Clash XII title stays in Minnesota
Organizers of the Clash National Wrestling Duals couldn't have scripted a better ending than the one they received Saturday night at UCR Regional Sports Center.
Apple Valley, ranked No. 3 in the nation, and Oak Park River Forest of Illinois, ranked No. 2 in the nation, brought identical 2-0 records into the much-anticipated final dual of the tournament's championship bracket.
With the national duals title on the line, the teams battled to a 27-all tie heading into the showdown's final match at 152 pounds. That's where Apple Valley's Dayton Racer delivered a cluch 4-2 victory over OPRF's Matthew Rundell, giving the Eagles a 30-27 victory and the Clash XII title.
Valley won titles at Clash VII, VIII and IX, but the Eagles had been in a two-year drought until Saturday.
The victory likely will propel the Eagles to No. 2 in the national polls. Blair Academy holds the No. 1 spot.
"These guys were really focused," Apple Valley coach Dalen Wasmund said. "And they're a resilient bunch. We told them that even some tough kids were going to lose, and they just had to stay focused. This was just a tough battle with a good, good team."
Early in Saturday's championship dual against Oak Park River Forest, everything went right for the Eagles.
The dual started at 160 pounds, which meant nationally ranked Mark Hall would start things off for the Eagles. Hall ran into a stud in OPRF's Kamal Bey, who's also nationally ranked.
But Hall needed just 1:40 to put Bey on his back and secure the win.
"That set the tone," Wasmund said. "That's why we cut Mark down to 160, for that match. It went how we hoped, and it's definitely a big lift for him to get a pin there."
Davonte Mahomes, ranked No. 10 in the nation at 170, tied it up for OPRF, but the Eagles won the next four matches to make the turn up 21-6. Conceivably, all four of those matches were tossup matches.
Eighth-grader Gable Steveson won a close decision at 182, and older brother Bobby Steveson won one of the dual's most important matches at 195 pounds. He went to a fourth overtime against No. 2-ranked Andre Lee, who was unbeaten at the Clash entering the match. Steveson won the flip in the fourth OT, and he secured his escape point and the 3-2 win.
After Paul Cheney's win at 220, Lord Hyeamang scored a huge pin over another ranked wrestler from OPRF at heavyweight.
Hyeamang has been one of Apple Valley's most improved wrestlers this season. He might even be one of the most improved wrestlers in the state.
"Lord has been really focused, and he's getting better and better," Wasmund said. "He works very hard, and that's why good things are happening for him."
After the turn, OPRF took over. It won four consecutive matches to pull within 21-20.
Maolu Woiwor secured six big points for Valley at 132.
The Eagles shuffled their lineup for the final three matches, and it almost proved costly.
Wasmund moved Seth Gross up to 145 to slide Brock Morgan in at 138. The move back-fired, though. Morgan lost a major decision to Isaiah White, and nationally ranked Larry Early defeated Gross, who's also nationally ranked at 138.
"We made that switch, hoping to get one of the two," Wasmund said. "It's just a couple of really good kids wrestling there, so anything can happen when you get kids on the mat like that."
With those two losses, Apple Valley's lead was gone and the dual went to the final match tied at 27-all.
Racer delivered, though, against No. 2-ranked Rundell.
"This was a great win for us," Wasmund said. "I'm lucky to have a great group of kids. We work hard together. This really is a great group."