Knight Wrestlers Win ‘The Clash’
St. Michael-Albertville wrestling coach, Dan Lefebvre had a good feeling about his team as they entered one of the nation’s toughest high school wrestling tournaments, “The Clash,” and his intuition proved to be correct as the “Knights” captured the team title in the 32-team dual meet tournament held in Rochester.
The tournament attracts many of the nation’s top high school wrestling teams. “Our kids were warriors and they had to be, at that level of competition,” commented Lefebvre. “I couldn’t be prouder of the way they battled. We wrestled 6 dual meets in 2 days, one after another, against national level competition, and the guys did what they needed to do to win the thing. It seemed like we had different heroes in each dual doing the little things that helped us pull out some close ones.”
The “Knights” won 3 matches and lost none on Thursday to win their 8-team pool to move into the 2nd day with the other 3 pool winners where they wrestled a round-robin format on Friday, in the championship bracket. They opened the tournament on Thursday with a 62-6 win over Kimball (Minnesota), then wrestled Collins Hill (Georgia), ranked number one in the state of Georgia, defeating them by a score of 58-9, then edged Oak Park River Forest (Illinois) by a score of 28-26.
Oak Park River Forest was ranked number two in the state of Illinois and also ranked nationally.
On Friday, STMA opened with a 27-26 tiebreaker win over nationally ranked and the top-ranked team in Illinois, Carl Sandburg, that ended in a 26-26 tie, with the “Knights” getting an extra point and the win following tie-breaker criteria being applied. STMA’s Lincoln Mallinger pinned his opponent in the dual’s final match to knot the score at 26-26. In their 2nd match on Friday, the Knights defeated Montini Catholic (Illinois), another nationally ranked team, by a score of 34-21, then in their final dual lost to nationally ranked Brandon (Florida) by a score of 33-21. Three out of the 4 teams, in the championship pool, finished with final-day dual meet records of 2-1, STMA, Montini Catholic, and Brandon, but STMA won the title based on tie-breaking criteria. Montini Catholic placed 2nd, Brandon 3rd, and Carl Sandburg was 4th.
5 Knight wrestlers won 5 matches in the tournament to lead the team. Mitch Eull (220 pounds) went 5-0, while Tommy Thorn (120), Mark Voss (132), Ricky Briggs (195), and Mikey Kessler (285) each had individual records of 5-1.
Elaborating on some of those little things that needed to happen for the Knights to pull out some wins, Coach Lefebvre went on to explain, “Against Carl Sandburg where we tied 26-26, but won on tie-breaker, Lincoln Mallinger needed a pin in the final match, against a formidable opponent, and turned him over and pinned him in the third period, in what was a close match, at the time. We ended up winning and breaking the tie on the 8th criteria, which also meant that Lincoln had to get the first takedown for us to actually win on criteria. So if Lincoln would’ve given up the first takedown, but pinned his opponent, later, we would have lost the dual meet 27-26, because then Sandburg would’ve won on the 8th criteria. In that same dual against Sandburg at 106 pounds, Aaron Dick was leading 7-2 and turned his opponent in the last 10 seconds of the match for a 3-point near fall and a 10-2 major decision win and an additional team point, which we needed. If Aaron rides him out and is satisfied with a 7-2 win, we would’ve lost the dual 26-25. And there are many more examples of little things that the wrestlers did to help us win the title. It was an absolute total team effort.”
Coach Lefebvre and the rest of the coaching staff, and the STMA wrestlers themselves were aware and appreciative of the tremendous fan support that was present in Rochester for the 2-day event. Lefebvre commented, “In my estimation, we had, by far, the most fans and for sure the most enthusiastic fans in the arena. We thank all the people that came down to Rochester to cheer us on, that made it all that much more fun for the team. Our parents were in full force, but even parents whose sons used to wrestle for us were there, and I couldn’t believe the number of STMA alumni wrestlers that came down to support the team. All that support helps us be more successful and contributes to keeping a strong wrestling tradition at STMA.”
Historically, this was the 8th consecutive season that the Knights have competed in “The Clash” and in winning, it was their highest finish. It was the first time the “Knights” have won their first-day pool and wrestled in the championship bracket on the 2nd day. The “Knights” had twice, previously, finished 6th among the 32 teams, prior to this year’s title. Coming into the tournament, the Knights were the highest ranked team (4th in nation), among the entrants, Apple Valley was ranked 6th in the nation, and ended up placing 8th in the tournament, and Brandon (Florida) was ranked 7th in the nation, and ended up placing 3rd in the tourney. There were a total of 13 teams entered in this year’s “Clash” that were nationally ranked in the “top 50”.