Merrill grapplers edged at regional
By a mere 16 points, the Merrill wrestling team lost the title of the WIAA Wausau West Regional to the host Warriors on Saturday.
That means the state’s #2 Bluejays won’t be one of 16 teams in D1 fighting for a chance at the state team title. It’s even more of a travesty that an individual tourney kicks off the team title run when you consider that the Jays earlier bested the #3 Warriors at West in Valley action.
“It’s too bad the team run had to end on a Saturday so early in February,” MHS coach Scott Arneson said. “I guess I’m really upset for the kids that things didn’t go our way. I’m not sure the best team won Saturday. We’re a well-balanced team, probably one of the best in the state, but we’re not studly enough (to win an individual tourney).
“We had all the horses out of the barn, but we didn’t have enough horsepower. They did. Hats off to (West). We wrestled good, not great, and I guess we needed great.”
It hardly means Merrill is throwing in the towel. A clear show of that same balance had 13 of 14 Bluejays qualify for this Saturday’s WIAA Eau Claire North Sectional.
“It’s only a little glitch,” Arneson said. “That’s a pretty good weekend when 13 of your 14 kids are in the top four of a tournament. I’m really optimistic for next weekend. We had some kids just back from injury. I think our best wrestling is yet to come.
“It’s about being positive. We had a great dual season (???-1). Now let’s have a great individual season. Each individual has a chance to step up and attain the ultimate individual goal.”
The Jays earned championships from Scott Arneson (113, 34-5), Ray Paul (152, 36-6), Alex Klug (195, 26-8), Tyler Schmidt (220, 36-6) and Grant Collins (285, 36-6).
Mason Reinhardt (145, 33-5), David Pophal (160, 32-7) and Noah Lassa (182, 37-5) earned runner-up finishes, while Garrett Schmelling (126, 34-8), Marcus Reinhardt (132, 26-15), and Ben Hintze (170, 13-8) ranked third. Nathan Beyer (106, 32-12) and Matthew Reinhardt (138, 23-12) qualified fourth, while Hunter Welch (120, 21-23) just missed.
Arneson pulled a 2-0 win over the Warriors’ 33-14 Hunter Kuehl in the finals, while Paul turned in a 15-0 tech fall of Marshfield’s 22-16 Brandon Baltus. Klug captured a 10-1 major over West’s 25-10 Jackson Beck, Schmidt pinned West’s 28-13 River Judd in 3:01, and Collins stuck East’s 29-12 David Hamlin in just :50.
Pophal was edged 3-1 in overtime by West’s Jared Mataczynski in the semis, Mason Reinhardt was nipped 2-1 by West’s 39-5 Travis Hettinga, and Matthew Reinhardt was bumped 8-6 by West’s 25-5 Nate Hettinga. Schmelling lost a 3-2 semi to Everest’s 38-8 Alex Spatz. Marcus Reinhardt was toppled 6-3 by D.C.E.’s 40-7 Joe Ziolkowski in the finals and then 4-0 by West’s 13-4 Ben Kostroski in the wrestle-back. Lassa lost 8-4 to Marshfield’s 38-1 Justin Steinweis. Hintze fell 5-1 to Rhinelander’s 36-1 Connor Johnson in the semis.
Wausau East was a distant third with 142, followed by Marshfield (134), Everest (117.5), Rhinelander (88.5), Antigo (44) and Lakeland (38).