Bonus points will likely be crucial in the early matches during Thursday's Big Nine Conference dual between No. 6AAA Owatonna and No. 5AA Albert Lea at OHS.

Owatonna's wrestlers will likely face a gauntlet of ranked opponents from the Albert Lea side. The Tigers have seven top 10 rated wrestlers in the first eight weights. Owatonna has two. The Huskies lower weight wrestlers will need to avoid pins and possibly pull off an upset or two to put Owatonna in position to capture the Big Nine title. OHS has two ranked wrestlers in the upper weights. Albert Lea closes with a top 10 heavyweight.

Albert Lea's ranked wrestlers include Nic Cantu at 106 pounds, Joe Peterson at 113, Jake Johnsrud at 120, Gavin Ignazewski at 126, Garrett Aldrich at 138, Brody Nielson at 145, Zach Glazier at 152 and Matt Palmer at 285. Owatonna counters with Peyton Robb at 138, Cade King at 152, Brandon Moen at 182 and Griffin Thorn at 195.

Neither team can officially claim the conference crown after Thursday's match, but the reality is the winner can celebrate like they have secured the title. Over the past 21 seasons, Owatonna has won 11 conference titles and Albert Lea has taken 10, including the past two.

The Tigers finished 14th at The Clash last weekend. The Huskies were 19th. Each team went 3-3. They had one common opponent with DeLaSalle, Calif. Albert Lea beat them 35-28 while Owatonna lost 43-22.

Action begins around 7PM with coverage on Kat Kountry 105FM with hall of fame members Dale Benjamin and Larry Hovden on the call.

Owatonna hockey plays Northfield on Thursday. The girls square off in Northfield in a key section and conference game. It's a rematch of last season's Section 1A title game, won by the Raiders. The Huskies are 7-0 in Big Nine games this season but haven't faced the conference leaders yet. The Raiders are 3-3, having played most of the top teams in the conference. The game faces off at 5:30PM on KRFO AM 1390.

The Raider boys lead the Big Nine hockey standings at 6-0. Owatonna is just 1-1 in league action. Game time is 7PM at Four Seasons in Owatonna. The Huskies girls basketball squad goes to defending Big Nine champ Rochester Mayo on Thursday for a 7:30PM game.

No. 3AA Owatonna gymnastics hosts No. 9A Mankato West and Mankato East at the Owatonna Gymnastics Club at 6:30PM. OHS boys swimming competes at Albert Lea on Thursday night at 6PM.

The unbeaten NRHEG boys basketball team entertains WEM and Triton is at Medford. In girls basketball, Randolph is at Blooming Prairie, Medford plays at Schaeffer Academy in Rochester, NRHEG goes to WEM and Triton hosts Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton. The Westfield wrestlers are at Lake City on Thursday along with Goodhue and Medford travels to Le Sueur-Henderson.