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St. Michael-Albertville wrestlers keep their grip at state this time

St. Michael-Albertville waited a year for Thursday night.

The Knights were on the receiving end of one of the most stunning losses in wrestling state tournament history in 2023, losing a 23-point lead with five matches to go, falling to Hastings in the Class 3A championship match.

Thursday, redemption came swiftly and sweetly. The Knights dismantled No. 1 Mounds View 47-10, blowing out to a 23-0 lead that soon became insurmountable on the way to a rout no one saw coming.

Mounds View had been the darling of Class 3A all year, putting up some impressive victories against some highly regarded competition.

But the Mustangs had counted on an early victory or two Thursday before their wrestlers in the upper weight classes did their customary squeeze, the one that drains the life out of their opponents.

"We normally expect to get points from our two lowest weights," Mounds View coach Dan Engebretson said. "We didn't get those."

Mounds View, which finished the season 30-1, won just two matches in the final. St. Michael-Albertville also finished 30-1.

Knights coach Josh Joriman made it a point to keep his team's disappointment from a year ago fresh in their minds, pinning the front page of a newspaper that trumpeted their loss in the wrestling room.

Message sent and received.

"They were some hard lessons that were learned, and they're kind of tattooed on your body a little bit," Joriman said. "You keep them in the back of your mind, and it's what can happen when you're not competing out there for each other. It wasn't even necessary as motivation. More of a reminder."

St. Michael-Albertville senior 172-pounder Jed Wester, one of the Knights who tattooed himself in Mounds View's memory by beating one of the Mustangs' top wrestlers, Ethan Swanson, by technical fall, said last year burned in memories whenever the team took the mat.

"We looked at that newspaper every day," said Wester, who will wrestle for the Gophers next year. "This just feels great. The last two weeks, we've been just ready to go. Our motto has been 'All gas, no brakes.' "