Grapplers’ state team dream ends
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 11:03 AM
The second-ranked Bluejay wrestlers may have captured the unofficial state championship during the WIAA Individual State Championships, but the official one eluded them in last weekend’s WIAA Team State Championships.
Merrill opened Friday’s competition with a resounding 49-24 quarter-finals triumph over Mukwanago. But in the night’s semi-final round, third-rated Bay Port avenged an earlier tiebreaker loss to Merrill with a close 28-25 victory. That left the Jays in a tie for third place with Burlington, a 40-21 semi-final loser to Kaukauna.
Top-ranked Kaukauna then locked down the state title with Saturday’s 39-22 match with Bay Port. The meet was staged in the UW-Madison Fieldhouse, affectionately known as ‘The Barn.’
“It was a great way to end a great season,” MHS coach Scott Arneson said. “We had our best team on the mat and we just came up short. We wore shirts that said, ‘Bring all the horses to the Barn,’ but we didn’t have enough horsepower.
“I thought we wrestled them better than we did in Northern Exposure. I tried to think, ‘how the heck are we behind?’ We were wrestling aggressive. We had great practices. I felt all the elements were there. I was kind of surprised we didn’t win it, because of the attitude of the team.”
Merrill topped Bay Port on criteria after tying 31-31 during their Northern Exposure tourney in December.
“We went seven weeks straight, and raised up for all the challenges, and then we’re upset because we lost in the state semi-finals?” Arneson said. “I have no problem sleeping. Our season was positive all the way through. We did a lot of winning.
“Being in the top four in the state in Division 1, you should feel pretty good about that. We were one step away from the finals with a chance to win it. When you see Kaukauna rooting for Bay Port in our match, you know we had a chance.”
The Jays just needed one more victory to top Bay Port.
“When you get to the state tournament and the team score is within three points, you know it’s a great dual,” Arneson said. “We never got pinned and we lost the dual. That’s a rarity. And we were pinning people. I do think we had the team that could have won the whole thing.”
Bay Port pulled out eight matches to Merrill’s six.
The Pirates took a 7-2 win over Gabe Nelles in the opening match at 285, but Merrill countered with 4-1 and 6-1 wins from Aiden Ball (106) and Devon Schultz (113). Bay Port pulled off six consecutive wins for a 25-6 lead that gave Merrill no more wiggle room. Nathan Beyer (120) gave a 17-1 technical fall; Hunter Welch (126) lost 8-4; state third-place finisher Chase Farr (132) topped state qualifier Scott T. Arneson 7-2; Tanner Pettit (138) dropped a 21-6 tech fall to state qualifier Chad Osmanski; Cody Nicholson (145) was edged 2-1; and Jagger Scholz (152) lost 7-4.
The Bluejays still almost pulled it off. State runner-up Mason Reinhardt (160) pulled a six-point pin in 4:55 when it would have been a five-point tech fall if he didn’t stick his foe there. Fourth-place finisher David Pophal (170) won 5-3 over state qualifier Andrew Wojkiewicz. Runner-up Ben Hintze (182) flattened his foe in 1:08 to cut it to 25-21 with two matches remaining.
That set up a rematch of the opening round at state at 195 between Alex Klug and the Pirates’ Alec Ingold. Ingold had won on a last-second overtime takedown at individual state. Klug got the initial takedown again, and was close to another twice in the second period, but Ingold scored it instead after an odd maneuver out of Klug’s single-leg attempt. Klug trailed 5-4 late in the third period and despite several strong shots, finally Ingold sealed it with a late TD.
That put Bay Port just out of reach for two-time state champ Tyler Schmidt at 28-21. He worked a 14-2 major decision over fifth-place Joe Kitslaar to put it at the final 28-25.
Make ’em wanna go
The Jays completely controlled their opening round, even giving some varsity reserves a shot after taking a quick 21-0 lead.
Nelles and Schmidt switched weight classes and still got pins in 2:33 and 1:36, followed by Ball’s fall in 5:09. Schmidt’s pin pushed his team record to 41 falls, 10 more than the previous record.
Schultz took a 5-3 decision. Kassidy Block was pinned in 4:42 and Welch was edged 11-10, before Arneson answered with a 15-3 major. Nicholson pushed it to 31-9 with a fall in 2:44, but Scholz was pinned in 5:13 and Adam Lee was stuck in 2:31.
Reinhardt kept the pin-fest rolling with a stoppage in 2:24, but Pophal lost 8-6. Hintze and Klug closed out the 49-24 triumph with falls in :43 and 2:44.
Arneson noted the backing the team felt and heard.
“The community came down and supported us again,” he said.
The team will graduate nine seniors off the varsity and varsity reserve.
“As far as those seniors, thanks a lot for all your dedication and hard work,” Arneson said. “All those seniors got to compete in the state individual and team tournaments because of their leadership. They got everything they deserved except hardware at the team tournament.
“Most of them gave us a great 3-4 years on varsity. We were 68-7 in duals over the past four years. That says a lot. You look at our record board, and a lot of these kids are in the top five in a lot of categories.”
Arneson also looks to a bright future for his team.
“The thing I like is next year’s team has been waiting for their chance and we set up the schedule pretty good so they could get in three varsity tournaments,” he said. “I just hope these kids are committed to the weight room and working out and participating in other sports. I hope they use the seniors example in leadership and commitment.
“Some people think we’re losing too much, and if I was on the outside looking in, I might think the same thing. But I know we have a lot of kids behind this group and it’s their time to shine. There shouldn’t be too much of a dip in our product next year. I say WNU– Why Not Us? Our slogan for next year will be ‘Been there, done that – Let’s do it again.”