Several Merrill wrestlers decided to go the extra mile this summer, literally, traveling to Fargo, N. Dakota, to compete in the USA-Wrestling Greco and Freestyle Nationals held July 21-22.
Three of five competitors earned All-American status, led by runner-up and UW-Madison recruit Tyler Schmidt in the 220-pound Greco class. Kassidy Block ranked sixth in the freestyle girls 117-pound class, while Mason Reinhardt (170) finished 7th in a 64-person Greco bracket.
Scott T. Arneson (132) and Devon Schultz (120) both posted a 1-2 record at the Greco event, but did not place. Schultz was the only Merrill entrant to compete in the cadet division.
“I was really proud of just the fact the kids are competing in the national tournament,” MHS head coach Scott Arneson, the lead coach for the Team Wisconsin Cadets, said. “Wisconsin is trying to provide opportunities for kids to compete and all these kids stepped up to the plate.
“There were over 800 kids in each division (boys cadet and boys Greco). Scottie lost his second match 3-0 to the defending national champion, then that kid didn’t even place in the top eight this year. The guy that beat Mason was third in the world. The kid Tyler lost to was the USA Wrestler of the Year last year. Our kids are wrestling the best kids in the nation.
“Mason, Tyler and Kassidy were able to put enough wins together to be an All-American. It’s just a cool thing for kids.”
Schmidt – who took the top place of any Junior Greco Team Wisconsin entrant – won five straight with two falls, two 10-0 major wins and a 15-5 major. He lost 13-8 to Utah’s Roy Nash in the finals.
Reinhardt – one of just five Team Wisconsin juniors to earn Greco All-American status – lost in the third round to eventual champion Jon Jay Chavez, of Idaho, but bounced back with three wins before losing to the fifth-place finisher from Minnesota. He took his seventh-place match in the 64-man bracket by an 11-2 score.
Block posted a 3-3 record with two falls and a technical fall for wins, but two of her losses came in her final two matches. Her first loss in the 22-woman bracket came to runner-up Madison Tung, of California.
Both Arneson and Schultz captured technical fall wins.
Arneson noted that participating in events like this one over the summer make a huge difference in the winter season.
“The best kids in the state do that extra wrestling,” he said. “Out of the whole state, very few teams had as many kids there as we did.
“You’re in a place as big as a football field with 26 mats. Whether you win or lose doesn’t matter. It’s the biggest tournament in the world and you get to wrestle in it.
“I feel one of the reasons I won a state championship is because I wrestled over the summer. I like it that kids take advantage of things like that. I always tell my son, ‘If you want to get better, do one more thing.’
“As coaches we need to do the same thing, so we’re not asking something from them that we’re not willing to do ourselves. At the Team Wisconsin practice sessions, we get together and learn from each other. It’s a great volunteer opportunity.”
Coach Arneson also received the seven-state Northern Plains Developmental Coach of the Year award at the event. Merrill’s Brian Suchocki and Everest’s Eric Lehrke both assisted with the cadet Team Wisconsin, which placed third out of 46 teams.
“I don’t coach for awards, but it’s a nice way for people to tell you that you’re doing a good job,” Arneson said.
Team Wisconsin placed seventh in juniors.