Two wrestlers who earned a combined 10 state individual titles while wrestling for Apple Valley High School finished in the top three at the NCAA Division I championships last weekend in Pittsburgh.
Mark Hall, a Penn State junior and winner of an unprecedented six Minnesota state high school championships, wrestled in the 174-pound championship match at the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive year. Zahid Valencia of Arizona State edged Hall 4-3 in the latest installment of a rivalry that has lasted several years. The loss was Hall’s first of the season; he finished 30-1.
Hall won four matches by decision on his way to the final, including a victory by tiebreaker over Myles Amine of Michigan in the semifinals.
Two years ago, Hall defeated Valencia 4-3 in the semifinals on his way to becoming one of the first two true freshmen at Penn State to win NCAA individual titles. Last year Valencia beat Hall 8-2 in the championship match. Hall defeated Valencia 4-0 in a regular-season match last December.
University of Minnesota freshman Gable Steveson defeated Jordan Wood of Lehigh 4-0 in the third-place match at 285 to finish 35-2. Steveson had the highest finish in the tournament by a true freshman at any weight.
Steveson, a four-time state champion at Apple Valley, was ranked No. 1 in Division I for several weeks this season. Both of his losses were to eventual national champion Anthony Cassar of Penn State. Cassar scored a takedown in the third period to defeat Steveson 4-3 in the semifinals last Friday, two weeks after doing the same against Steveson in the finals at the Big Ten Conference championships.
Cassar and Hall helped lead Penn State to the Division I team championship.
Farmington High School graduate and University of Nebraska sophomore Taylor Venz went 3-2 at 184 in the NCAA tournament. Both of his losses were by one-point decisions. Venz, a two-time NCAA qualifier, and two-time Minnesota high school champion, was 24-9 this year. He helped Nebraska to 10th place in the team standings.
Defending 133-pound champion Seth Gross of South Dakota State and Apple Valley High School did not compete in the NCAA tourney this year after having back surgery in January. He said he planned to apply for a medical redshirt in hopes of competing in 2019-20.
The 2020 NCAA tournament will be at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Final Four hopes
A former Mr. Basketball, Tre Jones of Apple Valley, and a former Miss Basketball, Madison Guebert of South Dakota State, still have a chance to reach the Final Four in college basketball.
Jones is point guard for Duke, the No. 1 overall seed in the men’s tourney. Duke barely survived a second-round challenge from Central Florida, winning 77-76 on Sunday, and will play Virginia Tech in a regional semifinal game Friday night in Washington, D.C.
Regional champions will come to Minneapolis for the Final Four at U.S. Bank Stadium, with semifinal games scheduled Saturday, April 6. The championship game is April 8.
Jones played all 40 minutes of the game against Central Florida, finishing with 11 points and four assists. For the season the freshman is averaging 9.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and five assists.
Guebert, who won the Miss Basketball award in 2015, scored 20 points in South Dakota State’s 75-64 victory over Syracuse on Monday in the second round of the women’s tournament. The Jackrabbits, who reached the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in program history, play Oregon in a regional semifinal game Friday in Portland, Oregon.
Guebert made six three-pointers in the Syracuse game, which is nothing new for her. The three-time All-Summit League player holds school and conference records for career three-pointers made. She is averaging 14.1 points this season and is shooting 43 percent from three-point range. She also is the school record holder in free throw percentage.
Three Minnesota teams – St. Cloud State, Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota State Mankato – are No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Division I men’s hockey regionals. All three have received major contributions from local players.
St. Cloud State (30-5-3), which plays American International in a West Regional semifinal at 6:30 p.m. Friday in Fargo, N.D., has four former South Suburban Conference players. The Poehling brothers of Lakeville – Jack, Nick and Ryan – all are junior forwards. They were linemates on the Lakeville North team that won the 2015 state Class AA championship. Jack Ahcan, a former Burnsville High School player, is a junior defenseman for the Huskies, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.
Ryan Poehling, a Montreal Canadiens first-round draft pick, was injured after crashing into the boards in a National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoff game March 22 at Xcel Energy Center. He missed the Huskies’ next game, a loss to Minnesota Duluth in the NCHC championship game, and his status for the regional was still uncertain when this edition went to press.
Nick Swaney of Lakeville South scored the winning goal in the second overtime as Minnesota Duluth defeated St. Cloud State 3-2 in the NCHC final Saturday night. Swaney and defenseman Nick Wolff of Eagan are veterans of the Bulldogs’ 2018 NCAA championship team. UMD (25-11-2) plays Bowling Green in the Midwest Regional semifinals at 3 p.m. Saturday in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Jack McNeely, a defenseman on the 2015 Lakeville North state championship team, skates on defense for Minnesota State Mankato (32-7-2), which won the Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship and will play Providence in an East Regional semifinal at noon Saturday in Providence, R.I.