Merrill grapplers up to Marquette Challenge
You could say the state’s 2nd-ranked Bluejay wrestlers made an epic journey when they traveled all the way to Marquette, Mich., for Saturday’s 10-team tournament, but there was no surprise ending once they got there.
Merrill captured its third straight Marquette Challenge title, edging out New Lothrup once again.
“It was another tight race,” MHS coach Scott Arneson said of the 232.5-220.5 score. “They were gunning for us, but I guess they didn’t have enough ammunition. We both had six in the finals and they had five champs and we had three. They had 9-10 guys ranked in the top eight in their state. But placing 11 in a 16-team tournament just shows our team balance and how hard our kids were wrestling.
“A lot of matches were exciting. They always do a nice finals with smoke and the match up on the big screen.”
Wrestling under the former weight class alignment, Merrill took titles at 125 with Scott T. Arneson, at 171 with David Pophal and at heavyweight with Tyler Schmidt.
“Pophal had to beat a state champ to get into the finals, so that was huge,” Arneson said. “David wrestled awesome in a pretty high-level match for the semis.
“This was Scottie’s second championship. He’s been steady. He’s not flashy, but he’s consistent. Tyler wrestled some big guys. The kid in the finals was 260-265 and was in the finals last year. With a guy his weight he can use his horsepower, but it was nice to see him use strategy.”
The loss of one of the higher weight classes put Gabe Nelles on the bench for this one meet. “And he was 7-0,” Arneson said.
Garrett Schmelling (130), Mason Reinhardt (160) and Ben Hintze (189) all reached the finals before losing close bouts.
“All three wrestled great matches,” Arneson said. “It wasn’t like they were out-manned. We had a chance to win all three.
“I was also pretty impressed with Kevin Schmidt. He’s been behind Reinhardts for three years, and now he’s a senior and he placed third. Cody Nicholson bumped into the 145 class and did a nice job.”
Hunter Welch (112), Schmidt (135) and Alex Klug (215) all placed third, while Nathan Beyer (119) rated fourth. Aiden Ball (103) finished fifth.
Eric Ball (140) and Nicholson (145) both posted 2-2 records, and Dylan Schielke (152) also did not place but went 1-2.
The Jays finished 100 points ahead of Mason (132.5) and Pine River (132), both Mich. schools.
Declawing the Tigers
Merrill kept pace in the Valley with the state’s top-ranked Wausau West by winning a 61-12 dual meet with Marshfield. The Warriors topped the Tigers 63-9 in the first week of the conference season.
“We got on a roll and only lost two matches,” Arneson said. “Cody got baptized into the starting line-up with a state qualifier and Benji was winning his and got caught. Marshfield’s a nice team but they’ve got some injuries and ineligibilities. They will be a different team at the end of the year.
“They gave us three forfeits. If someone is going to give us an 18-point advantage, I’ve got to feel we’re going to win most of those.”
Marshfield gave a forfeit to Schmidt in the opening match at 220, starting a 40-point run for Merrill.
Nelles (285) pinned in 1:48, A. Ball (106) won 6-1, Welch collected the other forfeit, and Beyer (120) pinned in :50. After Arneson (125) worked a 12-1 major, Schmelling flattened his foe in 4:58 and Schmidt won 6-0, Nicholson was pinned in 5:18.
Dylan Schielke (152) pulled a 5-0 win, Reinhardt pinned in 1:20 and Pophal picked up a forfeit. Hintze (182) fell in 3:40, but Klug (195) closed it with a fall in 1:01.
The Bluejays host top-ranked Wausau West for Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. dual meet. Arneson is calling for all Merrill fans to create a black-out by wearing black clothes.