Tyler Schmidt pinned Bay Port’s Cole Van Enkenvort in the 220 pound final match of the championship dual of the 16th Annual Northern Exposure Saturday, the two teams were tied at 31-31. The Bluejays won the match on tie-breaking criteria by the most first points scored between the two teams. Schmidt won the most pins crown at the tournament by pinning all seven of the opponents he faced in the two-day tournament.
With 22 teams facing off in seven matches over two days, Merrill’s Northern Exposure wrestling tournament has become a premiere showcase for teams from around the upper Midwest. And the 16th edition of the Christmas break classic didn’t disappoint as it proved to be a wild ride for the host Bluejays as they had to go deep into the tie-breaking criteria in their last dual with Bay Port before the letter “H” - first points scored – gave Merrill the win after the final score was knotted at 31.
The win gave the Bluejays, ranked number three in Division 1, an upset win over the number two team.
“This was a chance for everyone on our team to step it up and they did,” said MHS head coach Scott Arneson.
In pool play, Merrill defeated the Grizzlies 71-12, Rosholt 72-9, Ladysmith 75-6, Rice Lake 64-12 and West Allis Central 50-24 on a busy first day of wrestling that saw action on eight mats at the same time.
In the semifinal on Saturday, Merrill defeated Menomonee Falls 45-30 to set up the match with Bay Port for the tournament title.
Tyler Schmidt not only took all seven of his bouts at 220 over the weekend, he did so by pin with none of his bouts lasting longer than 1:28. That earned him the most pins title for the tournament. But his biggest pin of the weekend was the last one against Bay Port’s Cole Van Enkenvort at 1:28. That sent the officials to the rule book to break the tie.
Going for every single point possible from each match is something Arneson has drilled into his team all season.
“Getting a pin rather than a tech fall, or a tech fall over a major decision, each point can make or break us as a team,” Arneson said. “Wrestling may be a team sport, but it is individual scores that go into the team total.”
The watching of the individual scores paid off earlier in the month against Wausau West, with the Bluejays again coming ahead in a tie breaker situation.
“We talk in practice over and over again how important criteria can be in a dual,” Arneson said. “We’ve come out on top twice because of that.”
Scott Arneson (132), Mason Reinhardt (160), David Pophal (170) Ben Hintze (182) also went 7-0 for the weekend. Reinhardt won six by pin and a 12-3 major decision against Bay Port’s Jacob Jossart in the championship dual. Pophal won all of his matches by pin, but was edged out by his team mate for the pin title when he went 25 seconds into the second period to score his win over Brandon Driessen of West Allis Central. Hintze had four pins and a 10-0 major along with two forfeit wins. Arneson had one pin, an 18-3 tech fall, 15-3 and 10-0 majors and 9-2 and 7-3 decisions to go with a forfeit.
Alex Klug (195), Gabe Nelles (285) and Aiden Ball (106) went 6-1. Klug had four pins, a 6-5 blood time win and a forfeit, Nelles had five pins and a forfeit win while Ball had three pins, and 4-2 and 2-0 decisions to go with a forfeit.
Devon Schultz (113) and Cody Nicholson (138) went 5-2 for the weekend. Schultz had two pins, 4-0 decision and a forfeit win while Nicholson had four pins and a 12-6 decision. Nathan Beyer (126) and Jagger Scholz (145) went 4-3. Each had three pins and a forfeit win.
Kassidy Block (120) went 3-3 with a two pins and a forfeit win and Lucas Lee (152) went 2-4 with a pin and a forfeit win.
After escaping the tiebreaker, Arneson said he would not be surprised if the Bluejays and Bay Port don’t cross paths again later in the season.
“They are a good team,” he said. “We will see them later in a tournament, but not in a dual. I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t run into them in the post-season.”
Arneson said he was pleased to see a good showing by his team as a whole, with everyone leaving everything on the mat. He said this all boils down to the “maximum individual points equal team wins” approach they are taking.
He also wanted to sing the praises of not only the coaching staff, but also the booster club, parents and volunteers who made the tournament such the smooth running success it has become.
“We couldn’t do it without their help,” Arneson said. “I can’t stress that enough.”
Arneson said getting the win in their home tournament was a great way to end “the old year” as the team refers to the first half of the season. He said he considers the team 0-0 after January 1, no matter what their real record.
“It showed our guys what they are capable of, as well as the other teams in the area,” Arneson said. “I consider this a huge positive going forward.”
The Bluejays added a home dual Thursday, Jan. 9 against Stratford, who is ranked number four in Division 3.
“They wanted to wrestle us, so they must have a reason,” Arneson said.