West kills Bluejays’ last team chance; nine still alive
Saturday’s WIAA Merrill Regional offered one last chance for the third-rated Merrill wrestlers to knock off top-ranked Wausau West as a team, but the Warriors found their groove one more time to seal up the title and the WIAA Team Sectional that comes with it.
The Jays may have had some regrets, but they had no excuses after finally putting their A-list on the mat.
“I’m happy we had our whole team in the line-up for the first time,” MHS coach Scott Arneson said. “We put ourselves in the best position, and it didn’t happen.
“It was a really tough regional, probably one of the toughest in the state in terms of team balance and individuals. A lot of these kids will have a chance to get to state. Even the third-place guys are in the hunt for the top two (sectional) spots (that determine state qualification).”
The Bluejays ended up with five champions in Nathan Beyer (31-12, 113 pounds), Mason Reinhardt (41-2, 160, ranked #1 in the state), David Pophal (40-3, 170, #4), Ben Hintze (38-6, 182, #13) and Tyler Schmidt (38-0, 220, #2). Beyer blanked West’s Alex Burk 6-0, Reinhardt topped West’s Jared Mataczynski (#6) 3-1 in OT, Pophal bested West’s Cody Grunenwald (#5) 6-3, Hintze slid by Point’s Mitch Mallek (HM) 3-1 in OT, and Schmidt pulled a 7-1 win on West’s River Judd.
“Nathan Beyer, Eric Ball and Tyler Schmidt are making things happen with their intensity,” Arneson said “Despite going down a weight class, Nathan has actually increased his intensity level. In the last two weeks, Eric has changed his attitude more probably than any other kid.
“Mason, David and Ben all upheld their spots. They all beat guys that they beat at the conference tournament, although the matches were a little tighter. The problem is they’re wrestling against guys that are trying to do as little as possible to keep it close.”
The Jays ended up locking down three runner-up finishes, behind Garrett Schmelling (33-9, 126, #9), Scott T. Arneson (29-9, 132, #11) and Alex Klug (40-4, 195, #6), and Ball (28-16, 145) was third after losing a 5-4 wrestleback match that included a body slam point given up.
“Scottie, Garrett and Alex all made the finals and got beat by guys that are maybe a little better, but not out of range,” Arneson said. “Klug was caught for five (points). We hope that won’t happen again.”
Schmelling was nipped 3-0 by West’s Colin Bain and Arneson lost 10-2 to West’s Joe Umlauf. Both are #1 rated individuals. Klug lost 11-5 to Rhinelander’s Connor Johnson (#2) but bounced back with a pin. Arneson won 2-0 over Point’s Tyler Kiefer (27-13) in the wrestleback, and Schmelling didn’t need one.
Several fifth-place finishes were turned in by Aiden Ball (26-13, 106), Hunter Welch (21-11, 120), Dylan Schielke (23-16, 152) and Gabe Nelles (22-9, 285). Kevin Schmidt (14-11, 138) did not place.
“I feel a little bad for Dylan and Kevin,” Arneson said. “They handled themselves with class and worked their butts off. They committed themselves for four years to wrestle one year.”
The home flavor of regional made sweeter by the local ingredients.
“I’d really like to compliment our fans,” Arneson said. “They’re fans and not fanatics. They’re not like other fans. They cheer for good wrestling. They don’t cheer for others to lose. There were actually fans of other teams coaching kids from different teams on how to beat our kids.”
Team scores—Wausau West 257, Merrill 220, SPASH 159, D.C. Everest 140, Rhinelander 126, Marshfield 93.5, Wausau East 81, Antigo 15.
Everyone placing at least third in D1 will go to Saturday’s WIAA Marshfield Sectional, where the best two get to state.
“We’ve got a good chance of advancing 7-8-9 guys (to state), but so do other teams,” Arneson noted.
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