Bluejays up for Challenge repeat
The Bluejay wrestlers count on contributions from every class, and that four-pronged attack helped them defend their team title in Saturday’s Marquette Challenge.
Despite facing a field that included seven Michigan state champions, 17 state qualifiers and 40 ranked individuals, Merrill worked a 30-point win over traditional power New Lothrup. Last year the Jays topped New Lothrop by 8.5 points.
“It felt really great,” MHS coach Scott Arneson said. “For us to come out with the win with all those state champions placewinners is a tribute to our team balance and kids opening up. To win the Challenge you’ve got to put together a good day. In one bracket, the seventh seed was a state qualifier.
“After the first round, four teams were within four points, but in the second round we opened up a little gap. We had six guys in the finals and 10 in the top four and another in fifth. So 11 of 14 kids were able to bring home hardware. That’s team balance.”
That balance translated into every Bluejay posting at least a .500 record in the event. It also has Merrill currently ranked 6th in the state. Rapids and Wausau West are #1 and #2.
Sophomore Nathan Beyer (103) and freshman Scott T. Arneson (119) both posted 4-0 records to work the only titles. Arneson posted a 7-2 finals decision over senior Joe Sobeck of Rogers City, who has 150 career wins. Beyer locked up his title with a 7-4 win over Sparta’s (Mich.) Brad Ronning, with a reversal and 3-point near fall in the final 20 seconds of the match.
“Nathan and Scottie wrestled really well,” Arneson said.
Runner-up finishes came from freshman Mason Reinhardt (145) and seniors Ray Paul (152), Noah Lassa (189) and Grant Collins (285). Michigan is reportedly the only state in the nation to use the former weight classes.
“Mason lost 6-5 to a two-time state champ from Michigan (T.C. St. Francis’ Nick Trimble, who has a full ride to Michigan State), and even had a chance for a takedown right at the end of the match,” Arneson said. “Talk was nobody has been able to stay close to the kid.
“Noah lost to a state champion and just missed a takedown at the end that would have given him the lead.”
Junior Garrett Schmelling (125) and sophomore Tyler Schmidt (215) placed third, and seniors Marcus (130) and Matthew (135) Reinhardt finished fourth. Sophomore David Pophal (160) rated fifth. Benji Hintze (171) went 1-1 but injury defaulted out of the tourney. Freshman Hunter Welch (112) and junior Eric Ball (140) both went 2-2 despite not placing.
The Bluejays spun Marshfield around in Thursday’s dual, cruising to an insurmountable 45-6 lead through nine matches. The Tigers pulled within 45-21 before Merrill closed out a 57-21 victory.
“The good thing about wrestling is a couple of guys can have an off-night, but the team can still win,” Arneson said. “I hope that’s because we’re being aggressive. We’re spending a lot of time on offense, because if you stay aggressive you don’t have to worry about defense.”
Pins came from Collins (1:23), Arneson (1:06, 120), Schmelling (3:39, 126), Matt Reinhardt (3:29, 138), Mason Reinhardt (3:29, 145) and Paul (4:42, 152) in the early run, and Lassa (195, 2:59) and Schmidt (220, :38) topped it off. Beyer (106) received a forfeit. Pophal was edged 10-6, and Welch (113, 3:45), Hintze (170, 5:38) and Jacob Tessmer (182, 3:48) were pinned.
“I was a little upset that we got pinned a few times,” Arneson said. “We really have been trying to work on staying consistent. We want to really tighten things up so we’re not going on our backs.”