The Minnesota State High School League announced its competitive section assignments for the next two school years: 2021-22 and 2022-23.
The section assignments only affect high school playoffs and usually have no bearing on athletic conferences or divisions. While many Hutchinson High School sports teams won’t see any significant changes next year, others will be facing different opponents or playing in entirely different sections.
Some teams will see minor changes. For instance, Hutchinson’s football team will no longer have to worry about Mankato East or New Ulm in the Section 2AAAA playoffs. Taking their places are Willmar and St. Peter. And in boys swimming and diving the Tigersharks will remain in Section 3A to defend their two straight titles, but now they’ll have to face Sauk Rapids-Rice, which won Section 3A titles in 2017, 2018 and 2019 before moving to a different section the past two years.
Other teams will see major changes in their playoff structures and competition. Here’s a glance at those significant changes for HHS sports teams.
Big changes in hockey
The road to the state tournament will be much tougher for Hutchinson’s boys hockey team as it will move out of Section 3A and into Section 2A with teams such as Delano/Rockford, Orono and Breck. Delano won the Section 2A title this past winter by beating out Breck, which was ranked No. 5 in the final state poll.
Making the move to Section 2A was also Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato, Hutchinson’s conference and Section 3A rival.
While playoffs became more difficult for the boys hockey team, they may have slightly improved for girls hockey. The Tigers will remain in Section 2A, but the top three playoff seeds this past year — Mound Westonka, Delano/Rockford and New Ulm — were all moved to a new section. Taking their places in Section 2A are Waconia, Mankato East/Loyola and Mankato West. Mankato East posted a 13-5-1 record this winter, while Mankato West and Waconia won a combined eight games.
Cross country, track and field in new class
Back in 2019 the decision to add a third class in cross country and track and field was big news for those Hutchinson teams. For years the Tigers were often one of the smallest schools competing in their sections against larger schools such as Waseca, Eden Prairie, Shakopee, Chaska and Chanhassen.
Starting next year the Tigers will be facing schools closer to their own size, and now they know who they’ll be up against at the Section 2AA championship meet. But while the new class helps, Hutchinson will still have plenty of stiff competition from schools such as Glencoe-Silver Lake, Mankato East and West, Jordan, Marshall and New Prague.
New playoffs for soccer
Soccer is another sport where a third class has been added starting with the 2021-22 season, and now the Hutchinson/Glencoe-Silver Lake boys and girls teams know who they’ll face in the playoffs.
The Tigers will no longer have to worry about the Orono Spartans, a team that has dominated the boys and girls playoffs for many years. The Tiger boys will play in Section 2AA with teams such as Marshall, New Prague, New Ulm and Mankato East and West. The Tiger girls are in Section 6AA where they’ll face schools such as Willmar, Monticello, Becker and Big Lake.
The playoffs will be smaller also with teams now split amongst three classes rather than two. While section had as many as 19 teams in years past, they’ll now have half that under the three-class format.
Spikers say so long to big schools
Hutchinson volleyball coach Dennis Piechowski applauded the decision back in 2019 to add a fourth class to volleyball. That change is being made during the 2021-22 season, and with it the Tigers will no longer be in the top class facing teams such as Eden Prairie, Wayzata and Lakeville North.
But while Hutchinson is glad it will now be playing schools closer to its size, the competition will still be tough in the Section 2AAA playoffs with programs such as Marshall, New Ulm, St. Peter and the Mankato schools to contend with.
In fact, seven of the eight teams in Hutchinson’s new section had winning records and were a combined 62-14 during last fall’s shortened season. The Tigers will still have their work cut out from them if they hope to be section champions in the future.
Wrestlers heading west
The Hutchinson/BLHS wrestling team will see all new competition next year as it moves from Section 2AA to Section 3AA.
The switch means the Tigers won’t have to contend with teams such as Scott West, Watertown-Mayer, Tri-City United and St. Peter. But they’ll still face good competition from teams such as Marshall, New London-Spicer and Fairmont/Murray County West, which was rated No. 3 in the state and finished in the top four at the state tournament.
Section 3AA had its fair share of top individual state wrestlers this past year as well. The section boasted 12 finishers in the top six of their weight class, including five in title matches and one state champion.
New section for Hutch hoops
Hutchinson’s boys and girls basketball teams are moving out of Section 2AAA and into Section 6AAA.
The change means teams such as Waconia, Marshall and the Mankato schools will no longer be playoff rivals. Instead the Tigers will have to deal with conference rivals such as Delano, Mound Westonka and Orono, as well as top private schools such as Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Academy of Holy Angels.
Holy Angels was ranked No. 2 in the final girls Class 3A ratings, and in boys hoops, Richfield, which is also a 6AAA team, was ranked No. 4 in the final poll.
Baseball, softball teams look east
Hutchinson’s baseball and softball teams are making a change, moving out of Section 2AA and into Section 6AA. That means they’ll be saying so long to teams such as Marshall, Waconia, New Ulm and the Mankato schools, and hello to more conference rivals such as Orono, Mound Westonka and Delano, as well as more metro-area schools such as Benilde-St. Margaret’s and DeLaSalle.