at the Class AA Individual Tournament last year was ranked No. 2 at 132 in the latest Guillotine rankings.
Will Short, who’s been head coach at Simley 14 seasons after two seasons as head coach at Mora, said he wasn’t worried about his team looking past Milaca, which was ranked No. 7 in the latest Guillotine poll.
“Milaca has a great program and a great tradition,” said Short. “We will prepare for them like we would for any other good team. We won’t be looking past them.”
The Spartans will likely to with a lineup that will have:
•Sophomore Cortez Arredondo (23-18) at 103.
•Junior Kyle Gliva (24-2) at 113.
•Senior Pedro DeLao 19-6) or sophomore Zach Spychalla (19-17) at 120.
•Junior Juan Torres (26-8) at 126.
•Senior Stephen Mincey (26-11) at 132.
•Sophomore Mack Short (31-6) at 138.
•Junior Jake Short (40-1) at 145.
•Junior Nick Wanzek (38-4) at 152.
•Junior Logan Busch (8-4) at 160.
•Senior Steven Rud (20-14) at 171.
•Senior Micah Barnes (40-0) at 182.
•Senior Cody Hazelett (31-6) at 195.
•Ninth-grader Jack Ryan (32-8) at 220.
•Senior Matt Kadrlik (37-4) at heavyweight).
Gliva, DeLao, Jake Short and Wanzek are returning state champions. Jake Short is the coach’s son while Mack Short is Will Short’s nephew.
“We were anticipating having a good season, based on the wrestlers we had coming back,” said Short. “We’ve had some injuries but we’re pretty healthy heading into the state tournament.”
The Spartans qualified 10 wrestlers for the state individual meet.
“The state tournament is always a great time,” said Short, a standout wrestler at the University of Minnesota. “There are always some surprises.”