Faceoff: Winter season is full-speed ahead
PHERSY: Hey Feldy, my high school wrestling just kicked off over the weekend, but you’ve had a few weeks to observe your area girls hockey teams. You’ve always had the chance to see the boys squads hit the ice a few times now, too. What are you seeing out there? Is there any team in the area that’s impressed you so far and who’s showing the most late-season potential?
FELDY: You know what stands out to me? I’m seeing “20” on the sleeves of some letter jackets that athletes are wearing. If I had earned a letter my jacket would have said “93.” *sigh* On the Ice, I’ve been impressed so far by the young talented players in town and the veteran leadership every team seems to have this year. Century has a handful of guys from the Bantam team that won a state VFW title last year. Mayo is improved, has two really good goalies, as well as Maddox Fleming, a super-skilled eighth-grade forward. And Lourdes, with a deep defensive corps led by Seth Karsell, has the bull’s-eye on its back in Section 1A.
PHERSY: Yes, I agree completely Feldy, you’re old. Very, very old. On the girls side of the rink, it sure appears as though that young Mayo squad has a promising future. The Spartans are still learning, so I’m sure they’ll take some lumps against the top teams in the state. But those lumps can turn into victories down the road. And Feldy, how about that young Lourdes squad, too? The Eagles are a first-year program, thanks to RPS administration breaking up the JM-Lourdes co-op. But the Eagles are prospering early with a young lineup. I have no idea what this season holds for the Eagles, but they sure look like a team that can contend for big things in a season or two.
FELDY: Nothing is a given, but with defending champ Northfield moved out of Section 1A, it looks like it will come down to Red Wing and Lourdes battling for a trip to state. Red Wing has the best player in the state on its side, in Miss Hockey front-runner Taylor Heise, as well as brick-wall goalie Tyler McGrath. Lourdes is young, but has already played nearly a dozen games, against very good competition, so the young players have had a crash course in varsity hockey and have held their own. ... Phersy, you’re pulling me out of the rink and putting me next to the wrestling mats next weekend. Who should we keep an eye on at the prestigious Christmas Tournament?
PHERSY: This early in the season, it’s always a matter of weight ... will the studs be in the same bracket? The great thing about the Christmas Tournament is no matter the weight, there are always studs. What I’ll be watching is how things play out from about 160 to 182. Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s Caden Steffen and Kasson-Mantorville’s Patrick Kennedy are two of the best around. Kennedy, however, will not wrestle at the Christmas Tournament due to a knee injury. But guys like Kenny O’Neil of Prior Lake and Zach Glazier of Albert Lea are in Steffen’s weight range. It’ll just be a matter of where they all land. Steffen has been up at 182, and that means he could run into Owatonna’s Cade King ... or Glazier or O’Neil could move up, too. There’s plenty to watch for next weekend Feldy ... try to keep up.
FELDY: While we expect some showdowns between nationally ranked guys next weekend, it’ll be nearly impossible to top the finish to last year’s Xmas Tournament, when Brady Berge beat Jake Allar of St. Michael-Albertville on a takedown with less than 20 seconds to go. That was a matchup of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the country at 160 pounds. According to some deep-dive research (the @SantaHatWinner Twitter feed), there are 13 nationally ranked wrestlers and 150 state-ranked guys in this year’s tournament. Many of them are from southeastern Minnesota. We (by “we” I mean not you or me) can play some football and we can wrestle in this part of the state, eh?
PHERSY: Absolutely! Both Kasson-Mantorville and Zumbrota-Mazeppa are currently ranked No. 1 Class AA and Class A, respectively. The KoMets will be looking for the three-peat, while Z-M is chasing a title defense. Z-M is the hands-down favorite in Class A, and a tournament like this will help propel them toward that second state title. K-M will get its first look at Simley, which figures to be its top competition for the Section 1AA title ... which is most likely going to determine the state champion as well. I also love seeing upstart Westfield in this event for the first time. The Razorbacks took some serious lumps in their opener, this week, but once again, this is the type of event that can lead to big things down the road.