One ink-stained wretch's recollections as the madness of March draws to a close:
* Scariest moment: At the state wrestling tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, watching a wrestler go into apparent convulsions on the mat after getting pinned. It was no laughing matter. The wrestler apparently had been choked, then lost consciousness. Thankfully, he eventually walked off the mat with assistance.
* Scariest moment II: Purchasing a pack of gum at a tiny neighborhood store across the street from the Xcel. Steel bars on the windows and door indicated it may not be the friendliest place at night to buy gum.
* Grittiest match: There may be no sport that tests a person's mettle like wrestling does. One match I watched was stopped at least twice for injury. The wrestler was in obvious pain with knee and shoulder injuries but refused to surrender despite it being a fifth-place match.
* Bloodiest match: Yet another fifth-place match was stopped at least a dozen times to plug a bloody nose and stop a cut on the head. But again, the individual refused to quit despite wrestling for fifth place.
* Most inadequate venue: The sports pavilion at the University of Minnesota. When Braham brought its traveling circus to play De La Salle in the quarterfinals of the Class 2A state boys' basketball tournament the facility was completely incapable of accommodating a huge crowd. Williams Arena apparently was reserved for women's teams to work out for the NCAA Regional that was played there. Next season, hopefully, the Minnesota State High School League will plan ahead. If two-time Class 2A state champion Braham makes the field, which it should for a third straight year, the game should be played at Target Center or Williams Arena. Everybody wants to watch this team.
* Greatest venue: Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Whether it's basketball, wrestling, hockey or a concert this facility is the greatest, bar none. Sight lines are unobstructed, the sound system is ear-splitting and even the concessions can be tasty.
* Biggest venue duplication: Ridder Arena at the University of Minnesota. There's little reason why the two-time NCAA champion women's hockey team can't play at adjacent Mariucci Arena, home of the men's team. Ridder was built during the reign of former women's athletic director Chris Voelz, before the athletic department became one entity. Funds expended on Ridder Arena could have been saved and spent on an on-campus outdoor football stadium.
* Biggest turnoff: Parents and fans who somehow secure news media credentials for state tournaments. Countless times those of us who have a legitimate reason to be there sit next to cheering relatives and friends of athletes and teams. There's no cheering in the press box.
* Best basketball player: Isaiah Dahlman of Braham. He can do it all. Not many 6-foot-7 players can pull up and shoot a jump shot or slash to the hoop like he can. Dahlman can choose where he wants to play in college. His brother, Noah, is a diamond in the rough, a rugged post player who a year from now may also be able to name where he will play collegially. The Bombers rival the best teams ever to play Minnesota boys' basketball.
* Most satisfying experience: Covering Little Falls in the state boys' hockey tournament. It was the first state hockey tournament in a 28-year career for a certain sports writer.
* Best fans: Little Falls fans followed their boys' hockey team faithfully throughout the tournament, even when the Flyers dropped into the consolation bracket at Mariucci.
* Best restaurant: Cosetta's Italian Market and Restaurant in St. Paul. A few blocks from the Xcel, Cosetta's serves hot and cold sandwiches, salads, hot entrees and pizza cafeteria style. The chicken marsala is outstanding.
Mike Bialka, sports editor, an be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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