Every two years, the Minnesota State High School League reviews its competitive section assignments. Every time the assignments change, there are winners and losers.
This year, consider the Hastings wrestling team among one of the winners.
For the past four years, Hastings has competed in the same section as Apple Valley. That, ultimately, has meant that qualifying for the state tournament as a team is all but impossible. The Eagles were the No. 1 ranked team in the nation this year, fielding a team of athletes resembling a lineup most small colleges would die to have. Their lineup, too, resembles a small college, with athletes from all over the state competing with them.
Apple Valley had seven state champions this year and cruised to a state title.
Now that the Eagles aren't in Hastings' section, qualifying for the state meet is again a possibility.
"We're pretty excited," coach Josh McLay said this week. "Being in a section with them, it makes it no fun. Any other team in the state, we believe we have an honest shot at beating them. But with Apple Valley, they're No. 1 in the country and they get new kids in every single year."
Hastings will move to Section 1, which won't be an easy section by any stretch of the imagination. Owatonna, Albert Lea, Faribault and Northfield are all in Section 1, as well as the Rochester schools.
"Section 1 is a very tough section, every single year, but at least we know we have a shot at making it," McLay said. "We can focus on the team aspect of the sport instead of training through team sections to get prepared for individual sections."
McLay said his goal of winning a state title remains the same, and he knows that in order to do that the Raiders will have to beat the Eagles eventually.
"We know if we want to be state champs, we still have to beat them," he said. "But now getting your team to the state tournament for wrestling, it's such a different experience for the kids. All the work you did as a team can count for something. Now at least we have a shot at that state title."
While the move is good news for the team aspect of the sport, qualifying for the state meet as an individual may actually be more challenging now. Hastings and Apple Valley dominated Section 3 for the last four years and the section was rather unbalanced.
Section 1, meanwhile, is much more balanced and it won't be easy to qualify wrestlers for the state meet.
A few other sports will see changes to their section assignments.
The girls swimming team will move from Section 3 to Section 1.
The track and field teams will move from Section 1 to Section 3.