The 36th annual MatBoss Minnesota Christmas Tournament, Minnesota's premier high school wrestling invitational, takes place Friday and Saturday at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. Forty schools from three states, Minnesota, Wisconsin and South Dakota, will compete in the two-day event. Wrestling begins on Friday at noon. The finals are scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday.
The event is hosted by the Gopher Wrestling Club, with proceeds directly supporting GWC athletes.
The MatBoss Minnesota Christmas Tournament will be streamed live on FloWrestling.com. Results will be available on Trackwrestling.com.
Below are five storylines to watch at this year's event.
Six returning MatBoss Minnesota Christmas Tournament champions are expected to compete at this year's event. The group of returning champions is headlined by two-time state champion Landon Robideau (St. Michael-Albertville).
Robideau, a junior, will be after his third straight MatBoss Minnesota Christmas Tournament title. He dominated the competition last year at 132 pounds, getting a fall and three technical falls, including a 16-0 victory in the finals. Robideau will compete at 152 pounds this weekend.
Other returning champions include Blake Beissel (Hastings), Trey Beissel (Hastings), Logan Swensen (Wayzata), Charlie Millard (Homestead, Wis.) and Will Sather (Eden Prairie).
The Beissel brothers, Trey and Blake, won MatBoss Minnesota Christmas Tournament titles at 106 pounds and 113 pounds respectively last season. The brothers from Hastings also won state championships last season. It was Trey's first state championship and Blake's second. Blake will wrestle at 121 pounds, while Trey is at 127 pounds. Last year, Trey defeated New Prague's Lawson Eller 4-3 in the championship at 106 pounds. Blake's title last year came over Albert Lea Area's Michael Olson in tiebreaker, 3-1.
Wayzata's Swensen will look to capture his second consecutive MatBoss Minnesota Christmas Tournament crown after winning last year's title at 126 pounds with a 3-2 victory over Mound Westonka's Jack Nelson. He is a two-time state runner-up, losing both state finals matches in overtime to current University of Nebraska wrestler Alan Koehler, a three-time state champion. Swensen, ranked 13th nationally by MatScouts in his weight class, won a title at the Dan Gable Donnybrook in Iowa earlier this month. He will compete at 133 pounds this weekend.
Millard, a Wisconsin state champion, is the lone returning MatBoss Minnesota Christmas Tournament titlist from outside of Minnesota. He cruised to the 2022 MatBoss Minnesota Christmas Tournament title at 160 pounds with a 12-5 victory over Shakopee's Leo Tukhlynovych. Millard is a multiple-time Fargo All-American and ranked No. 2 nationally in his weight class by MatScouts.
Sather, a two-time state finalist and 2022 state champion, will look to repeat at heavyweight after winning last year's title in dramatic fashion. He won his MatBoss Minnesota Christmas Tournament title over Simley's Soren Herzog, using a Peterson roll to secure the match-winning takedown in overtime.
The team race is expected to be tightly contested with a strong field of teams competing in Rochester. According to The Guillotine, Minnesota's premier wrestling publication, the top 12 teams in Class AAA will be competing, as well as five of the top seven teams in Class AA, including the top three teams. In addition, the field includes ranked teams from Wisconsin and South Dakota.
Sixteen-time state champion Simley won last year's MatBoss Minnesota Christmas Tournament title with 485 points, finishing 17.5 points ahead of runner-up St. Michael-Albertville. The Spartans placed 11 wrestlers in the top 12, advanced three wrestlers to the finals and crowned a champion. It was Simley's fourth Minnesota Christmas Tournament team title, which tied St. Michael-Albertville for the second most Minnesota Christmas Tournament titles ever, trailing only Apple Valley, which has won 16.
Simley returns a strong and balanced team with 11 wrestlers ranked by The Guillotine, including three wrestlers ranked in the top two. Returning state finalists Austin Grzywinski and Cash Raymond both placed third at the 2022 MatBoss Minnesota Christmas Tournament. Grzywinski will compete at 114 pounds, while Raymond is entered at 152 pounds.
While Simley is the returning team champion, a strong case can be made that nine-time state champion St. Michael-Albertville is the favorite to win the team title this weekend. The Knights are ranked in the top 20 nationally (No. 19) by MatScouts. The aforementioned Landon Robideau is STMA's most credentialed wrestler but the Knights have a team filled with talent. Nine wrestlers are ranked in the top six in their respective weight classes by The Guillotine, with three STMA wrestlers ranked No. 1.
Hastings is the returning Class AAA team champion in Minnesota. The Raiders finished third at the MatBoss Minnesota Christmas Tournament last year behind Simley and St. Michael-Albertville. This year's team is led by the Beissel brothers, both MatBoss Minnesota Christmas Tournament champions and state champions last season.
Mounds View, ranked No. 3 in Class AAA, brings a balanced squad to Rochester. The Mustangs have nine wrestlers ranked in their respective weight classes by The Guillotine, led by nationally ranked Quin Morgan at 215 pounds.
In addition to Simley, two other Class AA teams to keep an eye on are No. 2 Kasson-Mantorville
and No. 3 Becker. Kasson-Mantorville has seven ranked wrestlers, while Becker has six.
A team to watch from Wisconsin that could make some noise is Menomonie, ranked No. 5 in Wisconsin's Division I by Wiwrestle. The Mustangs have a strong trio of lightweights with sophomore Bailey Casey (ranked No. 2) at 107 pounds, senior Brayten Casey (ranked No. 1) at 114 pounds and freshman Aidan Aure (ranked No. 6) at 121 pounds.
While there are highly-anticipated matchups throughout all 13 weight classes, the heavyweight (285 pounds) class might be the most intriguing because of the high-end talent at the top. Koy Hopke (Amery, Wis.), the nation's No. 1-ranked heavyweight and No. 8 pound-for-pound wrestler in the country by MatScouts, is the favorite to win the title. However, the class also includes the nation's No. 5 heavyweight, Navarro Schunke (Brandon Valley, S.D.), as well as returning MatBoss Minnesota Christmas Tournament champion Will Sather (Eden Prairie). Hopke and Sather have committed to Division I wrestling programs, while Schunke has committed to play Division I football (offensive line) at Kansas State. Interestingly, the weight class nearly included a fourth nationally ranked heavyweight. Cole Mirasola, the nation's No. 2-ranked heavyweight, would be competing at the MatBoss Minnesota Christmas Tournament if not for a scheduling conflict. Cole and his twin brother Connor, both Penn State signees, are wrestling freestyle at the Senior Nationals, which is the largest U.S. Olympic Team Trials qualifier. Both Mirasola brothers finished runner-up at the MatBoss Minnesota Christmas Tournament last year.
Many wrestlers who have competed at the Minnesota Christmas Tournament have gone on to have very successful college wrestling careers. Twin brothers Troy and Terry Steiner (Century, N.D.), both NCAA champions at the University of Iowa, competed in the inaugural event in 1987 and won titles at 119 pounds and 126 pounds respectively. Penn State NCAA champions Mark Hall (Apple Valley) and Roman Bravo-Young (Sunnyside, Ariz.) competed in the event, as did two-time NCAA champion and Olympic champion Gable Steveson (Apple Valley). Every year the tournament gives fans a glimpse of future college wrestling stars. There are over a dozen senior NCAA Division I commits competing in this year's event.
Five University of Minnesota commits are expected to compete: Koy Hopke (Amery, Wis.) at 285 pounds, Charlie Millard (Homestead, Wis.) at 160 pounds, Blake Beissel (Hastings) at 121 pounds, Jack Nelson (Mound Westonka) at 145 pounds and Jed Wester (St. Michael-Albertville) at 172 pounds.
Logan Swensen (Wayzata) and Quin Morgan (Mounds View) will be headed to South Dakota State. Swensen is joining his older brother Cael on the Jackrabbits. He is wrestling at 133 pounds this weekend. Morgan, ranked 14th nationally by MatScouts, is competing at 215 pounds. He is the son of Marty Morgan, 1991 NCAA champion and former head assistant wrestling coach at the University of Minnesota.
The 145-pound weight class at the MatBoss Minnesota Christmas Touranment is expected to include three Division I recruits: Gopher commit Nelson, University of Oklahoma commit Alex Braun (Woodbury) and University of Wyoming commit Tyson Charmoli (St. Francis).
Michael Olson (Albert Lea Area) has committed to North Dakota State University. He is competing at 133 pounds, a weight class that also includes Division I commit Swensen.
Two Division I commits are expected to compete at 189 pounds: Cole Han-Lindemyer (Farmington) and Marco Christiansen (Minnetonka). Han-Lindemyer, ranked No. 7 nationally in his weight class, has committed to Stanford. Christiansen, ranked No. 16 nationally, has committed to Nebraska.
Heavyweight Will Sather (Eden Prairie) has committed to Princeton.
Middle schoolers have been making their mark at the Minnesota Christmas Tournament since the tournament started in 1987. Below are four rising middle schoolers to watch at this year's MatBoss Minnesota Christmas Touranment.
At 114 pounds, eighth-graders Lincoln Robideau (St. Michael-Albertville) and Anthony Heim (Shakopee) are both ranked in the top 10 by The Guillotine.
As a seventh-grader, Robideau placed fifth at the MatBoss Minnesota Christmas Tournament and fourth at the state tournament at 106 pounds. He is the younger brother of two-time state champion Landon Robideau.
Heim was a state qualifier last season for Eden Prairie at 106 pounds. He has since transferred to Shakopee and is ranked fifth at 114 pounds in Class AAA by The Guillotine.
Grayson Eggum (St. Thomas Academy), one of the nation's top middle school wrestlers, is at 121 pounds. He won a U15 national freestyle title this year at 48 kilograms with a first-period technical fall in the finals. Eggum is ranked No. 1 in his weight class by MatScouts in the national junior high rankings. He is the son of Brandon Eggum, head wrestling coach at the University of Minnesota and a 2001 world silver medalist in freestyle.
A middle schooler to watch at 133 pounds is Justus Heeg (Simley), an eighth-grader who moved to Minnesota from Oklahoma this year. Heeg has been successful in national age-group events and is now starting to make his mark at the high school level. Last weekend, Heeg defeated two Wisconsin state placewinners at the Eau Claire North Husky Invitational.