Head coaches of the Aitkin Gobblers and New York Mills Eagles agree the two wrestling teams are similar.
The Guillotine Website polls convey similar thinking as the Eagles are ranked 10th and the Gobblers 11th.
Which team is better will be determined Thursday when the two tangle in the quarterfinals of the Class 1A state team tournament.
"Both teams have relatively the same records," said Eagles head coach Eric Niemi. "We both have strong kids on our teams. It's actually a good draw for both of us."
This is the Gobblers' second consecutive and fourth overall state trip. They finished fourth last year. They advanced again by defeating Crosby-Ironton in the section final.
103 Jordan Chouanard (23-13)
112 Keith Wasserzieher (36-3)
119 Ryan Smith (3-8)
125 Dalton Stevens (32-7)
130 Craig Leathers (24-16)
135 Jeff Moe (7-25)
140 Ryan Skinner (13-25)
145 Justin Chouanard (35-1)
152 Taylor-Thomas Bitker (8-12)
160 Andrew Hallberg (33-4)
171 Matt Christensen (39-0)
189 Nathan Cummings (29-10)
215 Levi Stifter (17-20)
285 Taylor Wilke (17-19)
Joe Elvecrog (5-6)
Isaac Novak (0-0)
Kevin Handt (2-16)
Travis Tuenge (3-1)
Doug Kommer (3-8)
Aitkin vs. New York Mills
What: Quarterfinals of Class 1A state team wrestling
When: 5 p.m., Thursday
Where: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
Who: Aitkin (20-3) Section 7 champions; New York Mills (17-5) Section 6 champions
Tickets: Ticket prices are $10 per adult and $7 per student for each session. Daily passes are available for $18 for adults and $13 for students. Season passes, good for the entire tournament, are available to adults for $54 and to students for $39.
Aitkin's last loss was to C-I Jan. 22. Since then the 20-3 Gobblers have won eight straight. Four Gobbler wrestlers are ranked: Keith Wasserzieher (112 pounds), Justin Chouanard (145), Andrew Hallberg (160) and Matt Christensen (171).
"The team, including myself, are much more relaxed because we have that experience from last year," said Aitkin head coach Dan Stifter. "We know what to expect and what to do when we get there. That is huge. There is still a great deal of excitement, but there isn't that nervousness we saw last year."
NYM captured its section title by topping Wadena-Deer Creek 47-25. This is the fourth overall state appearance for the Eagles. They didn't advance last year, but appeared in the three previous tournaments.
"We match up pretty well with them," said Stifter. "It's going to come down to who can score the bonus points. If we can prevent them from doing that and get some back our way that might be the difference."
The closest these two teams saw of each other was at the Big Bear Invitational Dec. 15. Aitkin placed second and NYM was 12th at the individual tournament.
"We really didn't wrestle too many of them during that tournament," said Neimi. "We haven't seen those guys head-to-head, but we have some common opponents, which gives you kind of an idea. We have a little bit to work with."
Other quarterfinal action includes eighth-ranked Madelia/Truman/Martin Luther (24-2) vs. No. 2 Canby (27-2). Canby is making its fourth consecutive and 27th overall state appearance. It won the consolation championship last year. M/T/ML is making its state debut.
On the other half of the bracket, top-seeded Jackson County Central (23-6) faces fifth-seeded Kenyon-Wanamigo (25-2). JCC won the Class 2A consolation title last season. This is the first time JCC has advanced to state without being part of a cooperative. Last year it was paired with Southwest Star Concept of Okabena. K-W is making its state debut.
The final quarterfinal match features third-seeded Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City (24-4) vs. No. 7 Frazee (13-5). This is a state championship rematch from last year, which ACGC won 33-21. This is ACGC's fifth consecutive and sixth overall state appearance. Frazee is making its third consecutive and 16th overall appearance.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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