WORTHINGTON -- A lot has happened for the Worthington Trojans and the Jackson County Central Huskies since Day One of the 2019-20 high school wrestling season. And most of it has been good.
The Trojans and the Huskies begin competition Thursday in their sectional team tournaments, and through hard work and growing confidence levels, they’ve gone from overlooked to acclaimed. Worthington, with only one senior on its roster, is seeded No. 2 in the south half of Section 3AA. And JCC, too, has taken a big step this winter -- all the way to the No. 1 seed in Section 3A.
In Jackson on Thursday, the Huskies will host a 7:15 p.m. Section 3A match against the winner of a 6 p.m. match between Windom/Mountain Lake and Springfield. Other matches have Adrian/Ellsworth at Canby, Pipestone Area or St. James Area at Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove, and Wabasso/Red Rock Central or Fulda/Murray County Central at Minneota. Semifinals and finals are Saturday at Lamberton.
Meanwhile, in Section 3AA, Worthington will go against third-seeded New Ulm Area at 7 p.m. in Sherburn. Also Thursday, Marshall (the top seed in the north) takes on New London-Spicer or Redwood Valley in Marshall while Dawson-Boyd/LQPV/Montevideo wrestles MAHACA. Fairmont/Martin County West (No. 1 in the south) wrestles Luverne in the other Sherburn showdown. Semifinals and finals are Saturday at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.
Worthington’s only senior, Kyle Mullaney, is also the only Trojan state-ranked (10th at 285 pounds). First-year head coach Kirk Feit credits a hard-working wrestling room and excellent assistant coaches with the team’s remarkable in-season improvements. The team had a couple of early-season tournaments that didn’t go well, Feit recalls, but after a sit-down talk the wrestlers began to believe in themselves.
“The nice thing is, the guys come out there. They buckle their chin straps and they come out and wrestle,” Feit said.
Section 3AA is tough. Fairmont/Martin County West is ranked No. 3 in the state, with 10 wrestlers ranked in the Class AA top ten. Marshall has four state-ranked wrestlers and is rated No. 6.
But Feit thinks his Trojans are capable of making state. “We’re very close. We’re at that doorstep. You get things to fall your way, you never know,” he said.
If Section 3AA is tough, Section 3A might be even tougher. It starts with Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove, ranked fifth in the state with five state-ranked matmen. Jackson County Central is ranked No. 7 and has three state-ranked wrestlers -- Logan Butzon (No. 9 at 113 pounds), Payton Handevidt (4 at 145) and Ethan Hendrickson (5 at 152). And nobody can overlook Minneota or Canby, both who have received top-ten votes this winter.
Adrian/Ellsworth, fifth-seeded in the section, is also dangerous.
“The section is going to be tough. I think any of the top four could easily win it,” said JCC head coach Nate Hanson. The big matches are likely to be close, and winning or losing could come down to how the non-stars compete.
Indeed. The question might be who’s hungriest.
“This year we’re all so close, it probably comes down to who wrestles better when it comes down to it,” Hanson said.