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Simley hoping for another shot at Brandon

Since action wrapped up at last season's The Clash IX, the Simley wrestling team has been craving a rematch.

The Spartans desperately want another shot at Brandon, Fla.

Simley and Brandon met in the championship bracket last season, but that won't be the case at The Clash X, which is Friday and Saturday at UCR Regional Sports Center.

That's because Simley and Brandon find themselves in the same bracket on Day 1. So if a rematch happens, it will be at 8 p.m. Friday in the finals of Bracket C.

In last season's meeting, Brandon earned a 40-23 victory over the Spartans. But Simley lost three matches in that dual by two points, and in another match they were unexpectedly pinned late in the third period.

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That's why Simley coach Will Short so badly wants a rematch.

"Truthfully, we just felt that dual could have gone a lot differently," Short said. "If we could have won those close matches, it's a much different dual. But we're looking forward to getting another shot at proving ourselves."

Though Short would love a rematch with Brandon, earning that opportunity will be extremely difficult.

The Spartans likely will meet St. Michael-Albertville in the bracket semifinals on Friday. STMA had an outstanding showing at the Minnesota Christmas Tournament and is ranked No. 2 in the state in Class AAA.

Simley welcomes two starters back to its lineup — Juan Torres and Cody Hazelett — who were out during the Christmas Tournament.

But they also are losing a standout performer, who will not compete at The Clash due to an injury. (Short asked that the injured wrestler not be named prior to the event.)

"We're going to have all we can handle with (St. Michael-Albertville)," Short said. "That's going to be a tough dual for us to win. And if we can get past that, Brandon is going to be a very tough matchup for us. They're solid all the way through that lineup. And without our full lineup, it makes it that much tougher. But we're not whining, we're not complaining. We're still coming in trying to get the job done, and we love the challenge."

The Spartans have had a little added motivation entering The Clash. Short was not pleased with his team's performance at the Christmas Tournament despite a second-place finish.

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Short said the Spartans weren't as well-conditioned as they needed to be, which is rare for a program that prides itself on being in great shape. So ever since the Christmas Tournament, Simley has held two-a-day practices.

"We had a team meeting after that, and we decided two-a-days needed to happen," Short said. "I didn't feel like going into the Christmas Tournament that we were where we needed to be, and it showed. We didn't perform at a high level at several weights."

That was disappointing for Short on several levels. He felt after last season that this could be the best Simley team ever. But, though they're still a heavy favorite to win another Class AA state title, the Spartans just aren't as good as they were a season ago, Short said.

There's time to change that, though. And the Spartans are putting in the work required to reach that elite status.

Short is hoping the added effort in the wrestling room will show this weekend, though he's well aware nothing comes easy during The Clash.

"You know what, though? We love the challenge," Short said. "This is the kind of event my kids need. They need to be in these big matches; that's how you get battle tested, and it's how you push yourself to the next level. ... We've got some holes in our lineup, there's no doubt. And no, I don't think this is my best team ever. But I wouldn't trade this group of kids for any other team. They're hard workers, and I love the group I have."

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