The Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines wrestling team realizes that ratings don't mean much come tournament time.
W-DC was ranked No. 1 in Class 2A for most of the season and finished the regular season 16-1.
Those numbers helped W-DC get the No. 1 seed in the Section 7, Class 2A team tournament tonight and Saturday.
"It's obviously a target on your back," W-DC coach Dennis Kaatz said of the top ranking. "You have to fulfill what people think.
"On the other hand, the kids wrestle up to the challenge."
The challenge is for the Wolverines to win their third straight section title.
At W-DC tonight, eighth-seeded Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus (13-7) faces ninth-seeded Staples-Motley (3-14). The winner tangles with the Wolverines at 7:30 p.m.
The Wolverines didn't wrestle PL/PR-B during the season, but pounded the Cardinals 57-10 Jan. 31.
Kaatz believes it could be a four-team race. He hopes his team steps up when it has to.
"Minnewaska and Perham, and maybe Sauk Centre, are good teams," said Kaatz. "They have some skilled people and they are the big threats. Aitkin's got to get past Perham and that should be a good dual meet.
"We have a number of individuals who have to perform well. Our seniors have do their jobs. When we face the opponents' real good wrestlers, we have to perform well. Maybe not win those matches, but keep it close and keep us in the match."
At fourth-seeded Sauk Centre tonight, fifth-seeded Long Prairie-Grey Eagle faces 12th-seeded Crosby-Ironton. The Rangers finished the season winless.
Third-seeded Perham is tonight's third host site. The Yellowjackets will square off with the winner of sixth-seeded Aitkin and 11th-seeded Pelican Rapids.
Aitkin advanced to the section final last year before losing to W-DC. The Gobblers are 9-4 overall.
The fourth site of the tournament is at Glenwood where second-seeded Minnewaska faces the winner of Ottertail Central and Morris. Minnewaska is ranked sixth in 2A and has five wrestlers ranked in the top 10.
W-DC also has five ranked wrestlers. The Wolverines' only loss was at the Mahnomen Invitational Jan. 11 when the Frazee Hornets nipped them 31-30. W-DC had beaten Frazee 31-24 earlier in the year.
Kaatz said this is the first time the Wolverines have been ranked No. 1 in the state since 1992. Last year, W-DC won the 2A state consolation championship, but Kaatz wouldn't say this is his best team.
"We're real strong in the lower to middle weights and that has been our power all year," Kaatz said. "But, compared to our other teams, every one has had their uniqueness.
"Last year's team had better depth throughout the entire squad, but maybe not the guys that are going to score the big points."
Could the Crosby-Ironton Rangers be the next team on the rise?
Thanks to two huge conference victories over Detroit Lakes Jan. 25 and Staples-Motley Feb. 5, the Rangers are looking to be the Mid-State Conference spoilers.
That doesn't bode well for the conference-leading Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines (6-0) who host the Rangers (2-5) 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The Rangers have won two of their last three conference games. Whitney Smetana is averaging a double-double and Jenna Kovatovich's 12 points and 10 rebounds against S-M has made C-I a scary team.
The Rangers host Moose Lake/Willow River 7:30 p.m. today and Two Harbors 2:45 p.m. Saturday. W-DC travels to Frazee for a 7:30 p.m. game today.
The Staples-Motley Cardinals are looking for some consistency and hope for an upset against Class 2A's second-ranked Litchfield Dragons 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The game is a rematch of the 2000 state semifinal in which Litchfield beat S-M on its way to the state title.
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