Bluejays way up for own challenge, Hatchets are 5th
The Merrill and Tomahawk wrestlers met up in the MHS Fieldhouse, along with 23 other teams in Saturday’s Bluejay Challenge.
The teams were definitely tested, but the state’s second-ranked hosts raced to a title by a 159-point margin, and the Hatchets ranked a solid fifth.
Merrill tallied 579 points to out-distance Wittenberg (420), Mosinee (344), Sun Prairie (278) and Tomahawk (250.5). Area teams Marathon (7th, 238), Rhinelander (8th, 222), Antigo (19th, 141) and Lakeland (23rd, 90) also competed.
Merrill locked down six individual titles and pulled down four other top-3 finishes. Garrett Schmellling (126), Ray Paul (152), David Pophal (160), Noah Lassa (182), Tyler Schmidt (220) and Grant Collins (285) all captured their classes, while Marcus Reinhardt (132) and Mason Rein­hardt (145) were runners-up. Scott Arneson (120) and Alex Klug (195) placed third.
“I guess the thing I like most is we keep talking to the kids about stepping up their game and they’re doing it,” MHS coach Scott Arneson said. “There aren’t a lot of bumps in the road. Everybody seems to be clicking.
“The stuff we’re doing in practice is working, and the kids have a game plan when they go out on the mat.”
The Jays battled through some adversity.
“We had four kids out sick at times last week, but we pretty much threw everybody out there that we had,” Arneson said. “You’re just glad it’s a home tournament so they don’t have to travel.
“We know our team can be even more solid when we get (injured wrestlers) Matt (Reinhardt) and Benji (Hintze) back. But then you have a guy like Eric Ball who does a great job in place of Matt.”
Tomahawk’s Austin Bellile (195) won and Payton DuPlayee (220) was second. Turner Wegener (113) and Dalvin Sanders (182) placed third.
“It’s a great tournament,” THS coach Bob Garrou said. “Every kid got tested. We ended up bringing five extra kids and they all won matches. Your great kids get to wrestle good kids and if someone loses, they go back down and wrestle kids their own level.
“But I didn’t think we wrestled all that well. We lost lots of close matches. We weren’t very aggressive, even our veterans. Austin looked really good and dominated his class.”
Schmidt defeated D2 state runner-up DuPlayee 4-3 for the 220 title.
“Sometimes a loss is a good thing,” Garrou said. “Schmidt’s a very good wrestler, but not a state champ, not yet. Payton only weighs 205, he can get down to (the) 195 (class, at 197 now with allowances). Austin will go down, too. He only weighs 184-185 now. We need to get kids to the classes they need to be at, and get them ready for the end of the year.”
Arneson added, “That was two good athletes going at it. Tyler got the upper hand because he took the shot and finished. The Tomahawk kids wrestled well. Lincoln County was pretty well represented in the tournament.”
Pophal turned in 4 pins and a major decision and Lassa and Collins had 4 more falls apiece. Schmelling (3 p, 1 tf), Arneson and Paul (2 p, 1 tf each), Nathan Beyer, Marcus Reinhardt, Mason Reinhardt and Jacob Tessmer (2 p each), and Schmidt (1 p, 1 tf) also piled on team points.
Eric Ball (138) placed 4th, Beyer (106) rated 5th, Hunter Welch (113) was 7th, and Tessmer (170) was 9th to fill out the varsity.
Top finishes by the MHS varsity reserve included: Kevin Schmidt (6th, 132); Riley Kurtz (220, 7th); Luke Voigt (7th, 285); Kassidy Block (9th, 113); Schylur Seehafer (9th, 182); Jagger Scholz (11th, 126); Dylan Schielke (13th, 138); Brady Schmelling (16th, 106); Cody Nicholson (21st, 138); and Tom Weinkauf (22nd, 120).
Other Tomahawk finishes came from: Adam FauFau (5th, 195); Kevin Zurfluh (7th., 106); Mitch Schauer (10th, 285); Tony Johnson (11th, 220); Nate Flohr (13th, 120); Ryan Kuehn (17th, 132); Henry Helland (17th, 160); Dylan Schiltz (19th, 170); Jake McGire (19th, 126); Hunter Vian (19th, 152); and Keagan Jach (23rd, 138).
The Bluejays will compete in Saturday’s Whitnall Invite in the Milwaukee area, along with Mukwanago (5th), Hartford (6th), West Allis Central (10th), Stoughton (HM) and Muskego, all teams that were ranked ahead of Merrill in the pre-season poll.
The Hatchets fell behind 6-0 in last Thursday’s home match with top rival Rhinelander, but the THS boys took six of the next seven matches by maximum points for a 36-12 lead. After the Hodags cut it to 36-27, a Brandon Larkin pin at 145 (1:24) and a 23-6 tech fall by Kris Cole (160) locked up a 47-33 win.
“We didn’t wrestle perfect, but a win is a win,” Garrou said. “If we can beat Lakeland and Medford we can go into the conference tournament in first place.”
Pins came from Sanders (5:57), Bellile (5:44), Wegener (:59) and Larkin. Forfeits were given to DuPlayee, Schauer and Flohr. Losses were given up by Schiltz (:45); Zurfluh (1:42); Jacob McGuire (:51); Larry Hendzel (inj. def.); Slade Erdman (12-9); and Jake Borchardt (2:30).