The winter state tournaments began for local teams last week when boys swimming held its final competition.

Even though these events aren’t getting the attention they have in the past, or deserve, it’s still a big step to returning to normal high-school activities.

Mankato East/Loyola’s Dave Wedzina had a strong swim meet, earning all-state honors in the 200-yard individual medley and 100 breaststroke.

This week, it’s gymnastics and wrestling that will hold state tournaments, with plenty of local participation.

Mankato West returns to the gymnastics state meet, having finished fourth last season. The Scarlets will compete in the late session Friday, led by junior Jenna Sikel. She won the Section 2A all-around title and placed sixth on vault at the state meet last season.

She’ll be joined at the state meet by teammates Charlie Fernandez, Zoey Hermel, Abby Olenius, Maura Panahon, Mckenna Schreiber and Kyla Sullivan.

Mankato East will have three gymnasts at the state meet: Hali Christofferson, Trinity Lindeman and Ella Turner.

New Ulm Area’s Kayla Goblirsch and St. Peter’s Trista Landsom have also qualified for the state meet.

The gymnastics meet will be held at Champlin Park High School, with only limited fans, and the wrestlers will gather for their tournament at St. Michael-Albertville High School.

Class AAA held its team and individual competition on Thursday, with Class AA on Friday and Class A on Saturday.

Mankato West’s Damian Riewe and Gannon Rosenfeld are in the Class AA field, having had impressive performances at last weekend’s “super sectionals.” Rosenfeld won the 195-pound bracket by pinning all three opponents.

Waseca’s Mason Gehloff won a state championship two seasons ago and placed fourth last season, and he’s looking for more hardware this week.

Tri-City United has three wrestlers in the state meet: Chris Johnson, Brody Rud and Riley O’Malley. New Ulm Area also has three state participants in Parker Kamm, Cole Ranweiler and Jaden Drill.

Sibley East’s Derek Steele and Drayden Morton are defending champions in Class A. Blue Earth Area’s Max Ehrich placed fourth last season, and he’s joined by teammates Nick Frank and Luke Mertens this season.

Tucker Willis of Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial/Nicollet and Boden Simon of Maple River are also in the Class field.

Even though these tournaments look differently than they did a year ago, it’s been a lot of fun watching these athletes make the best of their circumstances this season, competing with intensity and passion.

The masks have been inconvenient, and social distancing has been a great challenge, but it looks like most of the teams are going to make it through the season. For those who didn’t, it’s incredibly disappointing.

But it’s state tournament time, Minnesota’s version of March Madness. That’s something that looked questionable, at best, just three months ago.

Chad Courrier is the Free Press sports editor. He’s at 507-344-6353, ccourrier@mankatofreepress.com or on Twitter @ChadCourrier.

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