In recent years, the battle in Section 2AA hasn’t been for a trip to state. Everybody knew that berth belonged to Scott West. Instead, the true battle was for second place.
But this year, things are different. The section is no less competitive, with as many as four or five teams boasting a legitimate shot to push for that state berth. Scott West is in that group, but as the No. 3 seed this year, they have plenty of company.
That group includes second-seeded Watertown-Mayer,/Mayer Lutheran, which this year beat Scott West for the first time ever. No. 1 New Prague will be the favorite, on paper, at least, and fourth-seeded Hutchinson and fifth-seeded Glencoe-Silver Lake could certainly make some noise as well. The Royals open their pursuit of the state tournament at home on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. against either seventh-seeded St. Peter or 10th-seeded Delano.
“It should be real interesting,” Watertown-Mayer coach Joe Traen said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been in a section that’s this even. Who rises to the occasion? I don’t know. We’ll see.”
New Prague enters the section with wins over every other contender, though that included a slim win over Watertown-Mayer in which the Royals felt a couple of the matches easily could have gone their way.
The Royals are next in line with wins over everybody else, including close wins over Scott West and Glencoe-Silver Lake.
“I think we’ve got as good of a chance as anybody,” Traen said. “The top four teams are real tight, and No. 5 could have something to say about it as well.”
Right now, the biggest key for the Royals is to get healthy. On Monday, Traen said three starters were sick and one — Joe Jobe — was out with an injury suffered in last week’s dual against Big Lake. Traen expects all of them back in time for the meets, which take place Thursday and Saturday, all at Watertown-Mayer High School, but he also knows that health certainly could play a factor in determining the section champ at this stage in this season.
“I would imagine every team is dealing with it,” Traen said of sickness and injuries. “If push comes to shove and we’re healthy and they’re not, I think that tips it our way. But if we’re not healthy and they are, that’s tough.”
On Thursday, first round action starts at 6 p.m. at Watertown-Mayer when seventh-seeded St. Peter takes on 10th-seeded Delano. The winner takes on the Royals at 7:30 p.m.
The winner of that grouping moves on to the final four, which will also be hosted by Watertown-Mayer on Saturday, Feb. 16, beginning at 4 p.m. The section championship is set for 6 p.m.
WMML 36, Big Lake 32
Davion Franklin’s pin at heavyweight helped the Royals survived a close match to beat Big Lake on senior night in the final dual of the regular season.
Jackson Sweeney started the night with a major decision at 106 pounds and Corey Jobe won a decision at 120, but a pin at 113 and a decision at 126 gave Big Lake a 9-7 lead after four matches.
Matt Elsenpeter earned a technical fall for the Royals at 132 and Aaron Sweeney won by forfeit at 138 to put the Royals on top, 18-9. However, Big Lake earned a pin at 145 and won by injury default at 152 to take a 24-18 lead.
Logan Cooper tied it up with a pin for the Royals at 170, and Austin Torres won by forfeit at 182 to put the Royals in front, 30-24. However, Big Lake won by tech fall at 195 and won a decision at 220 to give them a 32-30 lead with just one match to go. However, Franklin earned a pin to give the Royals the win.
Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]