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Posted by Guest (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/8/2012 2:10:43 PM

By Brian Jerzak
John’s Journal correspondent

Eighteen wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in Minnesota, six ranked No. 1 in the state and five wrestlers ranked in the top 20 nationally. That was the situation at Apple Valley High School on Friday night for a match between Apple Valley, the state’s number one-ranked team in Class 3A, and Kasson-Mantorville, the No. 2 team in 2A. I guess that means there will be no such thing as an easing-in period for new Apple Valley head coach Dalen Wasmund.

Wasmund helped build one of the premier wrestling programs in the nation. Former coach Jim Jackson amassed a ridiculous winning percentage of 95 percent over a 17-year period, won 14 state championships and two national championships. Before Jackson, the Eagles wrestling program was already one of the state’s best under Bill Demaray, who was the head coach for 27 years and amassed more than 400 victories, including six state titles.

“It is a hard act to follow,” Wasmund said. “It is one of those things where no one wants to follow a great comedian, but Bill and Jim did a great job building the program. I have been around for quite a while – I have been around for part of it, but it is all different. It’s a little more stressful, but it is good.”

Wasmund was an All-American on the University of Minnesota wrestling team in 1981 and then competed in Greco-Roman wrestling, winning a national championship in 1986. After a few years on the Gophers coaching staff, Wasmund became the head wrestling coach at Eagan High School – a position he held for 10 years - before joining the Eagles staff in 1990. Returning to the big chair has been an adjustment, but one Wasmund was ready for.

“The biggest adjustment is just the extra time,” he said. “Making sure things get done here around the school.”

His current team showed Friday why it is ranked No. 4 nationally by Intermat. After falling behind 3-0 the Eagles won the next four matches to build a 16-3 lead. The Kasson-Mantorville KoMets picked up the next two wins before the Eagles got back on track and put away the dual meet by winning the next four matches and five out of the last seven to take the match 39-20.

With the talent Apple Valley displayed, it is easy to see why Wasmund isn’t worried so much about what he brings to the job.

“I just focus on the kids and trying to make the kids better every day. I just want to get them to buy into us and continue to work hard like they always have. Things are going to be similar to the way they were before and I just need to get them to continue to buy into that whole thing.”

All of the No. 1-ranked wrestlers bought in Friday night and showed why they were worthy of the ranking – on both teams - by all winning their matches. On the home team’s side, Gannon Volk earned a hard-earned 6-3 victory over a top 10 wrestler and Mark Hall pinned his opponent in the first period. Seth Gross came out on top in the match of the meet with an 8-7 win over third-ranked Nate Thomas. Gross held off a late takedown attempt by Thomas on the edge of the mat to clinch the victory. It gave Valley’s No. 1-ranked guys a perfect 3-0 night.

The top guys for the KoMets - the 18th-ranked team in the nation – also performed well, with No.1-ranked Broc Berge and Sam Stoll both earning victories, Stoll by a meet-ending first-period pin.

The victory continued the Eagles’ perfect start under Wasmund.

“I thought our kids wrestled really well tonight,” he said. “(Kasson-Mantorville) has some tough kids; hats off to those kids, too. It was an exciting dual with some really good matches. We wrestled pretty good for this time of the year, we need to get better – I am sure they think they need to, also.”

The longtime assistant knows what it will take to keep the Apple Valley wrestling tradition alive.

“It is keeping the kids going and trying to get new kids out. It is keeping the kids who are really interested in wrestling and helping them to wrestle as much as they can and just keep getting better. It takes a lot of good kids when you have 14 (weight classes).”

Wasmund likes what he has seen early in the year.

“We have some kids in the middle that are pretty tough. We have our state champions and former state champions,” he said. “We have some really solid kids and some new kids who are finally getting a chance to prove they can wrestle. If they come along we can be a good team.”

Based off of Friday night’s results, Apple Valley -- even with a change at the top -- can continue to be that good team and Dalen Wasmund -- even though he wasn’t given an easy schedule to ease back into being a head coach – is set to keep the Eagles at the top.


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