Iron might sharpen iron, but to get it there you first have to add a little heat.
That’s exactly what Shane Allison is hoping his Valentine wrestling team is exposed to at this weekend’s Norm Manstedt Invitational.
The top-ranked Badgers, winners of the past three Class C state team titles, will see where they measure up with some of the state’s best during the two-day tournament at Central Community College in Columbus.
A field that includes two of the top four teams in Class A, as well as three teams in the Class C ratings, is littered with individual talent, too.
“It’s a big test,” Allison said. “It’s a good chance to see a variety of different wrestling styles, just a nice mix of classes there. It really kind of exposes your weaknesses.”
That carries even more importance for a squad that might not be Allison’s youngest, but could definitely be one of his most inexperienced.
Freshmen start at the three lowest weights. There’s a pair of sophomores in the lineup, too.
“We have young kids that are making big strides,” Allison said. “Sometimes freshmen just make freshmen mistakes. A lot of it is the mental aspect of things, especially with our young guys, realizing they can compete with the top guys.”
Six Badgers are ranked by Huskermat.com, including four at the top of their weight classes. It starts with state champions Chris Williams (126 pounds) and Gage Krolikowski (138). The former went 38-1 a year ago as a sophomore to capture his second title. Krolikowski is looking to become Valentine’s first four-time champion.
Teammates Morgan McGinley and Chase Olson are also ranked No. 1 — at 145 and 160, respectively — giving the middle of the Badger lineup its teeth.
“They show kids how to work,” Allison said. “They show them how to drill right. They lead by example. Kids find out where that next level is pretty quick.”
The same could be said about this weekend’s test.
Class A No. 2 Lincoln East brings a lineup featuring four who are top-ranked. A showdown between Olson and Lincoln East’s Maxx Mayfield at 160 is one of the most anticipated matches of the tournament. Mayfield, a Northwestern recruit, went 100-3 over the course of two state championship seasons. He’s ranked No. 6 in the nation at 152 pounds by InterMat.
“That’s a great match to have,” Allison said.
Fourth-ranked Columbus, which won this tournament a year ago, brings six ranked wrestlers of its own. Allison and the Badgers walked away with the event’s team title in 2017.
It’s the 51st annual tournament — formerly the Clarks Invitational before becoming the High Plains Invitational. It was renamed this season for the retired Manstedt, who spent a combined 50 years as coach of the schools, and was a steward of the tournament.