The Bluejay wrestlers may have missed qualifying for the state team tournament–likely their preeminent goal–after falling a close second to Wausau West in the previous weekend’s WIAA Regional.
That created disappointment for the state’s second-ranked Bluejays, who wouldn’t even make the field of 16 in the flawed qualifying process that uses an individual tournament as the first step in the team tourney.
But don’t doubt the resilience of the squad.
Setting their sights on a brand new goal of sending more grapplers than ever before to this week’s WIAA State Individual Tournament, they flirted with the record before “settling” for a solid six.
Not only that, but they defeated Wausau West 133.5-129.5 in the unofficial sectional standings. Hudson (67) and Chippewa Falls (64.5) weren’t even in the neighborhood.
Senior Ray Paul (152) and sophomore Tyler Schmidt (220) both earned return trips to state with their title runs, while freshman Mason Reinhardt (145), sophomore David Pophal (160), and seniors Noah Lassa (182) and Grant Collins (285) all clinched berths with runner-up finishes. Lassa has also previously qualified for state.
Three others–Scott Arneson (113), Matthew Reinhardt (138) and Alex Klug (195)–earned a shot at state with wrestleback matches, but they came up short of a state trip in close losses.
“After we didn’t win regional, we set our sights to qualify eight for state because it’s something we never had done before and we wanted to give the kids something to shoot for,” MHS coach Scott Arneson said. “Up and down the line-up there was great wrestling, probably our best of the year.
“We didn’t have any excuses and we wrestled that way.”
Paul (39-6) used a pair of pins to set up his 6-3 title win over Hudson’s Kolya Hawksford (42-3). Schmidt (39-6) pulled a pin and 7-1 win to set up a 3-1 victory over Chippewa Falls’ Grant Schindler (38-4).
Mason Reinhardt (36-6) was edged 3-1 in overtime by West’s Travis Hettinga (43-5) in the championship match, but he pinned Superior’s Nick Kirchoff to secure second. Pophal (35-8) lost a 6-1 semi to Hudson’s Tanner Owens, but bounced back with 6-2 and 5-1 wins.
Lassa (39-6) lost for the third consecutive week to Marshfield’s Justin Steinweis (41-1), this time by a 7-0 finals score. But a pin and 12-5 decision sealed second. Collins (39-7) lost a 5-1 decision in the title match to Menomonie’s Connor Hanson (36-5), but locked up a state berth with a pin in 2:58 of East’s David Hamlin (31-14).
“Ray and Tyler both put together three in a row,” Arneson said. “They’ve been pretty steady all year.
“Ray’s been through the grinder for four years. He’s been there, done that. With his leadership, he was getting kids fired up. Noah and Tyler have been (to state) before. Even Matt and Marcus, have been there (for the team) for four years. All our seniors gave great leadership.”
Only the top two in each weight class in D1 advance, leaving freshman Arneson (36-7), senior Matthew Reinhardt (25-14), sophomore Klug (28-10) and senior Marcus Reinhardt (132, 27-17), who ranked fourth, out in the cold.
“You always wish that everybody could have that day that’s their best, but not everyone can,” Arneson said. “We told the kids to finish it off going as hard as they can, especially the seniors to go out giving it your all. For Matt and Marcus that was definitely the case.”
Arneson dropped a 4-3 match in the semis, and after a 14-0 major, was bumped 6-3 by Falls’ 30-2 Quinn Miracle. Matthew was edged 3-2 in the finals by West’s Nate Hettinga, then fell 5-3 in a wrestleback. Klug was edged 6-5 in the semis by Eau Claire’s Alastair Keys (44-1), and following an 8-4 win over West’s Jackson Beck, was bumped 3-1. Marcus lost 3-1 to Everest’s Joe Ziolkowski (42-9) in the semis and was pinned to end it.
Sophomores Nathan Beyer (106) and Ben Hintze (170) both lost their opening match. Junior Garrett Schmelling contracted a strong case of mono and was unable to compete even though he had qualified for sectional.
“Hopefully this provided motivation for all the underclassmen for next year,” Arneson said. “The kids that lost are already setting their sights on next year.”
Thursday opening matches at state for the Bluejays include: for Mason Reinhardt- Burlington’s Willie Ehlen (43-3); Paul- Germantown’s Danny Krause (29-10); Pophal- Racine Horlick’s Andres Marquez (43-1); Lassa- DeForest’s Brock Allen (35-12); Schmidt- Elkhorn’s Dakota Johnson (35-3); Collins- Mukwonago’s Tyler Ladwig (42-3).
“Now we have to make our shots count, because you might only get one,” Arneson said.