Coach Jim Jackson has seen many of his top-ranked Eagles wrestle since they were age 5

Updated: February 10, 2011

By Mike Finn

Many people apparently are surprised to see Apple Valley High School ranked No. 1 in the country.

That even includes some of the wrestlers on this team from a community just south of the Twin Cities in Minnesota.

“I was talking to Jake Waste recently and we were taling about being No. 1 in the nation,” recalled Apple Valley coach Jim Jackson. “He asked me, ‘Did you really think we would be this good? Are we really that good?’ ”

After the Eagles defeated No. 2 Blair Academy by nearly 80 points at the Cheesehead Tournament at the end of December, Jackson was convinced his team should be given such a national honor.

Jim Jackson has been part of every one of Apple Valley’s 18 Minnesota state championships, including the past 12 since becoming head coach in 1995.

But then again, Jackson, who has been part of this program for the past 31 years, has known many of his wrestlers since they were five years old; enough time to see how special they are in 2010-11.

“We had a good group of kids like (Dakota) Trom and the Kingsleys (Jordan and Brandon) and (Matt) Hechsel, who came from a pretty special youth program here,” said Jackson. “When (Destin) McCauley came here as a seventh grader and (Matt) Kelliher came as a sixth grader and then you added (Jake) Waste and (Steve) Keogh, we probably have about 10 Division I kids on our team. We should be pretty solid.”

While McCauley, who will be shooting for an Apple Valley record fifth Minnesota state championship — the current senior won his first as a seventh grader in 2006 — next month, catches most of the attention as the nation’s top-ranked 152-pounders, there are seven other Eagles rated in the Top 20 by WIN:

• Senior Jordan Kingsley is No. 16 at 112;

• Junior Dakota Trom is No. 13 at 125;

• Seventh-grader Mark Hall is 11th at 130;

• Senior Matt Kelliher is No. 7 at 140;

• Senior Steve Keogh is No. 2 at 160;

• Waste, a senior, is No. 4 at 171.

All the seniors are tabbed to wrestle in college as Jordan Kingley and Keogh will stay instate to wrestle at Minnesota, Waste will head to Buffalo and both McCauley and Kelliher helped make Wisconsin’s recruiting class No. 1 by WIN. (McCauley will actually spend next year at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs before heading to Madison, Wisc., in 2012.)

And Jackson has no problem ranking McCauley as the best wrestler to ever come out of Apple Valley.

“I’m a person who believes in results,” said Jackson. “We have had three four-time state champions, Chad Erickson, Charlie Falck and Destin McCauley. Destin has a chance to be a five-time state champion and if that happens, he will be the best that we’ve ever had.”

But Jackson will be the first to remind people that this Eagle team is more than McCauley.

“The skeptics are out there,” Jackson said. Some people believe Blair should be No. 1 because they had five champions at the Cheesehead while we had just one (McCauley). But we had eight in the finals (the other being Trom, Kellher, Brandon Kingsley, 145-pound Dan Woiwor, Keogh, Waste and 189-pound Matt Hechsel) and we lost several one-point matches too.”

One week later, Apple Valley dominated The Clash Duals, where the Eagles beat Brandon, Fla., in the finals.

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