The Hastings Raider wrestling team had an up-and-down regular season in terms of results, but none of that matters come section tournament time. What matters is the Raiders have faced some of the best teams and wrestlers in the state and that will only help come the postseason. In reality, it is hard to imagine Hastings could have wrestled a more difficult schedule. Taking into account just duals, as of the Feb. 6 rankings from The Guillotine, Hastings wrestled 10 ranked teams across all three classes. On top of those 10, they also took on five “Lean and Mean” teams, those who were not in the top-12 in their class but still received votes.
Hastings was as dominant as it has been in previous years, but still has plenty to be proud of. The Raiders went 6-1 in the Metro East Conference and took second behind powerhouse Simley, who is ranked No. 1 in Class AA, with a win over South St. Paul who is a Lean and Mean in AA. On Dec. 7, they went 4-0 to win the Wolfpack Duals with wins over Anoka (ranked No. 12 in AAA), Baldwin-Woodville (Wis.), Rosemount and Park (in the Lean and Mean). In total, they racked up 18 dual meet wins on the season.
“It’s not a consistency (thing), maybe for the kids that we have in the lineup, but our schedule is just super tough,” said first-year head coach Tim Haneberg after the Raiders’ last regular season action in Cannon Falls. “We wrestle teams consistently ranked in the top-10 all the time.”
Most of those top-10 matchups have resulted in losses. Included are the top-ranked teams in AAA and AA in Shakopee and Simley, as well as several other large-school powerhouses like Forest Lake (No. 8 in AAA), Owatonna (No. 6 in AAA) and Northfield (No. 5 in AAA). Even when the Raiders faced off against smaller schools in Class AA and A, they took on the cream of the crop in Foley (No. 4 in AA), Zumbrota-Mazeppa (No. 11 in A) and Kenyon-Wanamingo (No. 12 in A). Toss in Lean and Means Park, South St. Paul, Woodbury, Tri-City United (AA) and Willmar and there were very few “breaks” in the schedule.
Despite taking their lumps, Haneberg said his team has improved and will continue to before team sections on Feb. 14.
“I think on our feet we’re looking really good right now. We’re getting better on our feet, trying to keep getting better on bottom, and I think on top we’ve been really, really good,” he said.
Haneberg also singled out some standout performers from the season so far.
“Our upperclassmen are doing pretty well. (Senior) John Kendall is having a very good year, Cam (Cameron) Olson, a junior, he’s doing really well this year too,” Haneberg said. “Josh Route has been having a really good January, he’s really come along at 120 (pounds) now. I really think he’s going to do really well the last few weeks of the season.”
Kendall is Hastings’ lone ranked wrestler at No. 9 in AAA at 138 pounds.
Hastings hosts the Section 3AAA team tournament on Friday, Feb. 14. The following Saturday, Feb. 22, they go to Park for individual sections. Haneberg said his staff knows what their ideal lineup is heading into team sections, but that there is one area the Raiders have to improve on before then.
“Saving team points in the big matches. The last dual (against Kenyon-Wanamingo in Cannon Falls) was the exact opposite of what we need to happen, we need to be saving team points,” he said. “We cannot be getting pinned, we cannot be getting tech’d and when we get kids on their back we need to capitalize and put them away.”
There are eight teams in Section 3AAA: Hastings, Woodbury, Park, East Ridge, Eagan, Henry Sibley, St. Paul Harding and St. Paul Central. The Raiders are the No. 2 seed behind Woodbury and will face No. 7 St. Paul Central in the first round. They would then face the winner of No. 3 Park and No. 6 St. Paul Harding. Woodbury has No. 8 East Ridge while Henry Sibley and Eagan are the No. 4 and 5 matchup respectively.
Hastings, Woodbury and Park are the favorites to advance to the team state tournament and have all beaten each other this season. Woodbury edged out Hastings early on in a dual, Hastings has beaten Park and Park beat Woodbury at the beginning of January.
Team state is Thursday, Feb. 27, at the Xcel Energy Center, while individual state is at the Xcel the two days following, Feb. 28-29.