The original curiosity as to how the name Simley was attached to a public high school arrived in 1962. The reason for this was the Simley Spartans were in the Missota Conference, with the Burnsville Braves, Rosemount Irish, Lakeville Panthers, Farmington Tigers and our Prior Lake Lakers during that school year.
There was no such location as Simley and we learned nothing in history about a politician or war hero with that last name.
On a bus ride east for a tilt with the Spartans, someone must have asked, 'Simley? What's that all about?''
Obviously, the Lakers of that winter were not haunted by the question, since it took me until Friday — 60 years later — to look for an answer.
Turns out, the school in Inver Grove Heights is named for Irvin T. Simley. He was a long-serving superintendent of South St. Paul schools, retired in 1957, and then was a consultant to nearby Inver Grove Heights as it prepared to open a high school in 1961.
Mr. Simley died in June 1967 at age 79, which was 20 years before the high school that carries his name won the first of what now stands as 11 state team wrestling championships.
That ruggedness has carried over to football success in recent years. The Spartans had a first state tournament appearance in 2014, losing to Mankato West in the Class 5A final. This was its third straight season in the Class 4A field — 2019, 2021 and 2022 (2020 was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
Last November, Simley ran into mighty Hutchinson in the quarterfinals and took a 40-0 pounding. The Spartans were back late on Friday afternoon for a rematch with Hutch in the 4A championship game.
This was Hutchinson's eighth Prep Bowl and with a single loss: 57-13 to Totino-Grace in 2003.
Considering the outcome one season previously, Simley seemed an unlikely candidate to join that club.
And yet there were the Spartans in the decisive moments, taking over offensively and then defensively, to come away with a 34-24 victory.
Being as hard-nosed as Hutchinson, with its relentless running game, is a rare trait in a team — but this Simley crew had that, and no one more so than Gavin Nelson, runner, tackler, two-time state wrestling champion.
Hutchinson had two long drives to take a 16-6 lead and it was 16-13 at halftime. Penalties and some adjustments slowed the Tigers in the second half, until they needed a drive and went 77 yards in seven plays to go back in front 24-20 with 6:15 remaining.
Any thought this might discourage Simley ended quickly. First, Hutch's feeble kicking game allowed Simley to start at its 36, and immediately Nelson banged forward, then popped outside for a 30-yard gain.
The Spartans went ahead on Caden Renslow's 17-yard touchdown pass to David Gogins at 3:10. And soon thereafter, with Hutch pushed back by a penalty on its return, Dez Smith was winging toward the end zone with a 25-yard interception and it was over.
Forty-zip had been reversed.
A trio of Simley players were brought to a postgame interview and asked if they had saved reminders of that beatdown.
Tay'vion McCoy, a standout two-way player, reached for the microphone and said: "I did that. I did a Tik Tok after that game, and kept it for when we got our reward. Soon as we're done here, I'm going to send it out.''
What's the theme? "It's about getting back,'' McCoy said.
Chris Mensen took over as the Simley football coach four years ago. Nelson was among those playing for him way back then.
And this was truly wonderful, as McCoy, Renslow and Nelson gave their reactions to this championship with the coach sitting next to them.
All expressed admiration for the edge and pride he had brought to Simley football. They did so by referring to him as "Mensen'' — not the popular, fawning "Coach,'' but a blue-collar reference for a blue-collar team.
Longtime wrestling school; now a state champion in the other grittiest of sports.
"In wrestling, if you lose, if you win, it's all on you," Nelson said. "In football, there's 10 other guys in the field with you. I think it makes it 10 times more special."
Speaking of wrestling: When does that resume for this future Gopher?
"I'm wrestling tomorrow at a meet in Woodbury,'' he said.
And how many plays did you miss today?
"I don't think any, except for special teams,'' Nelson said.
And how many matches on Saturday?
"Three or four,'' Nelson answered, as there was "Mensen'' next to him, with hands upraised in a can-you-believe-this-guy gesture.